Opinion  

Remote working has been easier for some of us than first thought

James Christie

James Christie

While lockdowns have proved testing for many businesses, one element that shines through is that staff can be just as productive working from home as they can be in the office. 

It is a phenomenon that is transforming the way many sectors function, and a business model that is likely to remain, to some degree, long after the vaccines have taken effect.

According to one McKinsey study, more than 20 per cent of the workforce could continue working from home between three to five days a week. The effects on everything from travel to infrastructure could be huge.

While there is no doubt that being able to speak to colleagues and clients face-to-face can never be fully replaced by online platforms, the fears that employers may have once had about staff working remotely should, to a large extent, now be dispelled.

Of more concern is the welfare of staff who are used to and genetically programmed to be sociable and to interact with others. 

Despite an unprecedented 2020, it actually felt like business as usual in the fund administration world because the level of service experienced by clients did not really change.

The only significant difference is the personal interaction with clients, which has always been so important in an industry where relationships are enduring due to the long-term nature of private equity funds.

However, with the age of Zoom upon us, technology has meant that staying in touch within a team as well as externally with clients remains straightforward. 

With client and investor movements still heavily restricted, the methods of communication that were relied upon earlier in lockdown remain necessary for those important cross-border relationships. 

It also comes as no surprise that platforms geared toward supporting remote work - such as MS Teams and Zoom - not only recorded record growth in 2020, but are now rolling out ever more updates to streamline the process.

With that in mind, even large scale events and conferences have been able to move into the virtual realm with relative ease.

For example, Guernsey’s Sustainable Finance Week in 2020 was conducted entirely online, and is just one of many large scale financial events that took place virtually.

The fact that clients can convene from around the world without the freezing of screens and dropping out of audio goes to show how much technology has improved in the past few years and how the industry has adapted.

One thing is certain - last year proved that the outsourced model is sufficiently robust to continue despite the challenges we continue to face.

Indeed new funds are still being launched, successor funds are still being planned and services are able to go on uninterrupted with little or no change aside from the international travel.

There is no doubt that the world changed last year and some of those changes will remain once Covid-19 has finally receded. Representatives of our businesses are no longer racing to the airport before sunrise for a long day in the City, meeting lawyers, corporate brokers and other intermediaries.