Working remotely is costly in ways you can’t quantify
Capital markets have not seized up when mediated through the home office. But with remote working set to be the norm for the foreseeable future, the finance industry must be alert to less perceptible problems.
Market participants have reaped some benefits from working from home: less exhausting and uncomfortable travel, the ability to wear pyjamas all day, and the small matter of keeping everyone healthy.
Meanwhile, the various constituent parts of the capital markets have carried on functioning, liquidity has not dried up and dealmaking has abounded, suggesting that beyond a few hiccups and frustrations, business as usual is pretty achievable.
Now, even though lockdowns are easing, it appears likely that many people will be working remotely for a while yet.
This means that longer term challenges will rise to the fore. Creativity and innovation may lose out, for example, because it is much harder to float new ideas on a whim when communication is restricted to video or phone calls.
Ambitious professionals will also find it tougher to network within and outside the company, something that benefits the team in the short-term and facilitates job moves further down the line. Managers may not mind if it is harder for rivals to poach star performers, but they also stand to lose out if they don’t meet new whizz-kids.
And some market participants will find working from home more difficult than others, meaning they will struggle to fulfil their potential: particularly those in cramped accomodation or who have children.
Then there is the potential risk of misconduct in areas such as confidentiality, whether driven by carelessness, dejection or opportunity.
All of these “soft” subjects probably seemed irrelevant when firms were grappling with both the market crash and getting remote working systems in place a few months ago. But from now on, those issuers, banks and investors that best handle them will prosper in the difficult times ahead.