Adapting And Adjusting: One year of remote working at FSB

It's now over a year since we closed the doors of our London office and began working 100% remotely. Here we speak to some of our key staff to ask them about the challenges and rewards of remote working.

‍The physical upheaval of moving from office to home working affected every department, but for the IT team the challenges were greater than most. Head of IT, Andrew Jobson explains how his team evolved into 100% remote working.

Was the transition to 100% remote working for your department seamless or were there a few initial hiccups?

As far as my engineers being able to work from home this was pretty seamless, we arranged regular catch-ups to make up for not seeing each other every day in the office and began to rely on Discord (Instant messaging platform) heavily. There were some issues though. When we left the office last March we had a reliance on the hardware there for VPN access and all office services and because of this there were a number of times we had no choice but to visit the office to manually reset servers/services. We knew this pattern couldn't continue, so we have since collapsed the office and moved all services to our private cloud. Because of this these issues are now in the past!

What have been your department's biggest challenges over the last 12 months of remote working?

As you can imagine, collapsing the existing office was a huge challenge. We had to dispose of equipment and store what would be required for the future as well as migrate all our office services to our private cloud setup and roll out new VPN software. We then had to invest in device management tools to securely manage staff laptops remotely and focus on how we manage equipment for new starters. Indeed, setting up and distributing equipment for new starters remains a headache a year on and assisting users remotely with hardware issues can be a challenge but like other departments we've adapted and got better at this.

What lessons have you learnt from the last 12 months? How has your department improved?

Communication is vital and believe it or not we communicate more now as a team than we ever did in the office! My team is full of great people and they have adapted well to the new normal. My main takeaway would be that an office is nice to have, but it's definitely not essential.

‍Trading teams are generally renowned for their camaraderie and close working relationships, so how did the move from office to home affect them? We asked Head of Trading, Mark Wilson.

Was the transition to 100% remote working for your department seamless or were there a few initial hiccups?

The transition was fairly seamless. The initial challenge was to make sure all of our traders had the necessary equipment at home and the set up to enable them to do their jobs effectively. The sporting calendar pretty much shut down during the very early stages of the pandemic so there wasn't actually a lot to bet on initially (Table Tennis was very much our saviour in March and April!). We used this quiet period to plan how we would operate efficiently when sport did return so it was time very well spent.

What have been your department's biggest challenges over the last 12 months of remote working?

An early challenge was to see how we would operate for the big events. Pre-pandemic, working as a team had always felt vital. Royal Ascot was the first big event but we pulled together as a team and collaborated to make a real success of it. We also set up and played a big part in our award winning Remote Darts League product by becoming data collectors. Our traders collected the data for every dart thrown during the tournament making sure every throw and checkout was calculated properly. Our team showed true adaptability to rise to that particular challenge. Overall though, the key thing for me has been maintaining the culture of the trading team whilst working remotely and I'm confident we've achieved that and our team is stronger than ever on the back of this unique experience.

What lessons have you learnt from the last 12 months? How has your department improved?

Communication has been key. We are using technology to our advantage to communicate effectively and keep our team connected. Working remotely we have also been able to attract talent from a wider geographical net and we hope to add some US based traders soon as the business continues to strengthen in the region.

‍Being able to engage with our clients face to face came to an end (for now) last March and that presented serious hurdles to our Account Management team. Jim Sinstadt, account manager for a number of our partners take us through the experiences of the account management team.

Has the switch to remote working affected the way we manage our partners? If not, why not?

It has yes, but often in a positive way. It's added discipline to communication, (eg) regular calls that perhaps were not as adhered to previously. Also accessibility for our clients has really improved as the reality of the situation means that we are far less likely to not be on the end of the phone when required. Added to that, the new forms of video communications we are all now familiar with have worked very well and I think there is a stronger line of communications to our clients than ever before.

Has it been a challenge maintaining strong relationships with partners whilst not being able to meet them face to face over the last 12 months?

It's undoubtedly a miss, but at FSB it's the exception not the rule as we have a wide range of international clients on our platform. In the case of our local clients, video calls have more than adequately replaced physical meetings and with regard to international clients, such calls have added an element to the working relationship which perhaps we had not previously envisaged.

‍But let's leave the final world with the man who's been directing our operations department for the bulk of the remote working period, Chief Operating Officer Glenn Elliott. When looking back at the team's achievements, Elliott couldn't help but beam with pride,

"The team have been incredible since I joined in May with their hard work shining through so demonstrably. They've always been highly motivated and have consistently delivered. Senior management have closely monitored their welfare and we've provided staff with tools to assist with wellbeing. In summary, the last 12 months have demonstrated that this is a team to be proud of."