Remote working stocks to back if Boris Johnson fails with his back-to-the-office campaign

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As Downing Street launches a campaign to repopulate city workplaces, office closures from companies like Capita PLC (LON:CPI) and the share price reaction to Zoom Video Communications Inc’s (NASDAQ:ZM) results imply plenty of people think the ‘new normal’ is here to stay for a while yet.

If that is the case, investors may be doubling down on other large and small cap stocks offering a play on the work-from-home trend on both sides of the Atlantic, such as Ocado Group PLC (LON:OCDO), Amazon.com Inc (NASDAQ:AMZN), LoopUp Group PLC (LON:LOOP) and NexTech AR Solutions Corp. (OTCQB:NEXCF). 

Helped by strong quarterly numbers overnight, Zoom Video’s near-400% rise since the start of the year implies investors see the company as a fixture in the workplace for the foreseeable future.

This trend was given extra backing by outsourcer Capita PLC (LON:CPI) as it is reported to be shutting well over a third of its offices, having said recently that “COVID-19 has accelerated the transformation of our working practices”.

It’s far from alone, with companies such as NatWest Group PLC (LON:NWG) telling staff to continue to work from home until at least the first quarter next year, while the CEO of Barclays (LON:BARC) passes of the transferring of around 70,000 staff to home working as likely to be “a long-term adjustment”.

There is a disparity, however, between UK workers and their European counterparts, with analysis from Morgan Stanley’s AlphaWise unit, which early last month noted that just under a third of UK white-collar employees are commuting again, compared to more than two-thirds of those on the continent.

Recent Springboard retail footfall data also confirmed the UK’s major cities, particularly London, remain quiet.

Even if things get ‘back to normal’, that fact that so many jobs have proved to be effectively done from home makes it certain that there will be a greater number of us working from home in the coming years.

Remote-working stocks worth a look

Cybersecurity group Avast PLC (LON:AVST) last month boasted a strong performance in the first half and upped its full year revenue outlook, saying its strong operational and financial performance has been “aided by the work-from-home trend that has driven an increase in online consumer activity and product engagement”.

Along with Zoom, other big US names like Amazon and Microsoft Corp (NASDAQ:MSFT) are enabling workers and companies to interact, along with handy tech providers such as Citrix Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ:CTXS), cloud communications platforms Slack (NYSE:WORK) and Twilio (NYSE:TWLO), e-signature company DocuSign’s (NASDAQ:DOCU) and user authentication specialist Okta (NASDAQ:OKTA). 

Something slightly different is offered by NexTech AR Solutions Corp. (OTCQB:NEXCF) (CSE:NTAR) (FSE:N29), an emerging leader in augmented reality (AR) for eCommerce, which recently revealed that its recently launched AR solution for video, ScreenAR, has generated over $100,000 in sales in its first month and is gaining momentum.

The coronavirus has presented Ipsidy Inc (OTCQB:IDTY) with new opportunities, the company said, as COVID-19 is accelerating demand for verifying identity remotely, as well as securing touchless interaction as more businesses reopen. 

Crossword Cybersecurity PLC (LON:CCS) said it was cautiously optimistic of hitting full-year targets after a first half that saw revenues rise 43% year-on-year, with the pandemic, Brexit and various ESG matters driving demand.

Computer giants Dell Inc (NTYSE:DELL) and HP Inc (NYSE:HPQ) both saw their stock rise last week on the back of strong demand for laptops and at-home office equipment, something that has also boosted Computacenter (LON:CCC).

Dev Clever Holdings (LON:DEV) has been on the rise since saying in late March that subscriptions for its SaaS-based career guidance platforms, Launchyourcareer.com and VICTAR VR, had increasing by over 223% since the end of February, with launches in the US and Canada since. 

As well as remote working, remote learning has been given a leg up by the lockdown and is also likely to see some level of structural change as a result, boosting firms such as VR Education PLC (LON:VRE), which has enjoyed an increased level of interest in its virtual reality platform designed to allow users to interact in virtual classrooms and offices.

Canada’s mCloud Technologies (CVE: MCLD-OTCQB: MCLDF), an AI and analytics specialist, said it is seeing a big increase in demand for their Connected Workers Solutions.

WATCH: mCloud Technologies seeing strong interest in Connected Workers Solution in the world’s new normal

A wider sweep of the entire trend is offered by the Direxion Work From Home ETF (NYSEARCA:WFH), which tracks the Solactive Remote Work Index, a 40 stock index of work from home-friendly product and service providers, including remote communications, cyber security, document management and cloud technologies. It’s up more than 11% since an impressively quick launch in June. 

Another ETF option with a wider focus is SPDR MSCI World Technology (LON:WTEC). 

Other managed technology funds also offer a strong tilt towards this theme, with notable examples being Polar Capital Global Technology Trust (LON:PCT), where top 10 holdings include Microsoft, whose Teams collaboration platform has seen a big boost this year, and Amazon; or there is the Allianz Technology Trust (LON:ATT), where the top investments includes Zoom, cybersecurity company Crowdstrike Holdings Inc (NASDAQ:CRWD) and Twilio.

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