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Cutting edge-work practices are non-standard ways of working which tend to increase productivity in higher value added roles. They include valets to make your staff’s lives easier, life coaching or mini sabbaticals for going wondering in the Himalayas.I read a story in a newspaper when I was little about a British military special forces unit, the SAS. A member of the unit recounted his first breakfast after joining. Up until then he had been in a normal unit, and breakfast rations were doled out according to formula – two sausages, one egg etc. On his first morning in the SAS, he went up to the food counter in the cafeteria and held out his plate to the sausage orderly. Nothing happened. Had he done something wrong he wondered?  The sausage orderly looked at him and said “How many sausages would you like sir?” He was an elite professional now.

Is off-shore the place to implement cutting edge work practices?  The answer depends on two questions:

Are your analysts off-shore grown-ups doing grown-up work?
  2. Are your analysts off-shore less trustworthy than your on-shore analysts?

All analysts in global capital markets work outside the office. There may not be a designated day for it, but even replying to an email while commuting home on the 6.45 to Shenfield train is working outside the office.

Some analysts have regular days set aside for working from home. Do the considerations which lead this to be the case apply in India?  At Frontline Analysts, we believe that the same issues of productivity and confidentiality which apply on-shore apply off-shore. This seems a no-brainer to us because our analysts in India are of the same calibre as our young analysts in Europe/the US or your young analysts in Europe or the US. Thus, they have the same carrot of developing a professional reputation and the same stick of Compliance and performance consequences.

The calibre of analyst involved when thinking about cutting-edge work practices ties into issues of trust. Mechanistic work leads to low levels of employee engagement. Interesting analytical work in contrast leads to the employee caring about the job and the client they are working for.

In the old days, for companies with a different ethos to Frontline Analysts, off-shore work practices were proudly described as being much less flexible than on-shore practices. It’s hard to understand just how anyone thought that Excel galley slaves would have engaged input to the assessment of risk and return in a fast moving world.

Working from home is just one example of cutting-edge work practices. To be clear about the extent of this at Frontline for example, front office and trading floor projects do not lend themselves to working from home. You tend to need to be in front of your Bloomberg to know when things blow up, in the old or the new sense of the term, and then speak to your trader or portfolio manager.

Some of our work is not markets-live; in particular some credit and market risk management work involves periodic reporting and delivery. In these cases we can bear in mind that most of our analysts are immigrants to the city of Bangalore and work from home helps them balance social responsibilities, quite unique to India where child & old-age professional support is almost non-existent in quality terms. Frontline benefits from this policy as we get access to a larger pool of talent which would work only in firms with such flexibility, and it also brings out the best of them.

Can clients know who’s working from home? Frontline has clearly defined approval and monitoring processes for work from home; we also maintain a detailed log that covers – which analyst, what work, which client, duration of work from home and performance measurement. The log is with the management to use in the best interest of clients and can be shared on request.

Can we opt not to have analysts working from home? Sure, if you rather so, but you may be losing access to some of our sharpest analysts in that case. You may also be losing the opportunity to interact with our analysts at times more convenient to you. For example, a team of analysts working for a major Canadian client makes itself available up to midnight India time only because they are allowed to work from home during the odd hours on Frontline’s access controlled PCs, which happens to be a key attraction to the client. If you are apprehensive, we suggest taking a monitored trial.

Working from home is just one example of a cutting-edge work practice which we can apply because we operate in a thinking, value-added environment, not as the aforementioned Excel galley slaves.  Our people are professionals. Other examples of translatable practices are agile teams or part time work.

If you’d like to know more about how we manage the analysts we dedicate to you, in order to get you the best analysis, drop us a line or sign up to our newsletters.