October 24, 2020 / VOLUME NO. 128
The New WFH Reality

Just this week, Synchrony Financial announced that it will join the growing number of corporations making work from home a permanent feature of the workplace. 

Employees can choose from three options: Some will be permanently virtual; others will be able to schedule office space when needed. Some, including executives, will have an assigned desk but still work remotely some days to reinforce the cultural shift. 

“These changes stem from our employees’ desire to work from home,” said Synchrony CEO Margaret Keane. 

The move may make employees happy, but it also promises to yield significant cost savings.

Synchrony’s model isn’t traditional, bread-and-butter community banking. The $95 billion direct bank serves customers digitally, and offers retail credit cards, health financing and payments solutions. I’ve heard a range of opinions from bank executives about the future of remote work, with many longing for a return to some semblance of normal. They don’t believe that remote work complements their business model or culture, or that remote employees can be as productive.

It’s a huge shift in mindset for many long-time bankers.

Conducted in March and April, Bank Director’s 2020 Compensation Survey found 92% of bank leaders reporting that their banks instituted and expanded remote work in response to the pandemic. That’s a big change from two years ago, when 29% offered remote work options. 

And our 2020 Technology Survey finds that 42% expect remote work arrangements to remain a permanent feature, at least for some employees. This isn’t limited to big banks.

The upside could be huge. In addition to cutting real estate expenses, there’s the ability to attract talent, regardless of geography. Banks report that they’re challenged to find employees with expertise in information security, technology and risk; they also say it’s hard to find diverse, executive-level talent. Imagine if your search wasn’t restricted to your markets.

The transition to remote work represents as much a cultural shift as it is a technological one. As we’ve all learned during this crisis, the technology’s already there. Getting everyone on the same page will require work. 

Savvy banks will take advantage of this moment.

Emily McCormick, vice president of research for Bank Director
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