Singaporean bankers and traders are planning to return to their posts

SINGAPORE: Less-crowded trading floors, facial recognition systems, and divided work areas could all become a routine for bankers in Singapore as the financial hub prepares for office life in a post-Covid world.

The city’s financial institutions should use more non-touch technology, make more space for each employee, and adopt separate teams on trading floors once employees return after the pandemic, according to recommendations from a study commissioned by the city’s banking union and the city’s monetary authority. Singapore posted on Tuesday.

Lenders are also encouraged to use hot desks, motion detectors, temperature detection checks, face masks, and improved ventilation to avoid potential contamination, according to the report. She added that employees should be allowed to work from branch offices or branches in addition to the headquarters.

The study, conducted by real estate consultancy Cushman & Wakefield Plc and some of Singapore’s largest banks, said such measures are “necessary to strike a balance between workplace safety and reduce disruption to business operations.”

Cautious approach

With more than 200 financial institutions operating in Singapore, the city is among the global banking centers looking at how to get employees back into the office after they spent more than a year working from home and family life.

The city-state has taken a depressing approach to returning employees to offices even as infection rates continue to drop.

“MAS encourages our financial institutions to consider the strategies recommended in the Game Guide to enhance safety and resilience in the workplace,” Deputy Managing Director Ong Chung Te said in a statement. “This will be helpful in preparing well for any future situations that may require safe distance and work arrangements from home.”

Wall Street has also revealed plans to bring more bankers back in the coming months. Hundreds of interns are set to work at JPMorgan Chase & Co’s offices in New York and London in the coming months. Citigroup Inc will begin inviting more workers again in July, and it expects 30% of its North American employees to return throughout the summer. In contrast, employees in Shanghai have returned to their offices for several months after the Chinese city was the first major center in the world to reopen last year after the virus was tamed.

The Singapore report also compares the city’s approach to managing the pandemic with other major financial centers such as Hong Kong, Shanghai, London, New York and Sydney. It found that the density of its offices is comparable to that of Sydney, with an average of 80 to 120 square feet per seat. It’s much more spacious than Hong Kong, measuring 40 to 100 square feet.

Reshape the axes

How financial institutions adapt to a post-Covid world have the potential to reshape business areas in hubs around the world. Some global banks have already said that adopting more flexibility will allow them to significantly reduce their property footprint.

HSBC Holdings Plc predicts a 40% decrease in the real estate footprint in the long run, and Lloyds Banking Group Plc predicts a 20% reduction in office space by 2023.

Others are less enthusiastic about the idea with David Solomon, CEO of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. , Describing remote working as a “deviation that we will correct as soon as possible.”

In Singapore, DBS Group Holdings Ltd allows all employees to work up to 40% of their time remotely and has initiated precautionary measures such as frequent air disinfection.

United Overseas Bank Ltd will allow around 65% of its 26,000 workforce to work remotely two days a week once Covid-19 restrictions are lifted. The bank is accelerating its efforts to transform its workspaces by moving away from allotted seats.

“Banks in Singapore have rapidly adapted their operations over the past year to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak,” Oversea Chinese Banking Corporation CEO Samuel Tsian said in the statement. “However, the long-term impact of the pandemic on social behaviors and workplace standards is not yet fully understood and understood.”

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