For start-up fintech Bipsync the Covid-19 pandemic has been a test of its ability to move to a 100% remote working model and continue to provide all its services to its clients.
The company has two offices: its New York headquarters which focuses on sales and marketing, and a Cardiff office where the product and technical side is based. Bipsync’s 30 staff are split evenly between the two sites.
Head of marketing Jen Gambarini, who works in the firm’s New York HQ, described what the company does. “We’re a research management system working in the investment management space, from small hedge funds to sovereign wealth funds, across AIPAC, Europe and the US. Our clients use our software to do their fundamental research about investments; they work in the system creating notes, sharing content, putting their models in,” she said.
Charlotte White, head of HR who works at Bipsync’s Cardiff office, said the company was no stranger to remote working.
“For years we’ve had work flexibility in place to facilitate home working; it was a relatively seamless transfer from the office to our home environments. But we’re not pretending this is a normal situation, we still had to make adjustments.
“We understand there’s going to be upheavals with adjusting to working from home; everyone’s trying to juggle childcare, looking after parents or grandparents, managing shopping, mental health or exercise. So if employees need to tailor their work time around other commitments, we’re totally fine with that.”
As a fully cloud based operation, the company was ready for remote working from day one, but had never war gamed 100% remote working, Jen Gambarini said.
And although that shift into a fully home working model was straightforward and easy to achieve, she feels there is something lost by not working in an office that is not easily replaced.
“That ad hoc knowledge share is what you lose automatically; popping over to a colleague on the customer success team and talking through a particular product feature, and that will shift into a commercial conversation or you’ll learn something else about a client. Trying to find a way to foster that knowledge share digitally is the gap,” she said.
The biggest challenges have been in how people communicate within the company, according to Charlotte.
“We’ve always had Slack and Zoom, but we’re using them differently now, we try to get as much face time as possible. We usually have a daily stand up in the morning in the Cardiff office, we’re doing that as a video call now.”
It’s only natural that some people are better suited to working from home than others, she adds. The firm has increased the frequency of its one to one line management meetings to help people who are finding it difficult.
“We do touchy feely things too, like sending care packages to our employees. We make sure we check in on them without being intrusive,” Charlotte said.
Jen Gambarini says that while the company will probably go back to an office-based way of working, there will probably be more working from home in future and many who will probably work two or three days a week in the office.
“There’s a lot of things we’ll take away from this, like putting a sign up in Calendar saying please don’t disturb me for the next two hours, I’m going to be working on something,” she said.
“In our New York office we never used to have a 9am stand up, but now our 15-minute video chat every morning sets us up for the day. When we go back to an office environment I think we’ll do it.”
Most of Bipsync’s clients, like the firm itself, were already used to remote working. Jen Gambarini says they have been using the firm’s cloud based services more, with average daily usage up.
“Our clients have seen a lot of volatility in the market, they’ve been busy. They’ve had to deal with a whole other barrage of work and we’ve had to be cognisant of that,” she said.
“You can’t say it’s an opportunity for us because that’s not the way we’re thinking of it at all, but there is a reality that there are two buckets of products that come out of this either well or poorly. One is you’re cloud enabled with a modern infrastructure and you enable remote work, and one is that you’re not. We definitely fall into the positive bucket,” she said.
Sales conversations have shifted, she added. Remote working was always part of the conversation, now it’s the first part.
“Overall the modern fintech company comes out of this well; that’s the shift that’s happening, it’s just accelerated it. All those digital transformation products that were on the shelf are suddenly top of the pile,” she added.