Like many chief executives, George Colony had been looking forward to seeing his employees return to the office. At Forrester Research, his plan was to have them come in at least two days a week when the offices fully reopen in January.
Then Colony started listening to them. Not just what they wanted for themselves, but what they were telling clients. Their research, it turns out, makes a case for what Forrester dubs “Anywhere Work.” Translation: people are no longer required to show up on a certain number of days each week.
It was time for Forrester to practice what it preaches.
The “two-three footprint”? Out the window. The new plan: “full flex,” aka “Anywhere Work.” Forrester’s 1,500 US employees, including 600 at its Cambridge headquarters, and their teams will decide when they’ll go in, based on their work needs.
Colony said this is the biggest shift in Forrester culture since he launched the company in 1983 — even bigger than that time in the mid-1990s when he tore down office walls in favor of an open floor plan. He unveiled the decision to the public in a blog post on Thursday.
“Our feeling was, we can’t compete for talent if we’re going to be requiring a certain number of days in the office,” Colony said. “As an executive team, we looked at each other and thought, why would we require certain days in the office, given that our productivity has been quite high? Our performance has been excellent this year.”
Yes, the company’s revenue is on track to clear $490 million in 2021, well above 2019 and 2020 levels. And its stock price is up more than 30 percent in the past year. On a recent earnings call, Colony told analysts his industry has entered the “golden age of research,” in part because of all the uncertainty around the pandemic and related behavioral shifts.
This doesn’t mean workers can relocate, as Colony puts it, to a goat farm in Idaho. They still need to be close to a Forrester office. (About 20 percent of Forrester’s US workforce will be fully remote, with no office attachment, similar to how it was before the pandemic began.)
It hasn’t been easy, letting go of the old way — even for someone who runs a company that regularly prods clients to do exactly that.
“CEOs love big offices full of busy people,” Colony said. “I had to get over that.”
Brookline Bancorp sets up shop for well-to-do clients
By the time banks approach the $10 billion mark in size, they usually have a robust team to manage customers’ stock and bond investments. It was time for Brookline Bancorp, with its $8.3 billion in assets but no wealth management arm, to step up.
So chief executive Paul Perrault turned to one of the most experienced pros in Boston: Marc White. Over his career, White has run New England wealth management groups for Credit Suisse First Boston and J.P. Morgan Private Bank. Most recently, he led a local bank geared toward high-earners known as Ethic, a rebranded reboot of the struggling Admirals Bank.
Perrault brought White on board with little fanfare in June, to launch Brookline’s new wealth management group, dubbed Clarendon Private. That refers to the street in the Back Bay where Brookline’s headquarters is located. (Yes, Brookline is based in Boston now.) Joining White at Clarendon are Tracy Welch and Matthew Morse, two stock gurus who had worked at fund firm Eaton Vance.
Clarendon officially started accepting customers in November, as Brookline’s commercial loan officers began cross-selling the new private bank to their business clients. The new venture was announced last week.
White also gave himself a crash course on all the new fin-tech software that’s out there before picking Orion Advisor Solutions for Clarendon’s client platform, to give clients one place to go to view the status of all their investments. It was a new-school lesson that was much appreciated by this old-school banker.
Short term. Big plans.
Darren Donovan, the former head of KPMG’s Boston office, retired from his longtime job at the end of September. So did Eric Rosengren, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
This was a coincidence, of course. (Donovan, 61, had hit KPMG’s mandatory retirement age of 60 for partners though he was asked to stay on for a bit longer.)
But Rosengren’s departure opened the door for Donovan’s first new role after retirement: chair of the Boston Private Industry Council’s board. That’s because Ken Montgomery, Rosengren’s No. 2 at the Boston Fed, had been chairing the PIC, which connects inner-city kids to internships and entry level jobs. Once Montgomery became interim president at the Boston Fed, he no longer had the time to commit for the PIC. So Montgomery and PIC executive director Neil Sullivan tapped Donovan, who was already on the PIC board.
Donovan plans to stay chair for just two years. First, though, he is determined to increase the diversity of the PIC board, including by finding a person of color who can replace him as chair, and broaden the PIC’s sponsors to include more of the biotechs and high-tech firms that are growing in Boston.
“What we’re trying to do is to branch out, to get these new employers this city is attracting,” Donovan said. “And let’s diversify the board when it comes to Black and brown leaders . . . I don’t know if it makes sense that I’m like the 30th white male in the role [so] I want to replace myself in a short period of time with a person of color.”
Prices going nowhere but up
Hoping for a slowdown in inflation? If you tuned in to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce’s virtual Economic Outlook panel last week, you weren’t getting good news.
Mike Meyran, port director at the Massachusetts Port Authority, warned that supply chain disruptions could last “for the better part of next year.” John Traynor, chief investment officer at People’s United Bank, said he sees no sign of the housing market cooling off, particularly in well-to-do suburbs, as long as interest rates remain low. And Stop & Shop president Gordon Reid predicted higher prices on everything from paper goods to juice boxes to spices to pet foods. Selections on supermarket shelves will generally remain more limited than normal. What about the meat department? There are plenty of cattle, hogs, and chickens out there, he said, but not enough people to process them.
Natural gas prices are going up this winter. As a result, so are electricity prices. Penni McLean-Connor, an executive vice president at Eversource, tried to put things in perspective, by saying that gas prices are simply returning to where they were in early 2019 before plunging to 10-year lows during the pandemic. Nevertheless, she said, it will still be a “shock to the system.”
Chamber chief executive Jim Rooney had something else in mind.
“I would like to buy a new car at some point,” Rooney said. “Hopefully we can get to that.”
Maybe the chamber can tackle that at a future panel. However, if the trends hold true for the auto market, Rooney won’t have it any easier next year.