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In contrast to peers, most Athene employees go to the office during pandemic – S&P Global

Athene Holding Ltd. employees have spent much less time working remotely during the pandemic compared to their life insurance peers, with the vast majority of them working full time in the office since June 2020.

Athene CEO Jim Belardi in an interview said face-to-face operations are simply better than virtual interaction.

“Everyone’s more efficient in the office where you can just yell across the aisle to somebody, as opposed to making a call to them working from home,” Belardi said.

Athene employees did start working remotely in March 2020 when the pandemic took hold in the U.S. A volunteer wave of employees came back to the office in June of that year; the company later made it mandatory to return.

According to a Form 10-K, Athene employed 1,350 people as of Dec. 31, 2020. The vast majority of them are located in the U.S. and work primarily out of the company’s headquarters in Des Moines, Iowa. Just 80 employees work out of the company’s Bermuda location.

“Our Iowa office has been open most of the time since June,” Belardi said. “We had a very short respite near the end of the year, but they’ve been back and … working very effectively.”

Belardi said that roughly 85% to 90% of the staff in Iowa go into the office; the state’s governor there has recently lifted some pandemic-related restrictions, which he said was helpful.

As of Feb. 15, Athene’s Bermuda location was operating at 50% capacity, according to the Form 10-K.

Belardi said there has been “some incidents of exposure to COVID,” but things were going “as well as you could expect.”

An Athene spokesperson clarified that although the company has had employees who contracted COVID-19, they were not confirmed to be exposed at work and there has been no spread in the building.

The spokesperson said Athene has safety protocol in place and follows guidelines laid out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This includes wearing masks when people are away from their desks, social distancing and not allowing self service in the cafeteria. Chairs in conference rooms have been moved as well so that people sit away from each other when they are meeting face to face.

Chris Welp, head of operations, said in an email that Athene has adopted guidelines such as taking temperatures, improving ventilation and implementing regular cleaning.

“Our consistent protocols are conservative and with these protocols in place, we continue to see no spread in the building,” Welp said.

Athene also has 10 employees certified as contact tracers through Johns Hopkins University as of Feb. 15, according to a regulatory filing.

Belardi noted that a summary is sent out regularly that details how many employees are currently in quarantine, among other things.

Athene’s strategy contrasts with its peers. Most life insurance companies have been operating with the majority of staff working in a virtual environment since the start of the pandemic. At least one other major publicly traded U.S. life insurer, Unum Group, has allowed a small percentage of employees to work from the office voluntarily.

Many insurers are not looking to bring staff back into the office until at least the second half of this year, and even then only a fraction of their workforces will be allowed to return.

Source: Google | Insurance News

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