Goldman is bringing traders back to offices in New York and London in the 'next several weeks'

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A pedestrian passes in front of 200 West St., which houses the headquarters of Goldman Sachs Group, in New York.

Scott Eells | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Wall Street is heading back to work.

Goldman Sachs is planning on having some of its traders and other markets personnel return to offices in the U.S. and London in the next few weeks, executive John Waldron said Wednesday in an investor conference.

“We are beginning the process of returning to our offices around the world,” said Waldron, who is Goldman’s president and chief operating officer. “We are planning for a core group of people in our markets-facing businesses to return in the US and London over the next several weeks.”

Goldman, a top player in global trading and capital markets businesses, sent New York-area employees home in March as lockdowns began in the U.S. The bank’s Wall Street-centric businesses performed well in the first quarter, exceeding analysts’ expectations amid record volatility. Now, some of the 98% of bank employees working from home will begin to return to the bank’s offices in Manhattan, New Jersey and Connecticut.

Waldron said that the firm has already set its return-to-work plan in motion overseas with the goal of “approximately 50% of our people working in our offices in Hong Kong, China and Korea, and approximately 10% in our offices across continental Europe.”

He didn’t specify a percentage of employees expected to return in the U.S., but the figure likely won’t climb above 50% in the near future as social distancing rules will still be in effect. A Goldman spokesman said it would likely be a “small group of people” and that employees who don’t feel comfortable returning will be allowed to continue to work from home.

John Waldron, co-head of the Investment Banking Division, Goldman Sachs

Mike Blake | Reuters

While Wall Street has in general worked far better remotely than it was thought possible before the pandemic, many workers have wondered when they would be able to return to an office environment. The news comes as New York city officials are planning out how to reopen parts of the city as soon as next month. 

Later on during the discussion, Waldron explained one reason they are eager to return: Concern that Goldman’s vaunted culture, which leans on in-person collaboration and mentorship of junior personnel, will weaken over months of remote interaction.

“I worry that it decays over time,” Waldron said. “We are anxious to get some of our people starting to come back into offices and starting to reinvest in the culture and that people-development aspect.”

Overall, though, the coronavirus pandemic has convinced executives to accelerate its plans to automate manual processes with technology and to push more people into back-office sites in cities including Bangalore, Dallas, Salt Lake City and Warsaw, he said.

Right now, about 30% of employees work in these cheaper locations, and that figure “can go up faster” as the bank builds teams focused on cloud technology, data analytics and machine learning. 

“There’s no doubt we can run a more distributed model now,” Waldron said. “We’ve proven to ourselves that we can actually have more people working away from the office location.”