Strong support for cutting UK stock market trading hours

A public consultation has found strong support for cutting stock market trading hours in the UK to help improve gender diversity and mental health across the financial sector.

Feedback from the LSEs public consultation found that a “significant majority” were sympathetic to arguments that the move would increase employee wellbeing and broaden the appeal of a high-pressure career in finance. The industry has traditionally attracted more men but is trying to recruit more women.

Most of the respondents, who included investors, asset managers, banks and brokers, said they had a preference for a trading day lasting seven hours from 9am to 4pm. A small number suggested a lunch break in the middle of the day as an alternative to reducing trading hours. Trading currently runs for 8.5 hours from 8am to 4.30pm in the UK.

However, some respondents questioned the impact that equity trading hours alone could have on diversity and mental health, saying employers could make a greater impact through their own initiatives, such as shift work.

The vast majority stressed that any changes should be coordinated with other European exchanges. “Without this harmonisation, the goals of improved diversity and wellbeing would be harder to achieve, given the pan-European nature of many trading roles in the financial industry,” the consultation report said.

The pan-European stock exchange Euronext launched a consultation on trading hours in March.

A spokeswoman for the LSE said: “London Stock Exchange will consider the issue further and continue to actively engage with stakeholders and industry bodies on this important issue, including to understand whether the current period of remote working due to the coronavirus pandemic has had any impact on their views.”

In another sign of changes to work practices in the City prompted by the coronavirus pandemic, Barclays has unveiled plans for a slow return of staff to offices next month following a major shift to home working during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Barclays told staff in a memo on Monday morning that 700 people would return to offices across the UK, US and India over July and August. That represents about 1% of the banks total workforce and is expected to primarily apply to traders and those who cannot do most of their work from home.

In April, the Barclays chief executive, Jes Staley, said the bank would consider a more decentralised approach to staff working, including the prospect of local high street branches becoming satellite offices for a broader range of staff including investment bankers. “The notion of putting 7,000 people in a building may be a thing of the past,” Staley said.

The vast majority of Barclays 80,000 staff, including those who work at its London headquarters in Canary Wharf, will continue working from home until at least the end of September.