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Singapore finance professionals likely still WFH even in phase two of reopening

If you’re a finance professional in Singapore, you’re probably looking forward to a degree of extra freedom on Tuesday when phase one of the Republic’s three-stage reopening plan kicks in. After the end of the circuit-breaker period, you’ll be able to receive two visitors per day from your immediate family, send your kids to school, and get a proper haircut, for example.

But you probably won’t be back in the office. The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) says employees who have been working from home so far must continue to do so, and go to the office only if there is no alternative.

But will you be back on-site at the start of phase two? For most finance professionals, the answer is likely to be no. In an update on its website today, MOM says working from home (WFH) must also be the “default mode of working” even under phase two. This second stage could potentially begin by the end of June, but government officials will meet in mid-June to determine the exact date.

Today’s MOM announcement supports Citi’s decision yesterday to continue its current remote-working strategy, which involves 88% of Singapore staff WFH, until July. Even during that month, the bank says it will take a “slow and measured” approach to returning to work.

During the circuit breaker, which started on 7 April, banks limited their on-site employees mainly to business-critical operations and trading professionals. At DBS, for example, about 99% and 90% of developers and relationship managers, respectively, were working from home at the end of April. By contrast, just over 70% of traders and more than 50% of operations staff (DBS did not provide exact numbers) were working remotely.

While WFH remains the default for most people under phases one and two of Singapore’s reopening, a comparatively small number of bank employees, particularly those in customer services jobs, are likely to return to the office.

From 2 June, financial institutions (FIs) will be allowed to reopen more “customer service locations” and move more staff to these offices, according to guidance issued last week by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS). “Customer service locations of insurance companies, fund managers, and brokers will re-open to process essential customer transactions, such as facilitating account opening, updating account information, dealing with insurance policy enquiries, and processing claims and applications for relief measures,” says MAS.

However, front-office bankers wanting to meet clients in person will have to jump through hoops: “FIs providing financial advice on banking, insurance and investment products, and private banks offering wealth management advice, will be permitted to have in-person meetings with their customers at their business premises only with MAS approval and subject to additional safe management measures.”

No matter when you return to the office, you and your employer will need to abide by stringent safety guidelines. MAS warns that it will “continue to conduct onsite inspections to check that safe management requirements are implemented at FIs’ premises, especially at customer-facing locations. Actions will be taken against FIs that fail to comply with the required safe management requirements”.

These requirements are set out by the Ministry of Manpower, which today updated its return-to-office advisory across all sectors. The rules, which can be viewed in full here, include the mandatory wearing of masks and the need to stagger work and break hours.

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

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AUTHORSimon Mortlock Content Manager

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