Brexit-induced teleworking?

On 23 June 2016 the voters of the United Kingdom opted to leave the European Union; Brexit won. So far the consequences have been jubilation, shock, horror, recrimination, disaster and confusion. But one of the consequences may be a surge in Brexit-induced teleworking. Here’s why.

The City of London is a world financial center, the European headquarters of many large financial institutions. Investment banks in particular have already begun to move their operations to other EU member countries. According to the Financial Times,

The big US banks — JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Citigroup and Morgan Stanley — have large operations employing tens of thousands of people in the UK. They have historically set up their regulated businesses in Britain and then used its right to “passport” into the rest of the 28-member bloc.

The idea of actually moving a few employees from one country to another is daunting at the best of times. But the thought of relocating tens of thousands of financial workers — and their families — boggles the mind. But wait! What is it that financial workers do? Why, they sit in front of computer monitors all day (or night) doing financial stuff, connected with similar monitors around the rest of the world. They’re not dealing with the public in any face-to-face relationship.

So why should these banks, or any other such institutions,  go to the trouble of moving all those people to other countries when all that’s involved could be some rearranging of telecommunications connections so that the public facade is in some OK EU country but the actual workforce stays in the UK? No fuss. No muss. No large scale immigration from the UK to wherever. No disruption of daily activities. No hit to the bottom line, except possibly a significant increase in productivity.

The hitch to this opportunity may be in that “passport” requirement. But if changing a company’s home base (that is, the offices of the C-suite) to an acceptable EU-member country satisfies the requirement, then the rest of the operation can be left where it is now. No imi- or emigration. After all, many businesses have their headquarters in one country and most of their workforce in another.

The elephant in the corner, of course, is the presumption on the part of management that everyone must be located in the place that has the company’s logo imprinted on a building — the edifice complex. But we have dispelled that ancient idea for many organizations over the past few decades. It’s time to catch up with the future even in the tradition-driven financial and banking businesses.

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