Twenty months after it came to a standstill, foreign business travel is resuming. However, bankers believe there are various reasons why they will not be flying as often as they were before the outbreak.
For one thing, the fact that cross-border transactions have been completed flawlessly without anybody boarding an aircraft for over two years demonstrates that it is possible.
Issuers and banks that have saved money on travel will be questioning whether it is worthwhile to transport bankers and management teams across the world at such a high cost.
Then there’s the issue of sustainability. People are evaluating the carbon emissions of all those flights in an era when environmental, social, and governance investment requirements are at the forefront of everyone’s minds.
Respondents in GlobalCapital’s latest working life poll expected that using 2019 as a benchmark, somewhat more than 55% of business travel will return when foreign travel restrictions were repealed.
Nonetheless, people in the capital markets consider travel as an important aspect of their professions, even though it will be reduced in comparison to the pre-Covid period.
On November 8, the US relaxed rules that had banned non-citizens from accessing the US from Europe since March 2020, reopening one crucial economic channel. However, the return of travel was proved more than a month earlier, at the end of September, during the Global ABS conference in London, one of the first actual gatherings to take place since the outbreak began.
Attendees came from as far away as Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Dublin, Jersey, and even Chicago. Soon after, Bank of America began to allow overseas travel for “essential client-driven business” as long as it followed local regulations.
“Certainly, we’re not going to get back to where we were,” said a senior syndicate banker in London.
“There are three levels to consider: First, the system has demonstrated that it is possible to operate differently; second, there is the ESG viewpoint; and third, there is the cost component. I believe they are all connected. However, I would not go so far as to state that the business does not require face-to-face meetings and hence does not require travel.”