The financial houses in London are luring their bankers back to their offices with free lunch and ice cream. And it seems to be working: the city has not been as busy as in the past few days for a long time. In the financial district of Canary Wharf, people bustle from the subway into the skyscrapers, throngs of office workers crowd into public places and enjoy the September sun. "It feels like things are returning to normal after the summer vacation," says Ian Williams of investment bank Peel Hunt. He's working from the office for the first time since the pandemic broke out in early 2020. The British government lifted almost all corona restrictions in England in July.

London's Transport Authority announced this week that it had its busiest day since the pandemic broke out in March 2020.

The operator of the financial district Canary Wharf announced that there is currently more going on than it has been for a year and a half.

The numbers speak for themselves: At Bank Standard Chartered, around 33 percent of employees were in the office this week, up from 20 percent the week before and a few during the lockdowns.

The fact that the board of directors gave the bankers food may have helped.

In Germany, many still work from home

At Goldman Sachs, around 3,000 investment bankers in the offices on Plumtree Court were able to treat themselves to a few free scoops of ice cream. This brought the US bank to a utilization rate of 50 percent - much more than at the height of the pandemic and lockdowns, when on some days just a few hundred bankers found their way into the city center. At HSBC, Europe's largest bank, around 1,800 people worked at its headquarters in Canary Wharf instead of the 1,000 to 1,500 bankers in recent months.

There are no rewards for the HSBC bankers because there were no rewards for the 10,000 employees in the branches, who always had to be on site during the lockdown, says UK boss Ian Stuart. “We try to communicate effectively that the offices are safe. The first hurdle is getting people to come in and try it out, and then more and more will come. "

In this country the reluctance is even greater than in Great Britain, also because many restrictions in everyday life are still in force. Although the home office regulation no longer applies since July 1, many people still work from home. At Deutsche Bank, it is around 75 percent in Germany and between 65 and 70 percent of the 85,000 employees worldwide. Deutsche Bank boss Christian Sewing has emphasized several times that he is aiming for a hybrid work model after the pandemic. Other institutes are also adjusting to the new conditions. According to a Bloomberg report, Bethmann Bank is building its own television studio so that employees and customers can stay at home more after the pandemic.

But the London bankers are not that certain about returning to their offices. "It feels a little crazy to suddenly squeeze into the full trains again and not everyone is wearing a mask," says banker Rob to a Reuters reporter on the tube in the direction of London City. “But to be honest, I've had enough of sitting at home.” Retailers and investment bankers in particular are increasingly being brought out of the home office. Business in stocks, bonds and commodities trading thrives on loud and fast shouts, and agreements via chat and telephone are too slow and cumbersome.

In addition to free lunch and ice cream, the financial firms also come up with other things for their returning employees. The insurance company Phoenix organizes, for example, safe “social events” and distributes colorful key rings with imprints such as “I keep my distance” and “I agree to high fives”.

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