Friday 24 September 2021 2:21 pm

Hybrid future is ‘part-time work for full-time wages’, says City grandee

Veteran city broker Andrew Monk has spoken out against government plans to legislate the right to request flexible working from day one, arguing that it should be up to business leaders and that many CEOs in the city believe it doesn’t work for financial firms. 

“Frankly, I know how to run my business better than the government does,” Monk, who runs small-cap investment bank VSA Capital, told City AM. 

“Monkey”, as he is known in the city, has told his staff they must come in to the office five days a week but can choose to commute at flexible times in order to avoid rush hour.

VSA’s team of 20 must be in the office at midday, though, “because if we have a deal going on it’s much easier to get on and do it with the people in the office – those at home would get left out.”

His view is that although people may be working far longer hours from home, those hours are far less productive remotely than in the office because people “abuse” the flexibility and “inevitably get sucked in” by more distractions.

Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng however, has said that flexible working methods such as job-sharing, work from home and flexitime make for “more productive businesses and happier employees,” and yesterday launched a consultation into making these options a legal entitlement for employees from day one of a new job.

Announcing the government’s proposals, Kwarteng said: “It was once considered a ‘nice to have’, but by making requests a day one right, we’re making flexible working part of the DNA of businesses across the country.” 

But introducing legislation is “setting a tone that is almost making people think they can do part-time work but on full-time salaries”, Mr Monk has previously told the BBC. 

While many professional services firms such as PwC, Deloitte and the magic circle law firms have opted for agile working, Monk argues that the trading hours of London’s financial market make it difficult for financial firms to follow suit – and that these decisions are holding deals back.

“Although all these firms say we’re working from home and it’s ok, what we all know is that right now large deals and IPOS are taking substantially longer than they used to. And that’s because all the auditors and lawyers are on zoom calls, which takes much longer than sitting around a table and just signing the papers.” 

“I think there is an element of some of these firms trying to be a little “over woke” with flexible working, but for financial firms it is much more difficult. The stock exchange is open much longer now than it used to be – we’ve gone the other way.”

“And my views are much more common in the City than people realise. I know most of the other CEOs at firms all around the city and as they put it, “we can’t say that but you can.”