Stifel CEO says life after Covid-19 means a return to the office

An investment bank sees the future of the new normal as back at work, with plans to have all its employees to return to the office. — Bloomberg

At Stifel Financial Corp., the new normal is going to look a lot like the old normal.

The company, with about 8,500 employees across almost 400 offices in the US along with those in Europe, believes training, collaboration and reinforcement of Stifel’s culture all benefit from working together in person, Chief Executive Officer Ron Kruszewski said Friday in the firm’s annual letter to shareholders.

"Now, even after the demonstrated success of remote work, we must plan for life after Covid-19,” said Kruszewski, who’s led the St. Louis-based company since 1997, making him one of the longest-serving CEOs in investment banking. "For Stifel, this will include a return to our offices.”

With the US in the midst of its biggest-ever vaccination campaign, Wall Street bosses have begun to formulate plans for bringing workers back to offices. The moves come more than a year after employees were sent home in droves to help stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Still, financial firms including Citigroup Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. have said they envision many employees working a hybrid model, where they’re allowed to work from home part of the week.

Kruszewski said he will ensure that any return to offices will be done in a "safe and fair manner.” The CEO has previously acknowledged that Stifel will likely be more flexible with remote work going forward for employees dealing with special situations, such as caring for a sick child or battling illness, a spokesman said.

Also on Friday, a trade association for financial firms argued that a new proposal from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency about how banks occupy properties they own would complicate their plans for returning workers to offices. The OCC proposed the rule to limit banks from holding real estate that’s not needed for their business.

"During the pandemic, the number of employees in bank buildings may fluctuate based on sick employees isolating at home or staggering shifts to avoid close contact with colleagues,” the Bank Policy Institute said in a blog post.

"Banks will need to rethink how and where their employees work in order to adapt to the future -- and they need maximum flexibility from regulators to enable those changes. The timing and substance of the OCC proposal makes dealing with these uncertainties even more difficult.” – Bloomberg L.P.

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