Fintech firms are known for their love of all things disruptive, innovative and new. Compared to traditional financial institutions, Fintechs like to do things differently. When it comes to the workplace, it’s no different and fintech companies have been leading the way with their intentions to abandon the physical office altogether.
While these strategies may bring initial success as well as presenting cost-saving opportunities, the total devolution away from the office could prove costly. A recent Ipsos MORI poll highlights some of the negative impacts of remote working on employees, while the work from home (WFH) model has been shown to diminish workplace culture, collaboration and discourse. As the working world recalibrates and finds its feet in the return to office debate, Fintechs should think twice before bidding the office farewell.
Many people associate the shift to remote working as the result of the pandemic but remote and hybrid working strategies have been a permanent fixture of many fintech companies from the mid 2010’s. In 2015, companies like Buffer in San Francisco were closing their offices, citing high rental costs and time-wasting commutes as their reasoning for pursuing new ways of working.
This trend then accelerated during the pandemic to become more mainstream as attitudes to working in the office 9-5 softened. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), in 2019 just 5% of the UK workforce said they worked mainly from home. By April 2020, this figure had increased to 47% or even higher. National lockdowns certainly opened people’s eyes to the efficiency gains and quality of life enhancements that can be achieved through remote working. ONS figures again show that 84% of employees who worked from home because of Covid-19 said they intend to continue remote working in the future.
As big banks like Goldman Sachs and tech giants like Apple urge their people back into corporate premises, many Fintechs seem to be embracing the WFH model on a permanent basis. US fintech Robinhood, for example, has announced it is now a ‘remote-first company.’ Companies such as Zopa, Wise and Revolut have all introduced distributed work-from-anywhere models, leading to decreases in office utilisation. Others, like Starling Bank and Monzo, have closed central offices and reduced their footprints in major cities.
The saying “work is something you do, not somewhere you go” resonates strongly with the fintech profession. But while the short-term benefits of remote working may seem appealing, the long-term value and advantage of physical workspace should not be underestimated. Culture, communication and collaboration are vital to the success of any modern company. And the office is essential for promoting these key components of corporate life.
In terms of fostering culture, office spaces can be designed to align with company values and reflect core beliefs. Through brand-led placemaking, interiors can create a compelling brand experience and sense of identity, helping employees to feel connected and inspired.
Two monumental UK workplace developments, Google’s ‘landscaper’ in Kings Cross and Apple’s campus at Battersea Power Station, are testament to the importance of place for large corporations. These iconic ‘destination offices’ are key to reinforcing company culture and staff retention. Oktra Creative Director, Dominic Dugan, explains “organisations from a range of industries are competing for the same people, so they’ve got to make their workplace somewhere people want to work – from the moment they walk through the door.”
“Organisations from a range of industries are competing for the same people. They’ve got to make their workplace somewhere people want to work – from the moment they walk through the door.”
Dominic Dugan, Oktra Creative Director
When it comes to creating experiences and collaborating across teams, office environments are great enablers for organisations. The office is still the destination for company employees to connect organically in a way we know that can’t be replaced by virtual meetings. Impromptu meetings take place effortlessly in office corridors, courtyards and kitchen areas and new ideas can be easily shared by being in the physical proximity of colleagues. These ‘watercooler moments’ and micro-interactions that occur at work are regarded as vital to innovation and creativity.
Remote working, on the other hand, can limit opportunities for meaningful contact. The same Ipsos MORI survey found that many employees felt interaction and collaboration had suffered during lockdown. Doodle’s 2019 State of Meetings Report revealed that 76% of professionals prefer in-person meetings to telephone calls or videoconferencing. A study by Gartner asserts that 41% of employees do not feel connected to their colleagues when working remotely, and 26% feel isolated. In this way, the WFH model can weaken human connections, which in turn impacts company culture and cohesion.
Aptitude Software capitalised on an office relocation to reinvigorate their brand identity and adopt a more flexible working style. This allowed them to provide greater functionality and connectivity in the office as the new space combines desking with collaborative work zones. In-built technological solutions also enable blended working, with the new space reflecting the company’s fintech expertise and helping to build a renewed perception of the business.
For Eigen, a scale-up fintech firm, new workspace has transformed the employee experience. With desks located near to natural light sources, and cellular offices situated centrally, the new space promotes both wellbeing and privacy, while heavily branded wall graphics and wayfinding connect employees to the company brand. The open, sleek and engaging office design also signals Eigen’s growth and reflects future aspirations.
Trading company Trayport committed to building flexibility into their workspace to help create a futureproof workplace that help attract and retain talent. 25% of their new office floorplate has been allocated to teamworking, while a range of breakout areas and a centralised coffee bar provide convenient touchdown points. These spaces have been built to encourage and amplify the human connection among Trayport teams, while supporting those working remotely.
As the above examples demonstrate, there is huge opportunity for brand enhancement, employee engagement and cultural uplift through the redesign of physical workspace. Office redesigns can also support new ways of working like agile and hybrid working.
For Fintechs feeling the pull of remote working, but reluctant to abandon the office entirely, the hybrid working model can certainly provide a happy compromise. Offering the best of both worlds, hybrid working enables the freedoms and efficiencies of WFH, while retaining the stabilising influence of a central office hub and all its associated benefits.
By carefully balancing remote working with a physical space where people can come together, Fintechs can lay the foundations for future success. The office remains a critical component of company life and evolution. It enables Fintechs to pursue their growth ambitions, while supporting their people and facilitating the connections that really matter.
We have designed fintech offices which support flexible and agile working, enhance company values, support employee engagement, and attract high-tier talent. See more of our fintech clients’ innovative office designs in this lookbook and find out how we can help your business.download