Bank bosses predict long-term working from home trend

“The notion of putting 7,000 people in a building may be a thing of the past,” says Jes Staley

Alongside the bank’s hefty loan write-downs due to coronavirus in the first quarter, () boss Jes Staley also casually tossed a grenade over into the property sector.

Staley suggested that with the “remarkable” fact of transferring around 70,000 Barclays staff to working from home (WFH) due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there was likely to be a “a long-term adjustment” where companies would increasing use remote working rather than big offices.

READ: Barclays profits hit by coronavirus charges as investment bank enjoys record quarter

“The notion of putting 7,000 people in a building may be a thing of the past,” Staley told reporters on a call on Wednesday morning.

“We will find ways to operate with more distancing over a much longer period of time,” he said, suggesting the FTSE 100 lender could use its branch network as a hub for call centre workers and even investment bankers.

While Barclays will start gradually re-opening of its offices, beginning in Hong Kong and then with others unlocking their doors across Asia, the US banker said this would not mean all staff would be returning.

“This is going to happen over a pretty long period of time,” he said. “This is not going to be a light-switch.”

His comments are similar to those from the CEO of , who this month said he saw a future for the bank “with much less real estate”.

Even when the UK lockdown is lifted, social distancing practises will create practical limits on the number of workers to return to Barclays’ Canary Wharf offices.

“How many people can work in this building if you limit the number of people in an elevator to two at a time?” Staley said. “It’s that sort of thing.”

Landlords “stuffed”?

Pressure on the large landlords and REITs has been more apparent on retail and leisure properties through coronavirus lockdown, with rent deferrals agreed and some reporting that they had only received a slice of their normal rent payments. 

PLC () said earlier this month that it had already seen a “huge shift in the use of our buildings”, though valuations were said to be stable in its London offices, while other, more office-focused listed landlords such as PLC () and PLC (LON:CLS), issued quietly confident statements.

Property values, however, were beginning to be affected this month as less than half of overall rent in March was collected on the due date, analysts at Liberum noted, with rent collection levels seven days after the due date standing at 47% for retail properties, 71% for offices and 62% for industrial real estate.

Following Staley’s comments, there was some agreement in the City about the potential long-term impact on office property from the pandemic.

“Working from home is clearly working rather well,” said Neil Wilson, market analyst at, from his home office.

“Office space will command…

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