UPDATE: Sept. 29, 2021: Wells Fargo is delaying its planned office return until Jan. 10, 2022, according to a memo seen Tuesday by Bloomberg.
“The health and safety of our employees and customers is our priority and guides our planning,” the bank’s chief operating officer, Scott Powell, wrote in the memo. “Given the current environment, we look forward to welcoming our teams back in January.”
The move marks the fourth delay in Wells Fargo’s proposed office-return timeline since laying out a two-wave strategy in July that would have sent operations and call centers employees back to the office, followed weeks later by technology, corporate and back-office workers.
The bank, since early last month, has delayed its target return date to Oct. 4, Oct. 18 and Nov. 1.
Wells Fargo added that it would offer four hours of extra paid time off for eligible employees to get a COVID-19 booster shot.
UPDATE: Sept. 16, 2021: Wells Fargo has pushed back its return to the office for a third time Tuesday, according to a memo seen by Bloomberg. The target return date is now Nov. 1, Chief Operating Officer Scott Powell said. The bank had initially planned a Sept. 6 return, but delayed that last month to Oct. 4, then pushed that time frame again this month by two weeks.
Powell in July laid out a two-wave return strategy, in which operations and contact center employees would return together, followed weeks later by enterprise functions and line of business support employees. Although Powell said in earlier delays the strategy would remain intact, he said Tuesday the bank was "studying" President Joe Biden's proposed rules requiring large private employers to mandate COVID-19 vaccination for employees "to better understand how they apply to our [return-to-office] plans."
TD Bank, meanwhile, is tabling its office return until next year, according to a Wednesday memo seen by Bloomberg.
Kenn Lalonde, the bank's chief human resources officer, told employees the bank doesn’t “currently expect a broader return to TD locations before calendar 2022.”
Employees at Canada's largest lender are required to register their vaccination status by the beginning of October. The bank will create a protocol by Nov. 1 for workers who haven’t registered or aren’t fully vaccinated, Lalonde said.
“We are monitoring the evolving situation and will update you when we have new information to share,” he said. “In the meantime, we are making the necessary preparations for colleagues to be able to return to work on TD premises or third-party locations when conditions allow.”
At the same time, a major bank regulator — the Federal Reserve — is rolling out a vaccine mandate to all of its 23,000 employees in Washington and at each of the 12 regional Fed banks, Reuters reported Wednesday.
Compliance deadlines at the banks vary from Oct. 1 to Nov. 30.
"This wasn’t an easy decision for us, but vaccines offer strong protection against serious illness, hospitalization, and death, and we see them as the best way for us to address the pandemic’s challenges with everyone’s safety and well-being in mind," said André Anderson, first vice president of the Atlanta Fed.
At least one of the regional satellites — the Minneapolis Fed — had already instituted a vaccine mandate. "In order to fulfill our public-service mission, we need more face-to-face contact than remote work allows, but there is no way for us to bring a critical mass of our staff back into our facilities and maintain social distancing," Neel Kashkari, the Minneapolis Fed's president, wrote in a July web post. "Hence, we need our employees to be vaccinated."
UPDATE: Sept. 2, 2021: Wells Fargo has delayed by two weeks — to Oct. 18 — the date it is asking employees to return to the office, according to a memo seen Wednesday by Bloomberg.
The move marks the second delay within a month for Wells Fargo’s office-return timeline. The bank in early August pushed back its anticipated Sept. 7 return date to Oct. 4. However, its two-wave return strategy, which Wells’ chief operating officer, Scott Powell, laid out in July, will stay intact.
“The sequence of how employees will return remains unchanged from what I shared in my message on July 16, with operations and contact center employees returning over the course of several weeks beginning Oct. 18, followed by our enterprise functions and line of business support employees in November,” Powell wrote in the memo.
- Some of the largest financial institutions in the country have altered their return-to-office-plans over the past week, as the number of coronavirus cases grows with alarming speed.
- Wells Fargo, Truist, and U.S. Bank pushed back the date employees must return to the office, but some major banks remain committed to a rapid return.
- JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs are sticking to their plans, according to Bloomberg. At the Wall Street Journal CEO Council in May, JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon said, "we want people back to work, and my view is that sometime in September, October it will look just like it did before."
Coronavirus infections are spiraling, so banks are keeping their doors shut to office workers for longer than expected. At the same time, business is booming for Wall Street banks. Corporate dealmaking is on fire, and many bankers are working exceptionally long hours. Amid the chaos, over the past week several banks have altered their game plans for returning to the office.
New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio strongly encouraged citizens to wear a mask indoors on Monday. And beginning Aug. 16, New York City will require proof of vaccination for indoor activities like dining and going to the gym. The spike in cases is forcing banks to be more patient than many executives had previously hoped.
Wells Fargo initially planned to shepherd employees back into the office Sept. 6, but the date was changed to Oct. 4 due to the delta variant. Wells Fargo, which has more workers than any other American bank, is offering eight hours of paid time off for its employees to get vaccinated. The bank also required employees to fill out a survey about their vaccination history in July.
Likewise, the world’s biggest asset manager, BlackRock, has delayed their return to office from September to early October.
U.S. Bank disclosed Wednesday that its return to office is postponed indefinitely. Originally planned for Sept. 7, bank employees were told to expect 30 days' notice at some unknown time.
"There are increased caseloads across the globe, and the Delta variant has caused us to adjust our plans," U.S. Bank CEO Andy Cecere told employees in an email.
The rise in coronavirus cases is an obstacle for banks based all over the country. Charlotte, North Carolina-based Truist began hybrid work arrangements for a limited number of employees in June. The bank announced Tuesday that it is pushing back plans to initiate the next reopening phase from Oct. 1 to later that month or in November.
But many other banks refuse to delay the return to in-person work.
JPMorgan appears steadfast in its plan for employees to return to their offices by Sept. 21. Dimon is outspokenly cynical about working from home.
Dimon said remote work could hurt company culture and even prevent some employees from advancement — as younger bankers might lose out on mentorship and training opportunities in an online environment. At a news conference in May, Dimon said remote work "doesn’t work for those who want to hustle. It doesn’t work for spontaneous idea generation. It doesn’t work for culture."
Goldman Sachs faces many of the same challenges. The investment bank has required about half of its workforce to return to the office since June. According to Forbes, Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon described remote work as an "aberration," and said "for a business like ours, which is an innovative, collaborative apprenticeship culture, this is not ideal ... and it’s not a new normal."