While financial services firms grapple with how and when to bring back staff to the office, the chief executive officer of one asset management firm says those who want to stay home ought to have a good reason, according to news reports.

“If you don't want to come back because you like working from home, or you think you're more productive, that's not a good excuse … get back in the office,” George Walker, chairman and CEO of Neuberger Berman said at the Financial Times’ Future of Asset Management North America conference last week, according to FA-IQ sister publication FundFire.

Invesco CEO Maty Flanagan, who spoke on a separate panel, pointed to the importance of fostering culture, according to FA-IQ sister publication, Ignites. “What can’t go away for us — or for any organization that did well during the pandemic — [is that] it started with a strong culture where there was value in taking care of clients, taking care of one another, where everybody knew each other,” he said. “So this idea of everybody working from home isn’t going to work.”

The sentiment is similar to what Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman conveyed in June. “If you can go into a restaurant in New York City, you can come into the office, and we want you in the office, he said at the time.

Neuberger Berman hasn’t seen too many departures as a result of its return-to-office directive, but it’s prepared to accept that “some talented people who wouldn't want to work here" leave. "And that's fine,” Walker said, according to FundFire.

That said, there’s some flexibility at the firm.

Neuberger Berman’s U.S.-based employees are supposed to come to the office three times a week, a spokesperson for the firm told FundFire.

Around 95% of Neuberger Berman’s staff is vaccinated, and so far around 75% have returned to the office Walker said. The company is allowing around 20% of its staff who are vaccinated to stay home over concerns over their own health, their children who aren’t yet vaccinated or immunocompromised family members, he said, according to the publication.

“If you're not coming in because you're genuinely concerned about Covid or health problems, please, please, please stay home. We'll deal with it, and we genuinely mean that,” Walker said, according to FundFire.

“I really don't want folks to feel like we're twisting their arms at all,” he said, according to the publication.

Walker added that the company is still working out the logistics of hybrid work, FundFire writes.

Companies in the wealth management space have taken different approaches to returning staff to the office.

Last week, Wells Fargo delayed its return-to-office date for the fourth time, to January 2022. The bank's vice chairman of public affairs, Bill Daley, recently told the Philadelphia Business Journal that the financial services industry isn’t likely to return to business-as-usual when it comes to how and where their staff works.

Morgan Stanley's Gorman said in June that he would be “very disappointed if people haven’t found their way into the office” by Labor Day. But the firm hasn’t mandated a specific return-to-office date.

And UBS CEO Ralph Hamers, meanwhile, wrote in Time magazine in August that the financial service industry has to embrace hybrid work arrangements.

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