Citi expands staff Covid testing to ramp up return to Canary Wharf office

Citigroup is expanding a Covid-19 testing programme for its Canary Wharf headquarters in a bid to get more employees back in the office, as City investment banks gradually reopen after the latest UK lockdown.

More UK staff will return to Citi’s Canary Wharf headquarters from 12 April as the bank expands a pilot Covid-19 testing from around 1,000 eligible employees, people familiar with the matter said.

Any employees wanting to come into Citi’s 25 Canada Square headquarters will now be required to take a Covid-19 test three times a week, the people said. The bank’s sales and trading function is likely to see the biggest increase, they added, while investment bankers told Financial News that some senior managers had been encouraging a gradual return.

On 8 March, Citigroup rolled out a pilot testing programme for around 1,000 eligible employees coming into the office throughout the UK’s latest lockdown in anticipation of more staff returning later in the year. Its Canary Wharf headquarters can house up to 7,000 employees, but less than 10% of employees have been coming into the office throughout the lockdown restrictions.

“Following the success of this pilot, we have now expanded access to our testing programme to further colleagues who have been approved to work from the office,” said James Bardrick, Citi country officer for the UK. “The expansion of our voluntary testing programme is being undertaken in line with our own risk and safety assessments and our enhanced Covid measures and controls to protect our people’s health and prevent the spread of the virus.”

READ When City bankers at JPMorgan, Goldman and Credit Suisse will head back to the office

The City of London is gradually reopening as UK lockdown restrictions are lifted. Both Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan have encouraged more staff back to the office since 29 March, FN has reported. Around 15% — or 1,800 — staff in London are coming to the office at JPMorgan, and it expects a similar figure at its buildings in Scotland from late April, according to a person familiar with the matter.

At Goldman, up to 20% of its employees are now coming into its Plumtree Court headquarters in London’s Farringdon. Deutsche Bank is also understood to be encouraging more employees back to its UK headquarters, up from the approximately 10% of staff coming in throughout the latest restrictions.

HSBC, which has taken a cautious approach to bringing bankers back to its 8 Canada Square headquarters in Canary Wharf, has also introduced new measures for staff wishing to return.

The bank has created “collaboration spaces” for employees to convene for essential internal meetings across a number of its UK offices including in Canary Wharf and Victoria Street in London, according to a memo seen by FN. Client meetings as also permitted, but both require manager approval.

The UK lender will provide home-testing Covid-19 tests for all of its employees in England and Scotland. HSBC also has a ‘future of work’ group to “ensure that the benefits of our working practices through lockdown are not lost as we return to our workplaces”, the memo said.

READ Goldman sees more London staff trickling into the office as lockdown lift begins

While bankers head back to the office, some working practices will remain in place after the pandemic. In his annual shareholder letter released on 7 April, JPMorgan chief executive Jamie Dimon said the bank would “significantly” reduce its real estate footprint as more of its employees work flexibly. Around 60% of its staff would have “seats” within its offices, he added.

Meanwhile, Citigroup chief executive Jane Fraser laid out plans for the future of work at the bank on 23 March. The majority of the bank’s some 205,000 employees will be designated as ‘hybrid’, working at home for up to two days a week and spending at least three in the office. Meanwhile, staff in retail and data centre roles are likely to work in the office full-time and a small number will work entirely remotely.

To contact the author of this story with feedback or news, email Paul Clarke

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