Citi breaks with rivals on whether work from home is permanent

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Citigroup plans to bring its workers back to the office when the COVID-19 pandemic ends, breaking with a raft of competitors planning to make remote operations permanent for many staff.

“Our goal is to get our employees back,” Chief Executive Michael Corbat said Friday at a virtual investor conference.

Working remotely has definite advantages, Corbat said, including giving him the ability to meet with clients and employees from around the world all in the same week. But he said the firm doesn’t plan to leave employees at home permanently.

The pandemic has forced companies to send thousands of employees to their home offices as a way to slow the spread of the deadly virus. For some workers, including those at Citigroup competitors Bank of New York Mellon and Synchrony Financial, the changes may be permanent, officials there have said.

Citigroup, with roughly 200,000 employees around the world, has already begun bringing staff back to some of its offices in Asia, with the Hong Kong office at 50% capacity and Taiwan at 75%, Corbat said.

On other topics, the CEO said Citigroup’s fixed-income trading business has continued seeing the good momentum it experienced in the first quarter, when revenue surged almost 40%. The unit has benefited from increased corporate-bond issuance, Corbat said.

“It’s been an active period,” he said, with “very good momentum sustained and continuing to build coming out of the first quarter.”

Bloomberg News