The future of the City

The impact of COVID-19 on the Financial Services workforce and industry

Financial services have traditionally been highly centralised in a handful of international urban centres. The industry is identified with place names that have become synonymous with the industry, such as ‘the City’ in London, even after institutions have shifted to other locations, such as Canary Wharf and beyond.

There are powerful reasons for this centralisation: history and tradition, the physical and technological requirements of trading and traders, the imperative to collaborate, the importance of trust, conduct and culture, and regulatory demands for supervision and accountability. Controls have been designed around office working.

The COVID-19 pandemic, with its swift and near-total shelter-at-home message, represents a massive forced experiment for the whole Financial Services industry. The industry has responded well to the experiment. Going forward, the experience of widespread home-working during lockdown offers the industry a chance to reflect on its own ways of working and its physical footprint in city centre locations.

Our latest research explores the impact the COVID-19 pandemic and working-from-home is having on the Financial Services workforce, and what the city of the future will look like.

A silver lining

Working from home (WFH) has been a productive and very positive experience for Financial Services employees. Not having to commute is a major contributor to this positive experience, but other factors are at play, including increased flexibility in work schedule and more time being spent with family.

Business remodelled

COVID-19 has posed major questions about how the City’s physical environment will look in the future. The guiding principles for revising footprints, location strategies and floor plans should consider human capital, risk and regulation.

Almost half of respondents expect the total space occupied by their employer to decrease after lockdown.

Digital demands

COVID-19 has been a major catalyst for the adoption of digital technologies by employees, clients and customers alike. Many employers had already provided employees with WFH equipment, and so although the crisis was unexpected, many were well-prepared. Leading emboldened FS leaders to ask: how far and how fast can we transform our businesses?

Task at hand

In what ways are FS employees more or less productive working at home? The nature of the task is a major reason why some can be performed more efficiently at home than in the office.

Trust 2.0

Financial Services will have to find new ways of building relationships, especially trust, in a physically-distanced age. The most valuable aspect of working from the office, cited by three-fifths, is the ability to meet with people in-person.

Work and life imbalance?

Financial Services professionals have swapped commuting time for working time during lockdown. Longer term, there is a risk that this could be counterproductive and damaging to employee well-being. Responses reveal that employees have differing views and experiences of WFH, and that there will not be a one-answer-fits-all solution.

Our research

Deloitte commissioned YouGov to carry out a survey of Financial Services professionals during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. The survey of professionals in Financial Services working in London and the Home Counties was conducted between 6th and 11th May 2020. 501 completed responses were returned, divided approximately in equal proportions between junior, mid- and senior management levels across a wide range of FS services and Financial Services firms of all sizes. Nearly two thirds (64%) were men, and the remainder women.


Richard Hammell

Managing Partner, UK Financial Services

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Payal Vasudeva

Human Capital Partner

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Russell McMillan

Financial Advisory Partner

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Margaret Doyle

Chief Insights Officer (FS)

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Peter Evans

Senior Insights Manager

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Vishwa Sonnad

Insights Analyst

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