How One Lender Modernized Its Office To Promote A Culture Of Transparency
The 2015 Manhattan Beach Blvd. office building, located in Redondo Beach, California, has always been a place where transactions happen. Once a backroom office for Imperial Bank, the asset was later picked up by Comerica Bank. But until recently, the building itself was dark, old and a little dreary.
It has since taken on a whole new look. Home to Civic Financial Services and its parent company, Wedgewood, banking and finance is still at the center of activity at the building. But the teams have transformed the building into an open and inclusive work environment that promotes transparency and drives innovation.
When employees enter the building, they are greeted with a larger-than-life sculpture of a nail and hammer. It reminds employees of the importance of hard work.
“The idea is that our employees get motivated and excited to make connections and close deals from the time they enter the building,” Wedgewood Chief Operatons Officer David Wehrly said. “People come in, and they can feel the commerce happening.”
The office is designed to make communication between employees easier, regardless of seniority. Executive-level employees are situated at the interior of the office. The walls between executives and the rest of the company are made of glass, and that is not by accident. This tactic allows company leadership to be more transparent about communication. Unlike some offices where C-suite members operate on a top floor separate from their subordinates, Civic’s VPs and chief executives are mixed in with the rest of the company. Employees can see if their managers are in meetings, and can approach them more easily.
"I am surrounded by enthusiastic energy and optimism every day and it’s great," Civic Managing Director of Multifamily Brian Murphy said. "The People Team here went way beyond designing me an office that sits in the middle of the action and is accessible, but also comfortable and quiet when I need it."
There is a psychological aspect to this layout. Several managers have found that their employees feel more comfortable approaching them when there are fewer barriers to entry, Harvard Business Review reported. An employee is more likely to approach a manager who is a few feet away from their desk than one who is at the other end of the office.
“The culture among the management at Civic and Wedgewood is we want people to feel free to approach us,” Wehrly said. “We want to hear what our employees have to say, and we want to improve. This office layout really allows us to practice what we preach.
Entry- and mid-level employees also benefit from the office layout. Most members of the staff sit at a desk with a low-cubicle wall, allowing them to focus on their own work while collaborating with their peers. Group workspaces and common rooms allow teams to work collaboratively on projects, and conference areas with whiteboards provide a space for storyboarding and brainstorming.
This also makes it possible for employees with different skill-sets and professional backgrounds to collaborate and learn from each other.
“Operations and sales coexist in a large open environment that allows for free-flowing communication and transparency of the transaction," Civic CEO Bill Tessar said. "We operate symbiotically with one another focused on our customers' financing objective. Erasing the old adage of sales versus operations and embracing the idea of rowing in the same boat and in the same direction has created something special here.”
Civic prides itself on being a company that invests in its people, and gives them the tools they need to move up in their careers. For instance, the company’s Top Gun program recruits young professionals with little or no lending experience. Trainees enroll in an extensive, four-week program where they get matched with a mentor and have the opportunity to network with the rest of the company’s staff. Outstanding graduates receive a job offer at the completion of the training program.
“The transparent and collaborative nature of our office space allows us to interact with new hires, and get all our people around a table,” Wehrly said. “People can exchange ideas, and evolve those ideas into something that’s implementable.”
This feature was produced in collaboration between Bisnow Branded Content and Civic. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.