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Major US banks see slow return to office

New York

FOUR of the United States' largest banks updated their progress in recent days on return-to-office plans. The takeaway: Most workers won't be back anytime soon.

At Citigroup Inc, about 30 per cent of the bank's staff in the New York City area want to come back, chief financial officer Mark Mason said.

A survey sent last month to regional employees found that most wanted to start gradually, by going in a few days a week.

In July, the bank invited 5 per cent of its workers back to the office, and last week more returned as part of a planned re-opening.

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"We want employees to feel safe as they make their decision to return," Mr Mason said. "There are no set plans at this point for the timing of the next phase."

Mr Mason, chief executive officer Mike Corbat and Jane Fraser, who will take Mr Corbat's job in February, are working from the bank's headquarters in Manhattan's Tribeca neighborhood, Mr Mason said.

Over at Goldman Sachs Group, the Wall Street giant has roughly 2,000 people in its New York office, and workers are rotating through the facility on a weekly basis, CEO David Solomon said.

Some 60 per cent of employees in Hong Kong and Tokyo are back, while around half those in Europe have returned to their desks, excluding the UK, where the level is around 30 per cent.

Therapies and vaccines are in development that "in time will allow all of us to return to a more normalised environment," Mr Solomon said. "Being together enables greater collaboration."

The firm is also offering returning workers access to free Covid-19 tests to determine both active infections and whether a person previously had the virus, according to an internal memo.

As for JPMorgan Chase & Co, about 20 per cent of staff in the New York and London regions have returned to the office, CFO Jennifer Piepszak said. CEO Jamie Dimon generally has been more vociferous than his peers in encouraging people to return to the office, touting its benefits over working from home.

Still, he's been circumspect about how quickly that might happen. "I don't expect normality until summer 2021," Mr Dimon said on Friday at a conference. "We're going to have to live with this."

Finally, more than 200,000 of Wells Fargo & Co's employees are working from home, CEO Charlie Scharf said, and "we don't anticipate this changing until at least December". Roughly one in five branches remain closed. BLOOMBERG

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