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Wall Street Brings Bankers Back to Offices Remade for Hybrid Era

New Manhattan workspaces show how employers are embracing shared setups and the perks of home.

(Bloomberg) -- The new staples of office life go beyond hand sanitizer and air filters. For some Wall Street banks, they involve natural light, lots of plants and cold brew on tap, too.

As return-to-office plans accelerate — with hopes they will stick this time —  many bosses are embracing new setups and perks meant to evoke the comforts of home. At Mizuho Financial Group Inc., Bank of Montreal and Deutsche Bank AG, the changes have gone even further: New York workers came back from the pandemic to entirely different buildings. 

The moves, while planned well before Covid hit, gave the banks an opportunity to revamp space for new types of work, particularly as each company embraces hybrid policies allowing many employees to be remote at least part of the week. From pool tables to open seating, their arrangements show how once-stodgy Wall Street offices are turning into a shared collaborative space more reminiscent of Silicon Valley’s tech digs. 

“There’s a huge emphasis on wellness, air filtration, the idea of natural light as part of the environment, the ability to see the sun move through the sky in the course of the day,” said Mary Ann Tighe, chief executive officer of the New York tri-state region for brokerage CBRE Group Inc. “These values have been moved to the top of the hierarchy for office space among financial-service firms.” 

It’s a trend likely to continue: In January, Citigroup Inc. said it would overhaul its London tower to “reflect the changing nature of work,” with emphasis on shared spaces and new technology. 

For banks, revamped office space isn’t just about providing extra perks for employees. They’re in competition to retain and attract new talent  —  not just from other finance firms, but from tech and cryptocurrency companies as well. Cost-cutting also is a factor, with some companies simply finding ways to do more with less space. 

With Covid concerns ebbing, this month stands to be a key one for New York’s efforts to bring back workers. A January survey by the Partnership for New York City found that the majority of Manhattan employers believe their daily office attendance will exceed 50% by the end of March.  Here is a look at how Mizuho, BMO and Deutsche Bank have set up their new offices as staff come back. 

Mizuho Americas
Old address:  320 Park Ave.
New address:  1271 Avenue of the Americas

Mizuho relocated to its new Midtown tower —  originally known as the Time & Life Building — in February 2020, just before the pandemic exploded. The move brought together the firm’s securities business, which was originally stationed at 320 Park Ave., and bankers who were just across the street at 1251 Avenue of the Americas, where the company still has some space.  

The firm gave staffers the option to return to in-person work in September. Last month, employees were told they were expected to be back, albeit with most still operating on a hybrid basis. 

“There is an energy in the office and it feels more permanent this time. Lots of smiles and gatherings again in the lounges and huddle areas,” said Jerry Rizzieri, chief executive officer of Mizuho Securities USA. “Some haven’t seen each other in two years and for our new hires, it is their first time in the office.”

They’re being welcomed to cafeterias outfitted with cold brew on tap and lunch rooms that overlook the stretch of road made famous by the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Many spaces feature large works of art that allude to Mizuho’s Japanese roots.  

The firm now has three types of meeting spaces throughout its new offices, including central cafes for small impromptu gatherings, so-called huddle rooms for meetings of as many as four people and conference rooms for larger groups. 

Each room is equipped with video conferencing technology aimed at making sure everyone, whether at home or in the office, is on a level playing field during meetings. Trading floors, which can accommodate as many as 800 people each, are even outfitted with extra benches to make space for unscheduled confabs. 

The trading floor at Mizuho. Photographer: Amir Hamja/Bloomberg

“For our junior employees, we are an apprenticeship business, so face-to-face and spontaneous collaboration is great to see,” Rizzieri said. 

Bank of Montreal
Old address: 3 Times Square
New address: 4 Times Square

BMO is calling it quits on reserving corner offices for top executives. In the Toronto-based firm’s new Times Square tower, senior bankers are situated in the middle of the floor, allowing junior employees to reserve desk space around the exterior of the building where natural light is plentiful.  

“We don’t have large offices that take up walls and walls of windows,” said Summer Hinton, chief operating officer of BMO’s capital markets business. “It’s made a huge difference.”

BMO started refilling its New York location with bankers last month, with most staff expected to return on a hybrid basis by early April. Its new building, which shares common space with Nasdaq and TikTok, includes a view of the New Year’s Eve ball — along with the bank’s prior offices. Employees can peer through the windows at their previous workspace, their old, wooden desks still sitting there.

Conference rooms are decked out with large screens to make video calls easier for staff working from home. For those contributing to meetings in person, couches replace traditional office chairs. 

“We had a bit of an advantage because we were already planning a hybrid work environment and thinking about collaboration in our design,” Hinton said. “The pandemic simply accelerated ideas around the future of work.”

Amenities in the updated space include lockers for workers who want to store their belongings without occupying a dedicated desk space. The ninth floor offers a terrace for outdoor entertaining.

Deutsche Bank
Old address: 60 Wall St.
New address:  10 Columbus Circle

With its move last summer, Deutsche Bank became the last banking giant to leave Wall Street in lower Manhattan, the longtime financial industry stronghold. The German lender traded in its mahogany- and marble-laden headquarters for a new spot in Midtown’s Columbus Circle. There, the company installed a bevy of planters that stretch up the wall that towers over 500 of the firm’s traders.

As the firm was planning to allow more staffers to enter its new Manhattan workspace, it began reconfiguring the way it designed personal offices to ensure staff could meet in person and via videoconferencing. It also installed large patios for employees to gather outside overlooking the southwest corner of Central Park. 

A patio space at the Deutsche Bank office. Photographer: Amir Hamja/Bloomberg

The Frankfurt-based firm has a social area called Der Bar where smaller teams and groups can meet and unwind. Nearby, employees can try their hand at ping pong or pool during downtime. 

Deutsche Bank has ramped up in-office events as it welcomes more of its staffers back. The building requires Covid-19 vaccination for entry and employees will be tested for the virus on-site at an expanded medical facility each week. 

“It’s been great to walk around and feel the energy of colleagues connecting and teams working together, and it feels great to bump into so many that I’ve only seen on a computer screen for more than two years,” said Christiana Riley, CEO of Deutsche Bank’s business in the Americas. 

To contact the authors of this story:
Jennifer Surane in New York at [email protected]
Katherine Doherty in New York at [email protected]
Natalie Wong in New York at [email protected]

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