James Gorman, who heads one of the biggest Wall Street banks which has more than 5000 employees at Canary Wharf in London, said he will be “very disappointed” if US workers are not back in its Manhattan HQ by September.
He told a virtual conference with analysts and investors: "If you want to get paid New York rates, you work in New York."
Gorman is the latest bank chief to signal an increasingly firm position on employees returning to the office after the widespread shift to home-working since March last year because of the pandemic.
Jamie Dimon, chief executive of America’s biggest bank JP Morgan, said last month that he wanted US staff back in the office from July.
He said: “Most professionals learn their job through an apprenticeship model, which is almost impossible to replicate in the Zoom world... and over time, this drawback could dramatically undermine our character and culture.”
The bank said that with remote work, there is an absence of “spontaneous learning and creativity because you don’t run into people at the coffee machine, talk with clients in unplanned scenarios or travel to meet with customers and employees for feedback on your products and services.”
David Solomon, head of Goldman Sachs, has been even more forthright, describing home-working as an “aberration”.
Employees at the firm’s Manhattan premises have been expected to be back at their desks from the beginning of this week, while London staff were being prepared to return on June 21, before the final easing of restrictions was delayed.
Bosses are now drawing up plans for post-pandemic work models, including whether that comprises home or office hours, or both.
In his address Gorman pointed out that Morgan Stanley is a global company, with sites in various countries at various points in lockdowns. He said: “I don’t think making a blanket statement to all employees is helpful.”
But he highlighted some positives from offices, including being where the US bank teaches staff and interns learn.
Gorman said there will be more flexibility, but he added that he would be “very disappointed” if people haven’t found their way back to the office [in the US] by Labor Day, which is in September.
Working from home is still in place in the UK and still dominant, although it is understood people are increasingly returning to the Morgan Stanley London office.
Firms are looking at various post-pandemic workplace strategies. There are some looking to reduce office space size, and embrace remote working longer term.
There are also numerous businesses that have said they will offer flexible or hybrid working, such as insurer QBE and credit data company Experian.