COVID-19: How HSBC, Deutsche Bank are coping with WFH challenges

Digital platforms are seeing a surge in traffic

People walk past a Deutsche Bank office in London, Britain July 8, 2019.

People walk past a Deutsche Bank office in London, Britain July 8, 2019.

REUTERS/Simon Dawson

Banks who have asked employees to work from home (WFH) told Zawya that the transition to remote working has been smooth and that COVID-19 has provided growth opportunities in some channels.

“A key lesson learned for us and many of our industry peers is that offering employees the option of flexible and mobile work for many years has led to a largely seamless transition to the new modes of work for a greater number of our people,” Maya Bsat, Chief Operating Officer for UAE at Deutsche Bank told Zawya.

According to Deutsche Bank, staff had the flexibility of working from home for over 10 years.

The bank told Zawya that employees that require surveillance (e.g. traders) could not work from home previously, but this has been overcome during the pandemic and traders have been set up to work from home in just seven days.

At the moment, around 85 percent of the bank’s employees worldwide are working from home.

The German lender reported a net income of €66 million ($71.3 million) in the first quarter, down from €201 million in the same time last year due to the coronavirus fallout. 

HSBC said that 90 percent of their staff in the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey are working from home. Employees still going to work are in the fields of data management, IT support and facilities management, as well as staff working in branches.

Gareth Thomas, HSBC’s Regional Head of Global Banking, Middle East North Africa and Turkey, said: “Our approach to agile teamwork on transactions has really helped us deal with the disruption to regular routines that has been caused by the global efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19.”

As part of agile working, HSBC said, it gives its employees greater flexibility to work where, when and how they choose.

The bank reported a Q1 2020 profit after tax of $2.5 billion, compared to $4.9 billion in Q1 2019, impacted by the coronavirus outbreak.

Digital surge

Both the banks agree that their respective digital infrastructure ensures swift transactions and security.

“Last month in four days we added as many customers to our flagship HSBCnet system as we typically do in two months,” Thomas said.

“Digital capabilities have clearly become a differentiator, whether we’re talking about the ability to execute institutional trades in global financial instruments securely from home, or ensure uninterrupted treasury and cash management services, or complete large-scale trade financing agreements,” he said.

According to Deutsche Bank, from a technology perspective, the transformation in the way we work has been on a scale never seen before.

“On average before the coronavirus pandemic, our bank saw around 20,000 employees logged in remotely at any one time. Today, that number has swelled close to 60,000,” Bsat said.


Bsat identified the main challenge to work from home was ensuring adequate network/server capacities to ensure staff could operate with minimal disruption.

Banks also needed to make sure that security is guaranteed when working from home.

“All staff log in through our secure portal, which requires an authenticated digital token to access, and then a requirement to enter their Deutsche Bank login details to access their desktop as if they were in the office,” Bsat said.

“Things like printing are not enabled, meaning we had to further roll out digital signatures to enable staff to sign contracts,” she added.

Other banking sources told Zawya that one of the biggest technology challenges they have faced is bandwidth.

Lenders had to invest in their bandwidth to accommodate a large number of employees working from home at the same time according to the source.

The road ahead

A survey conducted by Deutsche Bank Research from April 15 to April 17 showed that 60 percent of respondents do not believe the Western World will return to normal life before September 2020.

The global research was conducted among clients and employees with a bias to Europe, then US and then Asia.

“Much of the focus now is on preparing for the future in terms of lockdown extensions and therefore the expectation that we (and our clients) will continue working from home for the foreseeable future,” Bsat said.

“We also must ensure we are ready to exit the crisis and can focus on opportunities that an exit from this acute stage will bring – especially for our clients,” Bsat added.

HSBC’s Thomas said that the bank’s working with their clients on what life looks like beyond the COVID-19 lockdown and how they can position their businesses and balance sheets for future.

“If global interest rates are staying much lower for much longer, high quality issuers with solid business models are already thinking about how they maximise that new funding environment – and the changes that they might need to make to their corporate structures and strategic plans to take best advantage of very different market conditions to those that they were planning for at the start of this year,” Thomas said.

(Reporting by Gerard Aoun; editing by Seban Scaria)



Disclaimer: This article is provided for informational purposes only. The content does not provide tax, legal or investment advice or opinion regarding the suitability, value or profitability of any particular security, portfolio or investment strategy. Read our full disclaimer policy here.

© ZAWYA 2020