TD adopts three-day in-office model for its investment bankers

TD’s investment banking division has experienced higher than normal turnover in the last two years of the pandemic.Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

TD’s investment banking division is taking a more relaxed approach to bringing its bankers back to the office. Unlike its US counterparts such as Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan, TD TD-T landed on a hybrid model of three days in the office and two days working from home.

The division – TD Corporate and Investment Banking, part of TD Securities – had experienced higher than normal turnover in the past two years of the pandemic, and maintaining employee satisfaction was a key priority, said Robbie Pryde, executive vice president and head of corporate and investment banking.

“Some people have left the industry, some have gone into private equity and some have gone home to overcome this and figure out their next step,” he told The Globe and Mail. “But what have we learned during the pandemic? That our employees were very interested in a work-life balance and to constantly strive to improve the workplace.

TD tended to have a historically low turnover rate among bankers compared to other banks, which is why Mr Pryde began to pay attention when an unusual number of bankers, particularly younger ones, began to resign during the pandemic.

As of this month – and alongside a bank-wide policy that encourages employees to return to the office twice a week or full-time, with individual departments to decide – Mr Pryde has instituted a policy three days at his bankers’ office.

The reason, according to Rajni Singh, head of business management for the corporate and investment bank, was that four days seemed too heavy and two days too light. “But when we rolled out the policy, we were very careful to tell employees… ‘This is what we think will work, but we will continue to have conversations with you,'” Ms Singh said.

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The bank’s emphasis, ostensibly at least, on maintaining some degree of flexibility around returning to the office is cautious.

Employers’ plans to bring large numbers of employees back to the office five days a week have, in some cases, failed spectacularly. After a recent internal rebellion, Apple suspended its requirement that employees return to the office three times a week. Intuit, the California-based tax software company, intended to mandate a two- or three-day return to the office on certain days, but has now backtracked on that requirement and allowed its 11,500 employees to work with managers and teams to decide what is best for them.

And after calling remote work an “aberration” that needed to be corrected “as soon as possible,” Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon reluctantly admitted in a recent CNBC interview that changing employee behavior by to return to the office would take time. In-person footfall at the bank was only between 50% and 60% in May.

Bankers also had a particularly busy (albeit lucrative) two years, as record levels of capital funding fueled record levels of capital raises, IPOs, mergers and acquisitions. “When you’re in trade mode — which was most of 2020 and 2021 — hours matter,” Pryde said. “But when you’re not in transaction mode…and things have softened a bit right now…employees need time to recharge.” That’s part of the reason why TD doesn’t ask its bankers to return to the office five days a week.

“I’m not going to lie to you, people mostly love working from home, but of course there’s also a need for social connectivity,” Mr Pryde said.

It seems that many large white-collar employers have turned to hybrid working as the current employer-employee compromise. This spring, the Bank of Nova Scotia and the Royal Bank of Canada required employees to return to the office on certain days of the week, although the specific number of days is determined by managers and individual departments. Software company Open Text has closed 50% of its offices and permanently adopted a hybrid working model for its 15,000 employees.

“This hybrid model is becoming quite cohesive and I suspect it will stick around for a long time,” said John Duda, president of property management services at Colliers Canada. “What I hear the most from big banks and tech companies is that you can’t have 100% remote employees. It does not help collaboration and innovation.

Mr. Pryde agrees that there are benefits to face-to-face interactions. “I don’t really focus on how many days people are in the office, but I think it’s better for them, career-wise, to tap into our learning model, where they can be in front of face to face with people and getting to know their bosses and co-workers,” he said. “That’s the model we’re trying to build.”

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Maria D. Ervin