The future is flexible for investment professionals

Majority of respondents in global study report strong desire, organizational support for hybrid work arrangements

The future is flexible for investment professionals

Earlier this week, RBC CEO Dave McKay said on a LinkedIn post that “hybrid work models are here to stay,” declaring that his company will “hold onto the best of what we’ve learned over the past 18 months and recapture the best of everything we’ve missed from the pre-pandemic world.”

That’s not something everyone will agree on. Some big names on Wall Street are telling their workers to come back to the office, prompting rivals to promote their own more flexible work policies as a differentiating factor to attract and retain talent.

But if a global study conducted by the CFA Institute is any guide, investment professionals are planting themselves more firmly in the “work from anywhere” camp.

In a report titled Future of Work in Investment Management, which includes findings from a global survey of investment professionals, the institute found 81% would like to work remotely part of the time, including 87% of female respondents and 80% of men.

“Those earlier in their careers, with less than two years since earning the CFA charter, were least likely to want to work remotely,” the institute said, noting that coaching and mentorship is more difficult in a remote environment.

Survey findings indicate that COVID-19 was a tipping point for organizations to shed the office-only mindset. Just 15% of investment professionals surveyed said they felt their firms strongly supported remote work – in terms of cultural acceptance and ease of getting approval – prior to the COVID-19 pandemic; after the pandemic hit, 77% of respondents said their firms were strongly supportive.

That pattern was echoed for flexible work policies. While only 23% of investment professionals said their firms showed strong support for such policies prior to the pandemic, that number grew to 75% after the virus made itself felt.

“The 2020 experience in most markets has been extremely challenging as adaptations have been needed, including operational support, the use of more technology, policy changes, and new management approaches,” the report said.

Beyond that, professionals working through the pandemic experienced heightened stress due to physical  and mental health concerns and dependent  care requirements. According to the institute, half of its members said they had children living with them, and two thirds of those with school-aged children reported that their sons and daughters were still doing remote schooling as of March this year.

When asked how working remotely has affected their work, 53% said it has increased their efficiency; those who manage others were less certain, with just 33% saying they saw greater efficiency from those they manage.

“Even roles that were thought to be largely incompatible with remote work–such as chief investment officers, chief financial officers, and traders–have proven to be adaptable,” the report said, highlighting those roles as the ones with the largest increases in pre- versus post-COVID work-from-home effectiveness.

The situation was different for those in client-facing roles. “While communication technology has strengthened intra-company communication, there is a hesitation to transition to remote client engagement in a similar manner,” the institute said.

The report also looked at how well the work done by different types of professionals lent itself to a hybrid model.

Because they need the most uninterrupted time to do their jobs, professors, credit and research analysts, and corporate financial analysts were best-positioned to benefit from remote work. In contrast, CEOs, CIOs, IT professionals, and managers of managers did the most collaborative work, and were therefore likely to be hampered by limitations in in-person interactions.


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