Although studies have shown most workers like hybrid or remote work opportunities, CEOs rarely like the concept.
A recent KPMG survey across industries this summer found that 65% of CEOs see in-person work as optimal over the next three years. It was even higher for bank CEOs: 69% of them envision their operations fully in-person during that time frame. Only 24% of bank CEOs envision a hybrid work environment, with both in-person and at-home work, during the next three years.
One of those who dislikes the idea of hybrid work is Fifth Third Bancorp CEO Tim Spence. But Spence has an interesting take on why hybrid or remote work doesn’t work well for banking. While many bank CEOs talk about the importance of in-person work to foster a certain culture, Spence sees another reason, too. While tech companies may embrace the concept of a diverse workforce throughout the world plugging in via videoconferences and online chat, banks have long been deeply rooted in their communities where they do business.
The questions every bank faces are now: Will workers feel as motivated to volunteer and make financial donations when they’re not working in local communities where the bank operates? What happens to a corporation’s philanthropic endeavors when its workforce is diffused through the country?
I met up with Spence in late October at the company’s headquarters in Cincinnati. “My biggest fear about the movement in some quarters of the economy toward remote work is that it’s severing the link between headquarters employers and their responsibilities to the communities where their employees live,” he says.
Like many banks, Fifth Third’s financial success is tied up in the success of its communities. The $206 billion bank traces its roots to Cincinnati back more than 160 years; today, it is a major philanthropic entity in the Queen City and its employees contribute sizable volunteer hours. For Spence, being in a community means physical presence and the ability to be out with clients.
“There’s not another regional bank with a more significant share of its balance sheet attached to manufacturing and transportation and logistics companies than Fifth Third,” he says. “Those folks had to [work in-person during the early days of the pandemic] and we needed to be there with them.”
That doesn’t mean no one works from home at Fifth Third. Spence says about 15% to 20% of positions are eligible for remote work. The rest of the employee base works with their managers if they need an alternative work arrangement, for example, to accommodate caregiving responsibilities. But there’s no across-the-board hybrid work that’s available to all employees.
These issues have been on my mind lately as I head to Bank Director’s Bank Compensation & Talent Conference Nov. 7 to Nov. 9 in Dallas. Compensation consultants, executive recruiters and human resources officers at banks will talk about designing compensation programs, attracting and retaining staff and the ever-shifting regulatory environment. Stay tuned for more on those topics in the days ahead.