At Bank of America, flexibility means unit policy fills the gap

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From the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, official communications from Bank of America regarding a return to the office have included an element of sensitivity.

In 2020, the bank repeatedly stressed that it would give employees at least 30 days notice before any large-scale return.

In 2021, as competitors set strict limits – Goldman Sachs required employees to report their vaccination status; Morgan Stanley barred unvaccinated people from company offices; Citi demanded that all of its American employees be vaccinated and ultimately threatened to fire those who resisted – Bank of America simply recommended that its employees be vaccinated and reinforced.

When the bank announced a June 1 return-to-office date for all US employees, a person familiar with the policy said staff would have some flexibility to work from home but were strongly encouraged to collaborate with colleagues in person.

The flexibility inherent in the lack of specific details can sometimes be comforting. But it can also allow greater control to be imposed at the unit level. But not always in written form.

“I want to communicate that the current expectation here – and that’s communicated across all of [the bank’s investment-banking structure] and at all levels – is that as a business we are involved at least four days a week,” said Malav Chakravorty, director of M&A resources at Bank of America, in mid-May during a call with junior employees of the investment bank, according to Business Insider. “And then I will say, particularly in the area of ​​mergers and acquisitions, we would love to see you five days a week.”

Chakravorty added, “We will be in touch with you on a weekly basis here as we are really focused on this initiative.”

Still, the policy was not spelled out in a follow-up email or written directive, the publication’s sources said.

However, the bank’s head of investment banking, Thomas Sheehan, visited the division’s teams in person the following week at Bank of America’s main office in New York and verbally reiterated expectations of returning to the office. , a junior investment banker told Business Insider.

“They’ve generally avoided putting anything on paper and such decisions are communicated on calls,” the junior banker said.

Originally, it wasn’t Chakravorty’s call to lead. Kevin Brunner and Ivan Farman, the bank’s co-head of mergers and acquisitions, would host, but each had a conflict, sources told Business Insider.

Mergers and Acquisitions wouldn’t be the only Bank of America unit making a big push to repopulate the office. Officials in the bank’s equity trading unit also pressured staff to return to the office full-time, sources told the publication. But again, the command is not written.

And messaging may not be consistent across the enterprise.

Senior executives have been discouraged from using a heavy-handed approach to boost office footfall, a senior markets division executive says Business Insider.

“There are completely empty areas and completely full areas. It’s very binary,” the executive said of the bank’s New York main office trading floors. “It creates a lot of tension.”

Since Sheehan’s visit, bank officials have closely monitored attendance and called employees, asking them to explain their absences, sources told the publication.

At first glance, this might seem like a more typical Goldman Sachs or JPMorgan Chase move — perhaps a comparison Bank of America would rather avoid.

Asked by Business Insider to comment on Bank of America’s office presence policies and procedures, a company spokesperson said the bank’s policy is to work in the office more often than from home while promoting flexibility. remote work at the manager’s discretion.

Observers who may have been caught off guard by Bank of America’s harsh (verbal) charge should remember that the organization’s top executive last June called the bank “working from a office business”.

Office footfall has been up since May’s call on mergers and acquisitions and the subsequent arrival of executives, the junior investment banker told Business Insider.

“We are juniors,” the person said. “You don’t want to be in the wrong book.”

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