City bank sublets offices after home working leaves them deserted

·2 min read
UBS working from home offices vacant remote bank - Heathcliff O'Malley
UBS working from home offices vacant remote bank - Heathcliff O'Malley

UBS is subletting two floors of its London headquarters after remote working left the bank with an excess of empty desks.

Switzerland’s largest lender introduced a global flexible working policy last summer, allowing two-thirds of its total 73,000 employees to permanently combine remote and office working.

It has now decided to sublet two of the 12-storeys at 5 Broadgate, reported the Financial Times, as staff stay at home post-pandemic.

UBS moved the majority of its 6,200-strong UK workforce into the building - which overlooks Liverpool Street Station and is one of the biggest in the City - in 2015, and has a lease until 2035. It is understood the bank is still seeking tenants for the vacant floors.

The decision comes after three-quarters of London’s workers say they will never return to their old routine of commuting into the office every day, with an aversion to rush-hour traffic being cited as the top reason, according to a study last month from the Policy Institute and King’s College London.

While some rivals, including HSBC, Goldman Sachs and Citi, pushed for more workers to return to the office as governments lifted restrictions, UBS has taken the opposite approach. Chief executive Ralph Hamers has championed the bank’s hybrid model as a core part of its workplace culture and way to attract talent.

“What started as a temporary necessity for the 95pc of our workforce enabled to work at home during the pandemic has become a valued working practice and a competitive advantage,” its website says.

“Early on, we saw that our employees were just as productive, if not more so, while working from home.”

UBS has estimated up to 75pc of its staff could be eligible to work flexibly between the office and home on a long-term basis, which it hopes will lure talent from competitors.

“Our hybrid working model helps us attract – and retain – a larger and more diverse group of employees, including early-career talent, working parents and those in continuing education,” it added.

In March, the 5 Broadgate property – also known as the ‘groundscraper’ for its large footprint – was sold for around £1.2bn to South Korea's National Pension Service and real estate investment firm Lasalle Investment Management, according to Bloomberg. At 732,000 sq ft, the office sale was the largest in London by floorspace and transaction cost for five years.

UBS was contacted for comment.

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