UBS lends bicycles to bankers to encourage meetings with clients
As big investment banks roll out benefits to encourage employees to return to their municipal offices, UBS has come up with an innovative option: free bikes.
The Swiss bank is making 10 new Brompton bikes available to bankers to attend client meetings in London in an effort to minimize the time employees spend on public transport. Riding on a cramped tube has been cited by key negotiators as a key reason for not wanting to return to the office after the lockdown restrictions are lifted.
Bicycles can be booked by staff at their headquarters in Broadgate, near Liverpool Street, London, to travel to meetings with clients. They will be adorned with the branding of the Swiss bank’s electronic trading platform, Neo, according to a note seen by Financial News.
Folding bikes – which cost between £ 1,100 and £ 2,775 – are popular with commuters in the City of London. Demand for bicycles is expected to increase in the wake of the pandemic, as people seek ways to avoid crowds on commuting.
“Please adhere to your industry’s respective approval process for meetings with clients, and ensure that UK government guidelines on social distancing and social gatherings are followed,” the memo reads.
The new bikes can be booked and picked up in the lobby of its Broadgate headquarters, and more should be purchased if demand is high, according to a person familiar with the matter.
UBS has been slower than many of its competitors in asking staff to return to the office. Less than 10% of employees have returned, while Wall Street rivals including Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan all have more than 20% of staff in their London offices.
In a survey of about 120 senior financial services workers per Financial News, 74% said they did not want to return to the office in September. Meanwhile, 75% of respondents did not want to return to the office full-time at all, with most suggesting that two or three days back would be ideal.
Public transport was cited as one of the main reasons for not going to the office, with one respondent saying they wanted to “avoid the tube, a transmitter of infection at best”.
Financial services companies have tried to alleviate this problem. Bloomberg and Goldman Sachs both offer free taxis to staff in an attempt to bring them back to the office.
Meanwhile, other companies are rolling out benefits. Goldman is giving staff free food in its in-house canteen at Plumtree Court, while law firm Clifford Chance has reopened its hair salon, gym, squash courts, yoga studio and dry cleaning September 7.
Banks distinguish between trying to gradually bring their employees back to the office and keeping them safe. In recent weeks, leaders have cited the need to return as the key to maintaining the culture and relationships.
Citi’s European director sent a note to staff saying they should “reconnect” with the office. He added that being in the office for seven weeks “made me realize that the energy, commitment and collaboration that comes from working in the office is of critical importance to our vitality, well-being and our competitive advantage”.
Jamie Dimon, managing director of JPMorgan, told a conference that “returning to work is a good thing,” adding that the bank has seen “alienation” among the bank’s young employees.
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