Barclays: We want our people back in the office

People walking by a Barclays sign Image copyright Getty Images

Barclays boss Jes Staley has signalled that he wants employees working from home during the pandemic to return to the office «over time».

«It is important to get people back together in physical concentrations,» he told Bloomberg TV.

He said 60,000 Barclays staff were working «from their kitchen tables», but stressed that another 20,000 were in offices, branches and call centres.

In April, Mr Staley had said big city offices «may be a thing of the past».

In recent years, banks worldwide have shifted staff away from expensive skyscrapers in financial hubs, but Barclays and its rivals still have busy offices in places such as London’s Canary Wharf.

In his latest remarks, Mr Staley appeared to cast doubt on the idea of abandoning those hubs, saying: «We also have a responsibility to places like Canary Wharf, like Manchester, like Glasgow.»

He added: «We want our people back together, to make sure we ensure the evolution of our culture and our controls, and I think that will happen over time.»

Bad loans fear

Mr Staley’s comments chime with government plans to encourage more people to return to their workplaces from next month, as part of what Prime Minister Boris Johnson hopes will be a «significant return to normality» by Christmas.

However, not all big banks take the same view. Last week, NatWest told more than 50,000 staff in a memo that they could continue to work from home until next year.

The bank, then known as RBS Group, said it had been reconsidering how the bank works «in the longer term» and intended to tell staff about «future ways of working» later this year.

Originally, it had intended for its employees to work from home until the end of September, but it has now extended the period to early 2021.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Barclays chief executive Jes Staley

The Barclays boss was speaking after the bank reported a 58% fall in pre-tax profits to £1.3bn for the first half of this year, compared with £3bn for the same period in 2019.

It said it had set aside £1.6bn in the second quarter of the year to cover the cost of non-repayment of loans, largely as a result of the coronavirus crisis. That took its total provisions for bad loans to £3.7bn for the first half of the year.

Its shares were down 2.6% in Wednesday morning trading.

«These results aren’t exactly unexpected, but they paint a pretty bleak picture of the UK economy nonetheless – particularly if you happen to be a business owner,» said Nicholas Hyett, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.

«Given the backdrop, a large increase in provisions for bad loans during the half was to be expected – and Barclays now expects disruption to drag well past 2020.»