Not long ago, financial institutions gave little thought to their headquarters facilities. Function and an efficient use of space trumped form and style, resulting in some offices that felt like cubicle dungeons. Cost savings superseded the experience.
These days, financial institutions are designing spaces that rival those you’d find at Silicone Valley giants like Google, Apple, Facebook or Amazon. They are bright, colorful, engaging — arguably even fun and playful.
They look nothing like “banks,” and that is exactly the point.
So what explains this trend?
Banking providers are no longer competing for talent in their own insulated financial bubble. Banks and credit unions are knee deep in the digital economy, and thus find themselves trying to lure data scientists, programmers and IT wizards to come work for them. These are the kinds of people who could go work at sexy tech companies where offices frequently emphasize “fun” and “collaboration” in equal parts (think: ping pong tables, impromptu meeting spaces, bean bag chairs, meditation rooms).
Smart financial institutions in the Digital Age will look and feel more like tech startups. They will use all the tools at their disposal to recruit and retain the talent needed to maintain their digital edge. That means fostering a more nimble, innovative culture within a progressive, contemporary office space.
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Location: Toronto, Canada
Design Firm: Concrete
In late 2013 and early 2014, ING Direct Canada implemented its name change to the new Tangerine brand. Along with the new moniker, the celebrated online/direct bank revamped its headquarters. And as with everything Tangerine does or touches, it turned out amazing.
Location: Sydney, Australia
Design Firm: Hassell
Location: Moscow, Russia
Design Firm: IND Architects
Sberbank’s headquarters facility was designed for Agile workflows — a special approach to work where cross-functional teams are put together to work on a specific task or product in an effective and prompt manner. Each of the six zones in the office has everything needed for productive work: a coffee point, a reception zone, various kinds of meeting rooms, common and work areas, and many other things. Agile layouts do not afford executives large private offices. Much like executives at Facebook, they are expected to sit together intermingled with staff in an open floor plan. There’s a game zone, a kitchen and leisure zones, along with meeting spaces for all sizes and purposes: small meeting rooms for quick chats, big meeting rooms for focused discussions, individual rooms for calls, and workspaces with cushioned furniture.
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Coast Capital Credit Union
Location: Vancouver, B.C.
Design Firm: Omicron
The irregular geometric shape of the exterior and the rooftop garden are two notable aspects of this headquarters office project.
Lake Trust Credit Union
Location: Brighton, Michigan
Design Firms: SmithGroupJJR, The Christman Company
This headquarters office has an open environment where team members work alongside one another in open workstations. A grand central stair with stadium seating bisects a three-story atrium and anchors the entire space, a unifying element where staff circulate and interact. The design also capitalizes on the property’s natural beauty, blurring the lines between interior and exterior. A two-story front porch, second-floor balcony, outdoor dining and conferencing terrace with wetland views all define to Lake Trust’s unconventional culture and “un-bank” vision.
Location: Klagenfurt, Austria
Design Firm: Chadwick International
Lots of glass and natural light evoke a space that feels open, connoting a sense of corporate transparency. Red, high-back booths are scattered around the layout to provide semi-private meeting spaces.
Peoples Choice Credit Union
Location: Adelaide, Australia
Design Firm: Woods Bagot
This headquarters facility employs what some have called the “Activity-Based Working” philosophy, where employees don’t have assigned workstations. Staff chose where they want to carry out their work, based on need. It’s a high-risk approach, but it affords for the kind of flexibility that today’s organizations need more of — the ability to scale (up or down) the size of teams working on any given project at any given time.
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St. George Bank
Location: Sydney, Australia
Design Firm: Brand Fuel
This playful headquarters space looks and feels bright and relaxed. Each floor of has a different theme and color scheme and incorporates “Australiana” themed images, with photos of the rural areas the bank serves. The office feels very homey and comfortable — an environment that employees aren’t desperate to flee as soon as the clock strikes 5 pm.
Location: Tbilisi, Georgia
Design Firm: Architects of Invention
The outside facade is closed but the interior space is enormous, light and expansive. The courtyard oasis garden is illuminated at night by a translucent sphere that acts like the sun. The building has a sky-garden with a direct access from the lobby.