A consequence of COVID-19: a working culture that delivers for businesses and their employees Banking Circle webinar hosted by The Paypers

The second in a series of webinars sponsored by Banking Circle and hosted by The Paypers brought together a panel of speakers to examine what Payments businesses have learned in the 12 weeks since the previous webinar, and what opportunities and challenges the future may hold.

If you missed the webinar, you can watch on demand here.

One of the key outcomes of the lockdown that was discussed was the change in working practices, working hours and productivity that many businesses have seen. And whilst all agreed that many employees worked longer hours – certainly at the start of lockdown – because they no longer had to commute, there was also a strong recognition of the importance of maintaining a good work-life balance.

Scott Johnson, Head of Product for Western Union Business Solutions described his company’s focus on encouraging employees to take regular breaks during the day and taking days off. He also discussed the importance of allowing flexibility in working patterns so that parents could teach their children, without the added pressure of working simultaneously.

Crowd-sourcing ideas

As well as flexibility in their working hours, Sirpa Nordlund, Country Director for Finland at Nets described the company’s deliberate decision to crowd source strategy ideas across the business, rather than the leadership team appearing to go silent while they worked on how to move forward. Engaging with employees allowed Nets to come up with innovative ways of working, as well as giving employees some level of input and a sense of involvement in the business’s future.

Sirpa also highlighted the importance of working closely with customers in a similar way. Helping customers through such a challenging time has not only increased customer perception of Nets, but also increased employee motivation as they were actively involved in empowering businesses to get through the crisis.

FOGO – ‘Fear of Going Out’

Host Melisande Mual, Publisher and Managing Director of The Paypers asked if the participants had seen employees reluctant to return to the office, as lockdown restrictions begin to ease. Miriam Wohlfarth, Founder & MD, Ratepay summed up the experiences of all participants and businesses they had spoken to. Many employees do want to return to the office, but not full time. There is a desire for more flexible working, based part-time at home and part-time in the office, meaning businesses are likely to require smaller office spaces in future.

Ratepay has created dedicated zones in the office to allow ‘bubbles’ to maintain social distancing, with their own coffee machines and other facilities such as toilets.

Participants also confirmed that there have been no physical meetings, and video conferencing was something they expected to continue long after the threat of COVID-19 has passed.

Ryan O’Kane, Head of Data Solutions at Global Payments added that the enforced homeworking has proved that many businesses can function remotely. So the option to work all or part of the week from home is likely to be a long-term benefit gained from the pandemic.

An end to local recruitment

A changing approach to recruitment – with less limitation on location – was also explored during the webinar with Miriam Wohlfarth of Ratepay highlighting how her firm has adapted its strategies due to increased digitalisation and flexibility in home and office-based working. Previously Ratepay would recruit almost exclusively from within Berlin and the local region, as people were unwilling to relocate. However, they have already begun seeking new recruits from further afield with Ratepay recently employing ten new starters based in other cities.

Scott Johnson added that this approach has allowed Western Union to focus on finding the best person for the job, rather than the best person within the local region or even the specific city. He believes this is a significant benefit to productivity levels, employment figures and the wider economy, and hopes this will be a true positive legacy of COVID-19. However, he also felt the length of restrictions in terms of travel, while a cure or vaccine is found, will determine how many of the new habits will remain: if restrictions lift within three months, he believes people will generally slip back into their old ways of working, but if they last 18 months or more they could well be permanent changes.

Banking Circle’s Chief Growth Officer, Søren Mogensen agreed, saying business will simply have to wait and see which habits will remain once restrictions are fully lifted. He believes the pandemic has accelerated transformation and the need for digitisation, and Payments businesses have been quick to adapt to serve their customers throughout, but new digital habits may not last.

However, he also reaffirmed that the winners will not necessarily be those businesses that seem the strongest, or the fastest, but those who are most adaptable, who pivot quickly to deliver the solutions their customers need to continue serving their own customers successfully.


  • Søren Mogensen, Chief Growth Officer, Banking Circle
  • Ryan O’Kane, Head of Data Solutions, Global Payments
  • Scott Johnson, Head of Product, Western Union Business Solutions
  • Miriam Wohlfarth, Founder & MD, Ratepay
  • Sirpa Nordlund, Country Director, Finland, Nets
  • Chris Skinner, Author & Commentator, author of Doing Digital: Lessons from Leaders
  • Melisande Mual, Publisher and Managing Director, The Paypers

If you missed the webinar, you can watch on demand here

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