It wasn’t the introduction to high finance that Adi Patel had once anticipated.
The stage fright of walking into the imposing offices of a $607 billion asset manager in the heart of a historic financial district? Pandemic era: a five-day induction on Microsoft Teams.
The rip-roaring intensity of the trading floor replete with sharp-suited money managers? Not quite – hunched over a laptop with comfy clothes in a flat-share. Client lunches, and perhaps swapping stories after work with fellow graduates embarking on first steps in finance? Not likely.
The pandemic has put paid to many initial expectations of the financial industry’s Class of COVID-19.
That group includes new recruits at finance firms around the world, such as 22-year-old graduate analyst Patel and two dozen or so others hired by Aberdeen Standard Investments.
Six months on, Patel has only been in the office in central Edinburgh a handful of times; like many companies in Britain and beyond, Aberdeen has kept employees largely at home since last March.
“I wasn’t worried that the training was virtual, I was just upset that I didn’t get to go into the office. Because as a new joiner, as a grad, we want to make those connections,” he said, adding that the virtual training went smoothly.
“It’s that little social chat that matters. It’s very much that sort of thing we’ve missed out on.”
His worries are unlikely to have been soothed by the words of David Solomon, a titan of finance as CEO of Goldman Sachs, who called working from home “an aberration”.
Working from home may be here to stay for many finance workers, to a greater or lesser extent.
Reuters interviewed executives at 14 financial firms, including some of the world’s top banks and asset management companies. Most said that, while about 80% of their trading floor staff were back in the office, flexible working was in place with employees spending some days at home.
FEAR OF MISSING OUT
On the surface, remote working has worked well in the industry. Deals turnover hit a record $2.4 trillion in the second half of 2020 according to Refinitiv data, while Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and many others reported stellar first-quarter earnings.
But for the star rainmakers and fund managers of tomorrow, the change is disconcerting. And senior executives are worried about these juniors missing out on important experience that could constrain their careers or see them leave for rivals.
Traditionally, new starters learn on the job, observing deals being clinched and performing tasks under supervision. Industry events and client meetings, often in other global finance hubs, offer opportunities to network.
Kunal Shah, global head of emerging markets trading at Goldman Sachs, said that while trainees learned by performing tasks such as compiling reports, booking completed trades or writing commentary, senior traders were forced to take back many of those responsibilities during lockdown.
“It is much harder to ask the junior to help with a task when you are sitting at home,” he added. “We had to remind…
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