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Barclays CEO hints at office 'rethink' post-COVID-19 pandemic

Oscar Williams-Grut
·Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
·2-min read
Barclays CEO Jes Staley
Barclays CEO Jes Staley at a Yahoo Finance All Markets Summit at Union West in New York, US, on 10 October 2019. Photo: Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

The chief executive of Barclays (BARC.L) has hinted the bank may reduce its office space around the world in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think people will rethink their real estate footprint,” Jes Staley told journalists on a call on Wednesday.

“We are going to think about our real estate mix given the lessons that we’ve learned.”

Staley has previously suggested that packed Canary Wharf office blocks could be “a thing of the past” and suggested staff could be more evenly distributed across call centres and its branch network.

On Wednesday, Staley said Barclays would maintain “a major presence in places like Canary Wharf.”

“We do need to get people together physically I think to evolve and improve your culture and collaboration,” he said.

However, Staley didn’t back away from the idea of possibly reducing its overall real estate presence in major office centres.

READ MORE: Barclays profit halves as it sets aside another £1.6bn to cover COVID-19 losses

“We’ve all learned a lot in the last couple of months about the dynamic work environment,” he said.

“It’s extraordinary that we’re running a bank of the complexity of Barclays with over 60,000 people working from their kitchen tables. A lot of credit to our technology staff and our operations people that have enabled us to do that.

“It’ll be fascinating to see how it evolves over the next couple of years.”

Staley said 20,000 of Barclays’ staff had continued to go into branches, call centres, and to trading desks in Canary Wharf throughout the crisis.

“We do have a significant percentage of the workforce that through this crisis, they’re coming in to work,” he said. “We appreciate their commitment and dedication.”

READ MORE: Barclays CEO: Packed Canary Wharf offices 'may be a thing of the past'

The comments came as Barclays reported worse-than-expected half-year results. The bank set aside £1.6bn ($2bn) to cover an expected surge in bad loans caused by the COVID-19 crisis. The higher-than-expected charge led to a slump in profits. Shares fell over 4%.