London offices have designs on tech
High up in western Europe’s tallest skyscraper, an office layout shows how the power balance in London’s property market is shifting in favour of booming tech companies and away from finance firms which may shrink in London after the Brexit vote.
Edged by a bar with a screen displaying train times, floor-to-ceiling whiteboards, cosy sound-proofed booths and a tap dispensing barista-style coffees, the design encourages staff to work together.
“We wanted to be taken seriously, not just frittering client money away with crazy guys on roller skates, so this is a serious space,” said the company’s Chief Creative Officer Mark Deeprose.
Property developers are ditching the marble fittings, suspended ceilings and tight rows of desks associated with the grand old banks, replacing them with more spacious irregular offices finished with the brickwork, colourful furniture and exposed wires beloved of tech companies.
Since Britons voted on June 23 to leave the European Union, some financial services companies have threatened to move operations to other European capitals over fears that Brexit may prevent them serving EU clients.
Tech companies, however, have shrugged off the vote and are expanding in London, with Google and Facebook leading the charge, helping property developers with a greater tech exposure to outperform their peers.
“Immediately after Brexit no one was doing anything but once we got into August and September, all of the tech firms just seemed to say, well, we’re moving on,” said James Roberts, chief economist at property consultant Knight Frank.
COFFEE SHOP STYLE
For ASOS’s expanded and redeveloped London headquarters, it has used software to map how its people use the building to encourage different units to work together. It will also have a quiet library, and a concierge service to help employees with their needs outside work.
“(Tech) is an active sector at the moment and we’re seeing developers beginning to acknowledge this within the way that they’re building,” said Simon Calvert, senior director of advisory and transaction services at property firm CBRE.
But the growth in tech may not be enough to fill new commercial property space. The City of London warns that up to 10 percent of jobs in London’s financial district may be lost if Britain fails to secure adequate EU access after Brexit. At the same time, London office construction has reached its highest level since 2008, according to Deloitte.