Switching to 100% remote working due to the Covid-19 coronavirus crisis is a challenge for any business, but for a company such as fintech startup Nutmeg, which is facing its busiest time of the year, it is particularly challenging.

Nutmeg provides accessible, jargon-free investment products, including a variety of ISAs and a pension, through its online platform. And although it has long been a tech-first company, this makes the end and start of the tax year, 5 and 6 April respectively, a very busy time for the company.

“Like many businesses in the UK, Nutmeg is following the government’s advice on remote working and social distancing. As a tech business that has offered remote and flexible working for some time, we were well placed to make this transition,” Neil Alexander, chief executive officer of Nutmeg, tells Verdict.

“The current lockdown has coincided with our busiest time of the year – the run up to the end of the tax year and the start of the new tax year, when many people are looking to make the most of their tax allowances.”

Nutmeg and the coronavirus: Supporting investors amid uncertainty

With the coronavirus prompting growing concerns about a deep and widespread recession, the tax year isn’t the only challenge Nutmeg is facing.

The company also needs to reassure investors at a time of jittery markets, and has launched a new service to assist with this.

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“I’m proud of the work our teams have done to ensure this transition has been seamless and we can continue with business as usual, in particular that our customer support service remains fully operational at this critical time,” says Alexander.

“As an investment business during some of the most unprecedented times of market volatility, we’ve introduced new weekly webcasts with our chief investment officer, James McManus.

“This is an opportunity for our customers to get an update on market activity and our portfolio positioning, as well as being able to ask James questions.”

Transitioning to 100% remote working

As with many startups in the fintech space and beyond, Nutmeg has long made heavy use of technology in its operations, enabling it to support working from home even before the coronavirus hit.

“With remote working prominent across the UK, Nutmeg’s 180 staff – ordinarily based in our Vauxhall head office – are now remote working,” says Alexander.

“Unsurprisingly, as a tech company that has offered flexible working for some time, we were well set-up for this. This is also the case for our trading and investment teams, who continue to operate as normal, albeit from home.”

However, while the shift to complete remote working hasn’t proved to be a drastic step, it has prompted some changes in how the company operates on a day-to-day basis.

“While not adopting new technology, we – like many businesses – have increased our use of video conferencing, to ensure our teams can continue to work collaboratively with colleagues now working from their homes around the country,” he says.

Nutmeg has also taken steps to support the mental health of its employees amid the coronavirus outbreak.

“We’ve tried to ensure we keep some social elements to the workday to help promote healthy mental health and work-life balance, for example replacing coffee machine conversations with virtual coffee dates, team quizzes and yoga.”

Despite having the technology to easily support remote working, Alexander stresses that “no one could have predicted we would be using it in the way that we are now”.

But with the Nutmeg team now working remotely, could this become the norm after the coronavirus outbreak dissipates?

“While I do not envisage that we will ever move to a permanent remote operation – there are a number of benefits to having a collaborative office environment, including the well-being of our staff, productivity and the social aspect of working alongside your colleagues – we have shown that Nutmeg can operate as normal on a fully remote basis if it needs to.”

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