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What Big Tenants Really Think About Moving To An Emerging Location And Cultural Change

A great deal is written about what big corporate occupiers want when moving office, and how they see real estate as a way of accelerating cultural change. But the insights rarely come from the occupiers themselves.

At Bisnow’s Future of East London event, delegates got the chance to hear directly from one of the biggest tenants to have moved in London in the past five years.

In May 2015 the Financial Conduct Authority took 425K SF at Lendlease and LCR's 4M SF, £2.4B International Quarter scheme in Stratford, one of the largest office moves since the financial crisis. The FCA’s chief operating officer, Georgina Philippou, explained what it was looking for, why it chose Stratford and how it is thinking about the rapid pace of change in the way it operates.

Lendlease's Lisa Gledhill and the FCA's Georgina Philippou

“Stratford was appealing to us because it was not full up already,” Philippou told delegates at the event, held at Ballymore’s Goodluck Hope scheme. “It was an empty page, we could adapt the building to us rather than us having to adapt to it, we didn’t have to squeeze ourselves in somewhere.”

In spite of the appeal of this blank canvas, Philippou said there was initial resistance to the move from staff, based to some degree on fear of the unknown.

“Stratford and the International Quarter were complete unknowns in spite of the Olympics,” she said. “Even though Stratford is only about 3 miles away from Canary Wharf where we are based, it is about three light years away in terms of personality. Canary Wharf is very homogenous and a private estate, whereas in Stratford it is the complete opposite, it is something that is growing and changing, that is a very mixed and diverse community, and one that is not financial services-based.”

What Lendlease and LCR's International Quarter will look like when completed.

That led to the need for a long process of communication with staff, she said, but ultimately that difference was something the body wanted to embrace.

“It led to questions from staff on why are we moving further away from the banks and financial institutions that we regulate, how can we regulate from 3 miles further away? And it was a really big unknown, so we needed what was essentially a five-year communications campaign, which we have ramped up towards the end.”

Nearly 4,000 staff will move imminently, and Philippou said part of the rationale for the move was to facilitate change in the organisation. The East London location was key.

Lendlease's Lisa Gledhill, the FCA's Georgina Philippou, Genral Projects' Jacob Loftus, DeVono Cresa's Luke Philpott and Trilogy's Robert Wolstenholme

“I spend a lot of my time thinking about what the FCA will look like in five years’ time, what it is going to be doing and how is it going to be doing it,” she said. “I find myself thinking, are we going to be an organisation of 3,500 data analysts, gathering in data, analysing it and putting it out? That is something we’re doing a bit of at the moment, but it is something we’re going to be doing a whole lot more of in five years time.

“The interesting thing about East London is that it gives us access to a whole new talent pool, and  the people with those technical skills. Our cyber specialists, for example, are beside themselves with excitement that they are going to be near Here East with all that tech opportunity.”

She added that it was not just the skills that people had, but who those people were, which could be changed.

“We are a regulator and we are there to serve the public and deliver public value, and we want to be diverse. We have gender targets and black and minority ethnic targets, and we are slap bang in the middle of an area that will help us achieve those targets.”