Asset managers are taking tentative steps to reopen their workplaces in London and across Europe almost three months after investment houses shut their doors in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Amundi, Europe’s biggest asset manager, Schroders, Legal and General Investment Management and Ninety One are among the big investment houses where staff are starting to return to buildings across London, while BNP Paribas Asset Management, BlackRock and Invesco are reopening offices in continental Europe.
“It has been great so far,” said one individual who went back to the office this month.
Asset managers stressed any reopening would be in line with local government guidance and is often being done on a “split team” or rotational basis, for example, with one team in the office the first week and another the second week.
Amundi said it expected 30 per cent of staff to be back in the London office within days, rising to close to half between July and September, under draft plans that are dependent on UK government guidelines. In France, 30 per cent of staff are already back in the office, with the rest returning on June 22, except vulnerable groups or those with childcare issues. In Asia, 80 per cent of Amundi staff have returned, while 70 per cent will be back in Germany, Austria, Czech Republic and Italy in the coming days.
LGIM, the UK’s largest asset manager, said most of its staff continued to work from home, but the fund house was undertaking limited reoccupation in London, Cardiff and Hove.
Schroders, the London-listed fund house, said a small number of staff were working from its City of London office but this was expected to increase over time.
Ninety One, the fund house previously known as Investec Asset Management, said its London office would be available for use from June 15, “strictly on a need to [be there] basis under the current government guidance”.
But other investment houses are holding off, particularly in London where a reliance on public transport, including the very busy Tube network of underground trains, and the lack of schools being opened have left many employees reluctant or unable to return.
M&G Investments, Jupiter, Janus Henderson and Invesco are among those that said their UK offices would remain closed for the time being.
Janus Henderson, where 95 per cent of its staff were working from home across the world, said a recent global staff survey found that 64 per cent did not feel comfortable returning to the office, with a lack of childcare and the risk of using public transport being key concerns.
Despite expectations that the pandemic could drive a fundamental reshaping of work, some investment professionals say they are itching to get back. “I’ve always felt that it was important to be [in the office], to chat face to face,” said one senior executive at an investment house.
Aviva Investors said it would prefer if staff remained at home currently. “We’re in no hurry to encourage people going into offices or having face-to-face meetings,” the company said.
Anne Richards, chief executive of Fidelity International, said that several of the company’s offices in Asia had opened on a “split team basis”, but she said it was unlikely that the number of staff working from the UK office would increase until the second half of July at the earliest.
M&G said there had been a phased return of some staff in some countries. But the earliest it believed staff could return to their UK offices “in any meaningful way is September”.
Standard Life Investments told staff this month that the majority of UK employees would continue to work from home until the end of the year.
Invesco is opening up some of its offices in continental Europe this month, while BlackRock is set to open its Copenhagen, Vienna and Tel Aviv offices soon, but is yet to confirm plans for the restart in London, Paris and Brussels.