July 27, 2020 / 6:11 AM / 16 days ago

As bankers return to the office, industry body warns of new risks of bad conduct

LONDON (Reuters) - Returning to the office will bring new challenges for banks and brokerages seeking to enforce good conduct by staff, after the bulk of their employees worked from home during the coronavirus pandemic, a financial markets industry body said on Monday.

FILE PHOTO: General view of the Canary Wharf financial district, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, London, Britain, April 6, 2020. REUTERS/Matthew Childs

During lockdowns to stem the outbreak in big financial centres like London, dealers have faced compliance challenges as they trade currencies, stocks, bonds and commodities from kitchens and bedrooms. Many firms did not allow working from home before the pandemic.

Regulators have worried about financial firms’ ability to maintain good trading standards while compliance teams were out of sight, but even with employees now drifting back to the office, new types of risks are emerging.

“People will feel under certain pressures to return, particularly if you see half of your team back in the office in close proximity to the leadership,” said Martin Pluves, chief executive of the FICC Markets Standards Board (FMSB).

“Then there will be pressures on people who feel there is an A Team and a B Team and that could drive certain behaviours. That is something firms are and need to look at as we move more into a hybrid model.”

In order to maintain social distancing in offices, many firms have split their workforce into groups, with only some on site at any time.

The FMSB was set up to help improve behaviour in markets after banks were fined for trying to rig currency benchmarks and the Libor interest rate.

On Monday the FMSB, whose members include Goldman Sachs, HSBC, Barclays and BlackRock, published a best practice guide to handling conduct risks from working remotely.

Regulators will be looking for a clear audit trail of how risks have been dealt with.

“That will be an exercise that will run on for quite some time,” Pluves said.

One of the newer risks is that people working from home could be less willing to own up to mistakes given it is easier for the error to go undetected, Pluves said. It’s also harder to detect domestic violence or substance and alcohol abuse among people still working at home.

“It’s safe to say that remote working is going to be a significant part of financial services at least for the next year and maybe forever,” Pluves said.

Reporting by Huw Jones; Editing by Toby Chopra

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