Schroders' landmark decision to permanently adopt a flexible working policy will set a precedent for other firms to follow suit in the near future, according to diversity spokespeople in the asset management industry, who believe the culture of the City has "already been changed" as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
On Monday, the FTSE 100-listed giant announced staff will be able to work from home even after all restrictions ease and the world returns to normal, while staff can agree the hours they work with their respective line managers.
Schroders was also one of the first asset management firms to request senior executives work from home one day per week after the offices reopened, with CEO Peter Harrison asking 19 members of the firm's management committee to show it is "acceptable" for employees to work from home back in June.
Johanna Kyrklund, CIO and global head of multi-asset investment, said Schroders has now gone one step further and adopted a "principles-based approach based on trust and pragmatism" so that each investment desk can determine what combination of home and office working can "maximise the productivity of the team".
"In practice, our fund managers will be combining working from home with coming to the office. As with most things in life, extremes are rarely practical," she explained.
"The benefits of working from home for a fund manager is that it may provide an environment which is more conducive to contemplation and original research.
"Allowing that flexibility also allows us to attract a broader range of people, such as introverts or people who may have responsibilities at home, bolstering our ability to build diverse teams. Trust and flexibility also engender loyalty. The best investment teams are typically built by people who have worked together over a number of years."
Ana Maria Tulak, partner at Ludgate Search and chair of SMART Working at The Diversity Project, said Schroders is "paving the way" for the investment industry on the flexible working front and "truly hope[s]" the rest of the industry will follow.
"As we all know, our industry has been late to the party when it comes to D&I. However, leaders now have a unique opportunity to rewrite the playbook on inclusive work practices further than they could have ever imagined," she said.
"Flexible working offers employees a better work-life balance, enhances well-being and improves employee engagement regardless of their circumstances, gender, ethnicity, disability, age or neurodiversity.
"The forced remote working due to Covid-19 crisis has undoubtedly busted the myth that ‘five-day, nine-to-five work in the office' is the default mode for organisations to run efficiently."
Bev Shah, founder and CEO of City Hive, agreed the pandemic has shown "even the naysayers" that employees can work from home productively.
"To make this change permanent we need to reflect on what has worked and what will need more work to be effective and inclusive. Central to it all is strong team management that understands the individual," she reasoned.
"Human connections have proven to be very important for creativity and rapport. We saw check-in video calls, weekly socials and webinar sessions filling a gap, but firms will need to put more thought into curating collaboration and outreach if the watercooler is not available - in particular to ensure equality of access."