In the early 2020s, it has become clear that people have a preference for managing their finances digitally. Backing up this notion, research in the UK recently found that 67% of people prefer online banking for their everyday needs, with only 17% indicating that they’d rather “liase directly with the bank.” These are not surprising findings at this stage, but they do represent a clear shift in how people handle their money.
To some extent, the same shift is reflected in investing markets and by brokers. Not too long ago, we highlighted the embrace of new digital payment methods like Google Pay and Apply Pay by JustMarkets. And this was just one of many instances in which online brokers and financial trading services have made distinct efforts to meet customers’ digital needs and preferences.
The widespread movement toward digital finance has also been responsible for the growth of some new banking and brokerage companies altogether – with the UK’s Atom Bank being a prime example. Founded in 2013, Atom Bank bills itself as “a bank that’s changing things for the better,” while “changing the industry for good.” It was the first fully digital bank to be issued a UK regulatory license, and as such represents a meaningful challenge to traditional systems of financial management. On top of being a pioneer in digital banking however, Atom Bank is also making news for its attempt to revolutionise working culture in finance. Specifically, the bank has been generating attention due to its decision to implement a four-day workweek for all employees.
This is not merely a quirky idea by a single institution, but rather a bold step against what is increasingly viewed as a problematic issue of overworked employees. The notion of the four-day workweek as a silver bullet against burnout has been floated frequently and investigated by numerous companies. In some experiments, working hours have been reduced, pay has been kept the same, and findings have indicated that productivity has increased, along with employee wellness.
At this point, we are in the infancy of any widespread movement toward four-day workweeks, if indeed there is to be any such movement. And we have yet to hear of many examples in the notoriously busy world of finance, despite the fact that burnout in the financial services industry is a noted issue. Just this year in fact, a study on the matter found that some 31% of people in said industry are leaving due to the issue of burnout. This would suggest that financial services companies are among the very ones that should be exploring potential solutions like the four-day workweek – and it’s what makes the move by Atom Bank so significant.
In the early going, the bank reports having seen benefits including both talent retention and improved productivity. There was also a 49% increase in job applications in January of 2022 compared to the prior year, presumably due to word getting around about the four-day workweek. The move has worked out so well that Atom Bank’s Chief People Officer has declared the model as the “future of working life,” expressing hope that their success will inspire other companies to try something similar.
That potential for imitation is what we’ll be keeping an eye out for. Atom Bank already represents a forward-looking company as one of many institutions meeting consumers’ preferences for digital financial management. That a company in such a prominent position is essentially advertising a four-day workweek may be what’s needed for other businesses in the financial space to adjust their working cultures for the good of employees.