UBS CEO says it’s difficult to sustain culture with work-at-home

Marion Halftermeyer

UBS Group AG Chief Executive Officer Sergio Ermotti added his voice to the chorus of finance executives questioning the impact of having much of the workforce working remotely.

Ermotti, speaking at a Bank of America conference on Tuesday, said it’s especially difficult for banks to create and sustain cohesiveness and a culture when employees are working from home. For UBS going forward, he expects 20% to 30% will be working from home at any time and said an 85% rate for banks is “not sustainable.”

UBS Group AG Chief Executive Officer Sergio Ermotti

JPMorgan Chase & Co. CEO Jamie Dimon said last week that he sees prolonged remote work inflicting serious social and economic damage, while BlackRock Inc. Chief Executive Officer Larry Fink said he worries that working remotely results in a lack of productivity and collaboration.

While some big Wall Street firms are seeking to get staff back to the office, there are already signs of how challenging that could be. JPMorgan sent some workers home after an employee in equities trading tested positive for Covid-19.

UBS employs just short of 70,000 people in 50 countries and had 80% of its worldwide staff at home during the height of the pandemic. Chief Operating Officer Sabine Keller-Busse said earlier this year that as many as a third of its employees could work remotely on a permanent basis.