Citigroup chief Jane Fraser calls for reset of working life

Citigroup chief executive Jane Fraser has called for a reset of the way the bank’s staff work, saying that the blurring of lines between work and home is “simply not sustainable”.

In an internal memo sent to Citi staff on Monday, Fraser initiated “Zoom-free Fridays”, forbidding internal video conferences on that day. She said staff should also “try to avoid” scheduling video conferences outside of what were normal working hours before the pandemic struck. 

“When our work regularly spills over into nights, very early mornings and weekends, it can prevent us from recharging fully, and that isn’t good for you nor, ultimately, for Citi,” Fraser wrote. She also called on staff to take their vacations and gave all employees May 28 off, a “reset day” the bank also held last year. 

Fraser used the bulk of the memo to present an agenda for the future of work at the bank once the crisis has passed. While the pandemic has shown bankers were capable of working flexibly, Fraser emphasised the importance of the office for reasons of collaboration, camaraderie, and the dissemination of skills and institutional knowledge.

As a result, Fraser wrote, most roles at Citi will be designated as “hybrid”, with at least three days spent in the office. Some roles, for example in branches and data centres, will remain full time in-person, and there will be “somewhat rarer” fully remote roles.

New work patterns will take time to fine tune, she said, but “nothing should stop us from building a bank that wins, a bank that champions excellence and a bank with a soul”.

The Citi memo follows a discussion of banking and remote work set off by a group of young bankers at Goldman Sachs, who last month presented management with a slide deck detailing their dissatisfaction with long working hours, harsh treatment by senior bankers, and low job satisfaction. 

The slides, created by a group of 13 investment banking analysts, circulated on social media last week. Goldman’s chief executive, David Solomon, has since praised the group and called for better enforcement of the bank’s “Saturday rule”, designed to limit junior bankers from working from 9pm on Friday until Sunday morning. He also said the company is adding to its staff to manage increased workloads, and being “more selective” about taking on new work.

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