Opinion: British Banks, Want To Retain Your Workers?

8th January 2024 by Samuel Rossiter

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British Banks Retain Workers Communications Compliance

Our thoughts: Listen to how they want to work, and invest in the technology to help them do it while remaining operationally compliant.

So, what’s been happening lately?

Several major UK banks, including Lloyds and HSBC, are pushing their employees back to the office and bringing their remote working era to a close in an attempt to boost productivity.

Lloyds will require staff to spend at least two days per week in the office starting from early September 2023 and is throwing in free food in an attempt to win their employees over. In August, Citi told its UK workers that they will start checking that staff attend the office at least three days per week, and could dock bonuses if they don’t comply.

HSBC also announced a tighter hybrid working policy over the summer, saying that “from October hybrid working at HSBC UK will mean colleagues spending typically three days a week in an office or with clients.”

Over in the US, things are no different. Wall Street giants like J.P. Morgan, BlackRock and Goldman Sachs have asked most employees to return to the office for most working days similar to their pre-pandemic schedule.

But some employees are pushing back. Nearly 4,000 Lloyds staff have signed a grievance against stricter working policies from the Unite union, which the union said was the largest ever grievance in the financial services sector and represents about 5% of Lloyd’s workforce. And in a recent LinkedIn survey, nearly half of finance employees globally said they’d consider changing jobs if they were required to spend more time in the office.

How can you attract and retain talent in an increasingly hybrid environment? (And what has this got to do with compliance?)

It is a tricky question that financial firms, and indeed firms across all industries, now face—how can you attract and retain talent in an increasingly hybrid environment?

UK banks were forced into remote working during the pandemic, which offered their employees more flexibility to take care of school runs and other life responsibilities and gave them more work-life balance. To now take that flexibility away by demanding a certain number of days back in the office is a hard pill to swallow.

We do understand where this push back to the office is coming from—certain things like cross-team collaboration and meetings can be so much easier when conducted in-person. Financial institutions also have the added complexity of meeting regulatory obligations and keeping their operational risk in check. This becomes more difficult to manage when employees are remotely working and are using several cloud-based systems which might need to be reviewed to manage operational risk. In contrast, reviewing activity becomes much easier when employees are working in a self-contained environment in an office on desktops that can be easily accessed.

But we also understand why employees are pushing back—associating productivity with hours spent at the office seems to be an old, pre-COVID way of thinking. Additionally, regardless of the complexity of a remote operational setup for financial institutions, hybrid and remote working are becoming an expected baseline that firms must offer to retain their best people. If employees need to spend more money on things like childcare as a result of this back-to-office push, leaving seems to be much easier than staying and adhering to these stricter policies, and banks might see a talent drain as a result.

If British banks want to retain their workers, they should listen to them and cater to their remote working needs while setting goals in place for productivity. But most importantly…

To offer a remote or hybrid working setup to your employees as a regulated financial institute, you must prioritise operational compliance at the heart of this.

Managing the operational risk of a remote workforce in the financial industry, which has such stringent regulatory requirements, has not been an easy task for banks over the last three years. Many major banks including HSBC, the Bank of America and Morgan Stanley have used communication channels like WhatsApp and iMessage to conduct business—messaging apps typically used to communicate remotely while out of the office—but have not properly monitored these channels to comply with regulatory requirements.

The consequence? Almost $2bil handed out in fines by the SEC, and even more internal action from firms such as Goldman Sachs who have recently let go of four senior-level employees, including the head of transaction banking, following a violation of the firm’s communication policy.

So, as we head towards remote-working as a preferred way of working for many financial employees, just how do you enable them to remotely work while ensuring that your operations remain compliant with key regulatory requirements? Here are three suggestions from Fingerprint:

How to ensure your remote working setup remains compliant with communication regulations? Three suggestions from Fingerprint:

1. Consider investing in extra communication channels to facilitate remote working

Investing in quality technology is the way forward to enable successful remote working, as it allows teams to communicate clearly and facilitates cross-team collaboration.

Adding communication channels like Teams and Slack to your technology toolkit will help your employees to communicate both effectively and securely, as collaborative platforms like these provide end-to-end encryption. In fact, we ran a LinkedIn poll recently asking what messaging apps employees used to work on their phone, and Teams was by far the most popular channel, with 73% of participants saying they used it to work.

And those are some of the more popular channels. There are so many technological tools out there to help facilitate remote working these days that companies are truly spoilt for choice—Telegram, Basecamp, JIRA. The possibilities are endless.

2. Review how your people are working and communicating, and update your communications compliance policy as this evolves

If financial firms are considering adding new communication channels to their toolkit to conduct business, then they must review and reflect this in their communications compliance policies before implementing anything.

What new channels have been approved for employees to conduct business on? What activity are you monitoring these channels for? Have you clearly outlined the process that your compliance team will undertake to monitor this activity and how they will investigate any outputs that come from it? All of this must be included in your communications compliance policies.

Remember, the regulators are looking for repeatability and consistency from your policies. They want to see that you have clearly outlined a consistent approach to investigating activity which includes how you will investigate the outputs that are found. That is the key to good compliance.

3. Invest in effective RegTech to monitor these channels and abide by regulatory requirements

To facilitate remote working and remote collaboration will require the use of many different communication channels. All of these approved channels must be monitored to meet regulatory requirements and manage risk and conduct well. You can read our quick guide to what the FCA, SEC, ESMA and FINRA require for communications monitoring here.

There is a huge amount of data to be managed and monitored in these communication channels, and most financial firms still monitor these communications manually. Imagine logging in and out of many different systems daily and manually searching for high-risk activity for dozens or even hundreds of employees. It’s an incredibly inefficient, costly and light-touch approach to monitoring your communications, which is why communications supervision is still a mammoth task for many compliance teams.

Thankfully, RegTech exists to help with the communication monitoring process, and automates a lot of the work involved to help your compliance team efficiently oversee the risk across ALL communication channels. Data is locked down, standardised and monitored —ensuring your firm remains compliant and conducts monitoring effectively.

Fingerprint offers a holistic communications monitoring solution that is non-invasive which ingests and monitors all digital communication channels (including Outlook, Teams and WhatsApp) that financial firms use to remotely work. Our platform also automates a lot of monitoring work to improve efficiency, and includes in-platform workflows and investigation tools to help compliance teams excel in their jobs and meet regulatory requirements well.

If you work for a directly regulated financial firm and need help meeting regulatory requirements for communications monitoring, then get in touch and we’d love to chat.

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