SINGAPORE: Singapore’s second largest bank OCBC will be reviewing its office space requirements, including the number of bank branches it has, amid changes to working patterns brought about by the pandemic.
“COVID-19 has pointed to us that there is a place for hybrid operation for our staff in the sense that some can work from home and some can work from (the) office,” said its chairman Ooi Sang Kuang in response to a shareholder’s question at the bank’s virtual annual general meeting on Thursday (Apr 29).
“COVID-19 has also pointed out that not all staff need to work at the head office. Staff can be distributed to nearer their home(s), as well as in the suburbs,” he added.
As such, OCBC will “certainly be moving towards” a hybrid work environment where employees only work in the office on certain days.
“We may not need so many branches for servicing our customers,” said Mr Ooi.
“So certainly, I think there will be a review in terms of our office requirements as we move forward.”
OCBC will not be alone in doing so, as banks around the world have been re-thinking the use of offices after the pandemic showed that they can still operate effectively with remote working.
In Singapore, DBS will reportedly give up two-and-a-half floors, or 75,000 sq ft of space, in Tower 3 of Marina Bay Financial Centre in December, according to a Bloomberg report earlier this month. DBS is currently the anchor tenant there, occupying more than a dozen floors in the building.
Other banks that are reportedly planning to trim their office footprint here include Citigroup, ANZ and Standard Chartered.
“COVID-19 has changed the workplace operating model and we need to embrace the changes to create an agile and flexible organisation. This includes redefining the future work model, such as remote working, workforce policies and office space requirements,” said OCBC group chief executive officer Helen Wong, who took over the top job two weeks ago.
OCBC saw a 26 per cent fall in full-year net profit to S$3.59 billion, amid the coronavirus-hit 2020, from a record of S$4.87 billion a year ago.
Moving forward, Ms Wong said the bank will focus on four areas – capitalise on the anticipated increase in investment, trade and capital flows across the ASEAN-Greater China region, expand its wealth management franchise amid rising affluence in Asia, as well as accelerate its digitalisation journey and push into becoming a “leading regional sustainable bank”.
Regarding the bank’s digital strategy, Ms Wong noted that investors have asked if OCBC will set up a standalone digital bank.
OCBC will continue on its company-wide transformation to deliver superior banking experiences for its customers, achieve operational efficiency and apply data science to grow new opportunities.
“To capture these opportunities, we will consider the best way to achieve the results, whether it is from within the bank itself or through a separate digital bank,” she said.