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What Big Banks Want From Real Estate: A Deep Dive Into Deutsche’s 500K SF London Relocation

Deutsche Bank’s 2017 deal to take at least 469K SF for a new City of London HQ at 21 Moorfields was big for a lot of reasons.

It is the third-largest leasing deal signed in London since the Brexit vote, the largest in the City since and by far the largest by a financial services firm since, a sector expected to be decimated by Brexit.

It brought to an end more than five years of speculation about where Deutsche, currently spread across several buildings in London, would choose to consolidate the largest part of its staff. The commitment to London was significant, given it took a 25-year lease.

21 Moorfields

And it gives an insight into how large corporate occupiers, and banks in particular, are planning for the future. Ahead of her appearance at Bisnow’s London Creative Office Bash, Deutsche Managing Director Kathryn Harrison-Thomas, who drives the London, New York and pan-India accommodation strategies, talked through how an investment bank undertakes such an enormous move.

Moving a big chunk of the 7,000 staff Deusche employs in London was never going to be a simple process, and Harrison-Thomas said that the company analysed more than 800 data points before deciding on the 564K SF office near Moorgate station being developed by Landsec and designed by Wilkinson Eyre. Its main investment banking hub is in nearby Winchester House, and Deutsche had long been courted by London’s other financial district, Canary Wharf.

“When you carry out large real estate strategies, it’s important to put people at the heart, challenging the strategy to understand how it will affect the existing employees,” she said. “If you relocate, that creates an opportunity to deliver fantastic change management, make it a great experience.”
“Then there are location specific things, like the proximity to transport hubs, airports and amenities that an area provides — is it easy for people to step outside the door and run their life? For younger workers in particular there is a growing blurring between work and life.”

In terms of the how the workspace is designed and functions, Harrison-Thomas said Deutsche looked at the different typologies of staff who work at the company, thought about the different types of tasks they undertake in a given day and tried to come up with something flexible enough to accommodate some very different needs.

Those typologies include the trader, the quantitative analyst, the relationship manager and support staff, all of whom have different needs from their physical environment.

“There is no one-size fits all solution, and people are doing a lot of different tasks every day, and these tasks are going to change over time. ” Harrison-Thomas said. “Sometimes you might need to be collaborative, sometimes introspective while you write an algorithm or another deep knowledge task, sometimes you might be entertaining a client. In partnership with our chief information office, we have worked very hard to really understand what the different divisions within the bank need going forward and we are designing a space which will allow them to undertake all of these different kinds of tasks seamlessly and efficiently – whilst leaving room for all the innovation to mature in the meantime.”

Harrison-Thomas said that while artificial intelligence will have a big impact on how the bank operates, it would not necessarily change the way people use office space — the need for collaboration and creativity is unlikely to dissipate.

Some things won’t change that much in the new office. The bank’s trading floors will still be big, open, column-free spaces, where people can be near each other, and see and hear colleagues to swap information instantly.

A cross section of 21 Moorfields

Harrison-Thomas also gave an insight into how big banks like Deutsche are using flexible office space.

“There is a place for flexible office space and we do use it, but it can be difficult for big banks,” she said. “If you are going to invest significant capital in creating a new trading floor, then you are committed to it for the long term, and you are not going to come out of that building quickly.”
“But we do use it particularly if you have a team working on a particular project and you want them to think differently and avoid network capture.”

Harrison-Thomas said there will also be spaces throughout the building to allow for people to de-stress, with the fact that banking can be a pressurised culture in mind.

“We embrace our duty of care for the mental and physical wellbeing of our staff,” she said. “We will give them access to staircases to move around the building, a fully functioning gym, wellness centre and visiting health professionals. There will be spaces for people to be mindful, and to take a break from the day.”

The technology Deutsche will incorporate will mainly be focused on three areas, Harrison-Thomas said.

First there is the need for staff and guests to be able to access the building in a “frictionless” way, gaining approval to enter the building before they arrive and then being given a QR code that allows them to access information sent to their smartphone to guide them to the right meeting room.

Then there is the physical infrastructure of the building, with sensors and tech platforms giving early warnings of areas with problems, and allowing the building to be managed more efficiently. Finally, as an extension of this, technology will allow the building to be more energy efficient and therefore more sustainable.

Deutsche is set to occupy the building at the end of 2021. Who knows what the world will look like then? The bank is hoping that its new office will give it the blueprint to succeed.

Join Harrison-Thomas and a legion of other creative office experts at Bisnow's Creative Office Bash on 4 April at 7.30am.