Bankers everywhere are being summoned back to the office, but some habits remain hard to break. Even as people stock up on in-person lattes and Pret a Manger sandwiches, meetings are still happening virtually.
"Clients are very keen on Zoom," says one senior JPMorgan banker in London. "Travelling is making a comeback, but much more slowly than we'd expected. - I think we're all realizing how much more efficient it is to have four or five meetings a day on Zoom versus two in person."
A managing director at a European bank in London agrees that while the office has made a resurgence, travelling to client meetings has not. "Life is getting back to normal, and I’m doing 4-5 days a week back in the office now, which seems fairly commonplace, but travel will take a little longer," he says, pointing to "the hassles and expense of testing." - "I suspect banks will try to keep travel expenses low, for as long as they can."
In London, Brexit is also a factor. Pre-Brexit, banks were more likely to operate a "suitcase model" with bankers in London flying in and out of Europe to serve clients. Post-Brexit, bankers are more likely to be based inside the European Union and to serve clients from there.
The reluctance to give up Zoom meetings comes after clients like Orlanda Bravo, founder of private equity firm Thoma Bravo questioned why people need to have "four meetings with a company, fly all over the country" before making decisions, and after Ken Moelis predicted in February that flying for simple things like drafting documents will never make a comeback.
Some bankers, however, seem to be flying more than others and ultimately the sight of colleagues visiting senior managers or rumors of rivals visiting clients in person is likely to spark FOMO. From November, vaccinated bankers in London and Continental Europe will be able to visit colleagues in New York again. "For the moment, I’m not even allowed into the US still, unless I spend two weeks somewhere outside Europe first!", points out one London MD. Deutsche Bank treasurer Dixit Joshi, who visit the German bank's New York office last week, possibly used this technique.
In the meantime, U.S. bankers at Deutsche Bank in particular seem to be getting about - Christiana Riley, the New York-based head of Deutsche Bank's Americas business has been to both Chicago and London in the past week according to her LinkedIn profile.
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