Calls for shorter City trader working hours welcomed

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The London Stock Exchange (LSE) has announced it is considering cutting 90 minutes off the trading day in a bid to improve worker mental health and attract more women and working parents to the financial sector

The LSE made the announcement after City lobby groups sent a letter to nine exchanges, including Germany’s Deutsche Boerse and Amsterdam-headquartered Euronext, urging them to adopt the proposal.

They said shorter hours would improve market structure and have “a significant positive impact on individual employees and… our industry’s ability to attract a more diverse talent”.

The LSE is open between 8am and 4.30pm, while other equity markets across Europe follow the same opening and closing hours on local time. The Investment Association (IA) and the Association for Financial Markets in Europe (AFME), said the eight and a half hour European trading day was one of the longest in the world but did not deliver “material benefits to savers, investors or firms”. In Asia the trading day is usually six hours, and in the US it is 6.5 hours.

The IA estimates that the average trader in Europe works around 60 hours a week, as extra time is put in before and after the trading day to prepare and then finalise trades.

“The addition of commuting time only exacerbates this problem. Anyone with family commitments is less likely to be willing or able to spend such long hours in the office,” the lobby groups said.

AFME and the IA said the lengthy hours were putting a strain on workers’ mental health: “The physical drag on individual staff is also significant. Staff are habitually doing a 10-hour working session at their desk in an industry where lunch breaks are often still frowned upon. This is not conducive to good mental and physical health.”

A compressed trading day would also make markets more efficient, as trading activity tends to be weak at the start of the session and jumps at the market close, the groups said.

Christian Reilly, VP and CTO at Citrix, said the move made economic sense as work should be defined by outputs not long hours. “Economies are built and grown through outputs and outcomes, not cultures of presenteeism and hours worked – and it seems we still have a way to go before we reach a fully tech-enabled, outcomes-led approach to work,” he said.

Technology could provide ample opportunity for increased flexible working, he added. “The irony is that the technology and infrastructure to enable flexible working is more sophisticated than it has ever been, and could dramatically help ease the burden of working hours for British employees.

"There is a clear opportunity for technology to underpin improved and more efficient ways of working… Organisations in the UK must adopt both the right working culture and the right technology to encourage productivity and reduce the requirement for extra hours worked, while delivering the same quality and quantity of outputs.”

Nick Woodward, CEO of ETZ Payments, said he welcomed the proposed move, highlighting the D&I benefits and the fact that increasingly UK employees will expect, rather than just request, to work more flexibly. “We must remember the thousands of Brits that are recognising the changing role of work in their lives, with more and more people ditching the 9-5 to gain greater flexibility and achieve a better work/life balance," he said.

"These workers who are putting pressure on large institutions such as exchanges should be applauded for their actions. This initiative will allow a significantly more diverse workforce to access the trading career and will help promote greater gender equality in the workplace."

A London Stock Exchange Group spokesperson said the organisation will consult on the proposals: “We strongly support improving diversity and workplace culture across the City… We intend to consider the request in a formal consultation with London Stock Exchange’s global members and customers.”

The news came as Microsoft in Japan announced last week that it had witnessed a 40% rise in productivity after giving its 2,300 employees a four-day week. The company found that 92% of its employees said they preferred having shorter working hours.

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