London’s financial dominance could come from the living room as Lloyds looks toward ‘WTH’

Let’s hope no other financial sector organization follows Lloyds absurd proposals to make its staff work permanently from home. Our industry needs the concentration of proper facilities, talent and infrastructure that caused it to be as great as it is

London’s position as global center for all financial services from the dominance of Tier 1 banking to its unfaltering status as electronic trading talent, infrastructure and corporate capital of the world has remained totally in tact throughout the course of 2020.

Despite many other companies having had to close their operations as a result of Boris Johnson’s capitulation to global pressure and disloyalty to his own electorate of small and large business owners who employ the people who voted for him which saw him turn on his public and lock them down, force them out of business and into the dependency of absurd furlogh schemes and government backed debts, causing them to lose their livelihoods and freedoms forever, the banks and fintechs have been carrying on as normal and excelling.

Largely, this is a result of the ability for most to work from home, and certainly the London-based professionals in the electronic trading industry have never been so busy, their dining room tables now their office, from 6.00am until the late hours of the evening for most of this year.

We can thank the infrastructure technology sector for this, which is a far cry from when I began my career in this industry 29 years ago, a time at which physical servers and on-site equipment meant there would be no way anyone, even a back office clerk, would be able to work from home.

Today, however, the dedicated points of presence, API connectivity and lack of physical onsite hardware meant that only essential maintanence was needed onsite, usually at the isolated hosting facilities.

Offices were relatively empty – although I am aware of a significant number of bankers who quietly turned up at their offices in Canada Square every day as normal, knowing that the masked lockdown police would not be able to detect them 25 floors up. Good for them, I say.

However, working from home has been such a runaway success that some large institutions are now considering selling off or terminating the leases on their expensive Square Mile head offices and instigating working from home on a permanent basis.

One such entity is Lloyds of London, which is a several hundred year old company made up of “Lloyds Names” which are effectively members of Lloyd’s operating as independent insurance brokers.

The company was founded in the merchant era, as a marine reinsurance firm, hosting elite ‘Lloyds Names” in its Central London office.

Lloyd’s of London chairman Bruce Carnegie-Brown said that coronavirus had sped up the process of it becoming ‘a truly flexible workplace’. Founded in 1686, it is the world’s biggest and oldest insurance market and a pillar of the City of London.

It is housed in a modern-style Grade 1- listed building near the Gherkin, but began operating remotely in lockdown.

Switching to a more flexible model would follow moves at many of the City’s big financial firms.

Mr Carnegie-Brown said: ‘In the longer term, we are likely to see a blended approach that enables the best of remote working with the benefits of a flexible work space.’

Lloyd’s came under fire last year for having a culture of widespread sexual harassment, which it has since vowed to stamp out, however that is likely not the catalyst that has caused the company to look at permanent home working.

The cost saving would likely be tremendous, even if Lloyd;s staff and names invoice Lloyd’s for their power, telephone and internet usage.

It will be interesting to see how many ECNs, prime of primes and service providing vendors follow this path. My hope is that none of them will, as this is most certainly a bad direction for our industry which needs to be in proper offices, rather than remote.

It is a relationship and talent business, and these two important factors, combined with the interaction with technology and proper professional facilities are vital tenets.

Let’s hope that Lloyd’s bad decision does not influence the rest of us.

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