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TD’s investment banking division has seen a higher than normal turnover rate over the last two years of the pandemic.Fred Lum/the Globe and Mail

TD’s investment banking division is taking a more relaxed approach to getting its bankers back into the office. Unlike its American counterparts such as Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan, TD TD-T has landed on a hybrid model of three days in the office and two days working from home.

The division – TD Corporate and Investment Banking, part of TD Securities – had experienced a higher than normal turnover rate over the last two years of the pandemic, and keeping its employees happy was a key priority, said Robbie Pryde, executive vice-chair and head of corporate and investment banking.

“Some people exited the industry, some people went to private equity and some went home to ride this out and to figure out their next step,” he told The Globe and Mail. “But what did we learn during the pandemic? That our people were very interested in a work-life balance, and you have to constantly strive to make the workplace better.”

TD had tended to have a historically low turnover rate amongst bankers compared to other banks, which is why Mr. Pryde started paying attention when an unusual number of bankers, particularly junior ones, started quitting during the pandemic.

Effective this month – and in tandem with a bank-wide policy that encourages employees to come back into the office either a couple of times a week or full-time, with individual departments getting to decide – Mr. Pryde instituted a policy of three days in the office for his bankers.

The rationale, according to Rajni Singh, head of business management for corporate and investment banking, was that four days felt too heavy-handed and two days felt too light. “But when we rolled out the policy, we were very cautious to say to employees … ‘This is what we think will work, but we will continue to have conversations with you,’ ” Ms. Singh said.

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The bank’s emphasis, at least outwardly, on maintaining a degree of flexibility around returning to the office, is prudent.

Employers’ plans to get a mass number of employees back into the office five days a week have, in some cases, spectacularly backfired. After a recent internal rebellion, Apple suspended its requirement that employees return to the office three times a week. Intuit, the California-based tax software company, had intended to mandate a two- or three-day return to the office on specific days, but has now backtracked on that requirement and allowed its 11,500 employees to work with managers and teams to decide what is best for them.

And after calling remote work an “aberration” that needed to be corrected “as quickly as possible,” Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon reluctantly admitted in a recent CNBC interview that changing employee behaviour toward returning to the office would take time. The bank’s in-person attendance was only between 50 per cent and 60 per cent as of this May.

Bankers, too, had a particularly busy (albeit, lucrative) two years, as record levels of capital financing fuelled record levels of raises, IPOs, mergers and acquisitions. “When you’re in deal mode – which was most of 2020 and 2021 – the hours are significant,” Mr. Pryde said. “But when you’re not in deal mode … and things have softened a bit right now … employees need time to recharge.” This is part of the reason why TD is not angling for its bankers to return to the office five days a week.

“I’m not going to lie to you, people do like working from home for the most part, but of course there’s a need for social connectivity too,” Mr. Pryde said.

It appears that many large white-collar employers have landed on hybrid work as the current employer-employee compromise. This spring, both Bank of Nova Scotia and Royal Bank of Canada mandated that employees return to the office some days of the week, though the specific number of days would be determined by individual managers and departments. The software company Open Text closed 50 per cent of its offices and permanently adopted a hybrid work model for its 15,000 employees.

“This hybrid model is becoming fairly consistent and I suspect it is going to stay around for a long time,” said John Duda, president of real estate management services for Colliers Canada. “The thing that I’m hearing most from the big banks and tech companies is that you cannot have employees be 100-per-cent remote. It does not help with collaboration and innovation.”

Mr. Pryde agrees that there are advantages to in-person interactions. “I’m not really focused on the number of days people are in the office, but I do think it is better for them career-wise to tap into our apprenticeship model, where they are able to be face-to-face with folks and get to know their bosses and colleagues,” he said. “That’s the model we are trying to build.”

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