HSBC joins Goldman and Barclays in halting back to the office plans after Boris Johnson speech

Banking giant HSBC has brought its back-to-the-office plans to a screeching halt after Boris Johnson told the country to work at home if people can.

Following the Prime Minister’s address, Britain’s biggest bank wrote to staff to formally pause “phase one” of its efforts to bring employees back. Sources said staff in the “low hundreds” had begun returning to its UK offices, which include its headquarters in Canary Wharf.

The bank has put a stop to one-off trips to the office for employees who, for example, want to pick up equipment, it is understood. However, critical workers who support customers from a small number of offices and branches will continue to go in.

The lender — currently battling a media storm over the FinCen files — has also cancelled all planned events such as strategy sessions and planning days.

HSBC and rivals were bounced into redrawing their plans by the Government’s shift in stance as Covid cases begin to rise again.

Goldman Sachs’ international chief Richard Gnodde told staff that its Plumtree Court offices in the City will remain open for those who need it, but is now encouraging staff to work remotely. Around 20% of its employees had returned. Rival lenders Barclays and Société Generale have also told staff to work remotely again.

Lloyd’s of London has told its 800 directly employed staff to work from home, although the independent brokers who use the insurance market can continue to work in Lime Street. The market reopened its underwriting floor earlier this month with social distancing measures in place.

Bosses across London were deliberating over whether to shut offices again. Advertising chief Johnny Hornby, who runs The & Partnership, told the Standard: “Clearly having made our offices Covid secure and spent this month developing ways to bring out teams back in to the office – on average two to three days a week or at 30 percent capacity overall this now obviously feels like a setback.

“However, whilst a lot of what we do in our industry we have shown we can do well from home using technology. Bringing our best ideas to life for our clients does require us to be together at crucial points and we will keep our offices open and encourage our people to keep coming together at those vital stages.”