The chief executive officer of UBS believes that the financial service industry needs to embrace hybrid work arrangements because clients — not just staff — are ready for a transition.

The pandemic has caused an industry that’s typically slow or resistant to any change to act far quicker last year, Ralph Hamers writes in Time magazine.

“Overnight, restrictions forced every financial firm to transition to a drastically different way of working, which they probably would never have done voluntarily,” he wrote. “And this was a necessary wake-up call for the industry.”

At UBS, client meetings held virtually increased from 30% to 80%, and the firm rolled out an app for its wealth management clients, according to Hamers.

The firm also learned some things that were “unexpected,” such as employees were equally productive, if not more so, working from home, he adds.

And that’s “also in line with the findings of other financial institutions — annualized growth in output per hour has risen since the crisis began,” Hamers wrote.

In addition, the firm learned that employees enjoyed the flexibility of hybrid arrangements — while clients began demanding a better digital experience, according to Hamers.

Prompted by these discoveries, a firm-wide analysis concluded that two thirds of UBS staff could carry out their jobs from home “highly effectively,” he notes.

“We can give our clients a choice on how they interact with us while offering first-class, top-quality advice no matter whether our advisors are sitting at home or in the office,” Hamers wrote. “Hybrid working is the best of both worlds.”

UBS has touted its flexible approach to returning staff to the office before, particularly in light of other wealth management firms in the U.S. insisting that staff return to the office.

Last month, Hamers told Bloomberg that up to 75% of the firm’s staff could do their jobs “in a mix of working from home and working in the office.”

The prior month, Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman said in June the firm expects all employees in low-risk areas, including New York City, to return to the office.

But even Gorman later said that his firm will “be flexible where flexibility is called for,” and estimated that only around 80% of pre-pandemic work will be carried out from the firm’s offices going forward, as reported.

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