LONDON (Reuters) – The City of London financial centre, which has resembled a ghost town since the coronavirus swept the world last year, is likely to see most workers return to their offices after the pandemic, the City’s political leader said on Tuesday.
Catherine McGuinness, policy chair at the City of London Corporation, told BBC radio she was confident that trade would return for the cafes, pubs, restaurants and other businesses that rely on the usually teeming crowds of office workers.
But there would probably be changes to the way people work as a result of the pandemic.
“What people are telling us is that they are expecting their central office base to remain at the core of their business with people coming in three or four days, working different hours, so we are expecting the bulk of the return,” McGuinness said.
“What it will mean in terms of the overall footfall, we are not yet quite clear.”
London dominates the world’s $6.6 trillion-a-day foreign exchange market, it is the biggest centre for international banking and the second largest fintech hub in the world after the United States.
McGuinness said developers were revving up plans for new buildings in the City, home to the giants of world finance.
“We’re already seeing in our planning applications a real surge of interest in getting office space in the City. I think (we have seen) so far this year 80% of all the applications we saw last year,” she said.
“So, continued interest and continued commitment to that office space, but a different way of using it.”
A survey published last week by accountants KPMG showed most major global companies no longer planned to reduce their use of office space after the pandemic, though few expect business to return to normal this year.
New York-based Goldman Sachs Group Inc’s CEO earlier this month told thousands of employees who have been mostly working from home since the start of the pandemic that he hopes to have them working in offices again by this summer.
But Britain’s Nationwide Building Society and Santander UK have scaled back on their office space.
Nationwide told all its 13,000 office-based staff to work from anywhere in the country and said last week it will not renew the leases on three of its offices in its hometown of Swindon in the southwest of England.
Santander UK plans to close four offices in Bootle, Newcastle, London Portman House and Manchester Deansgate and move its headquarters from London to Milton Keynes.
(Writing by William Schomberg; Editing by Kate Holton, Guy Faulconbridge and Catherine Evans)