Workplace Strategy for Asset Management: Aligning Design with Brand

What makes your company stand out? Today, workplaces are brimming with the newest amenities from espresso bars, yoga studios, quiet pods, libraries, and collaborative neighborhoods; trying continuously to find the perfect balance of productivity and employee satisfaction.

But are companies using workplace strategy to simply install the latest amenities or justify cramming more employees into increasingly smaller desk spaces? To realize the true benefits of deploying workplace strategy, firms must start with an understanding of their brand and corporate culture to create a space that maximizes work-life balance and productivity.

Not surprisingly, the investment management industry – one known for maximizing value and scrutinizing process – is at the forefront of embracing smart workplace strategy. We recently completed the NYC Headquarters for both Waterfall Asset Management and PineBridge Investments; while uniquely different, both organizations had similar goals in mind.

  • Design for Transparency while Preserving Privacy

Transparency creates a positive atmosphere, strengthening workplace culture and solidifying loyalty and employee engagement. Designs that cater to an open environment break down communication barriers and siloed teams by focusing on both the physical and non-physical distinctions of transparency, but too often create environments plagued by lack of privacy and ripe for distraction.

PineBridge Investments incorporated the idea of transparency by using one of its main design features to its advantage. At the center of the three-story vertical campus is an open interconnecting staircase with an unobstructed view of each floor facilitating connection and interaction between levels. It maintained privacy while creating an open environment where colleagues can see each other and frequent the same areas throughout the day.

For Waterfall Asset Management, they found the balance they required between transparency and privacy by adopting a design that took simple elements the extra mile. Traditional glass office fronts offered natural light and an extended line of sight throughout. Waterfall went one step further to facilitate transparency by incorporating glass panels between offices; separating them yet uniting the spaces together, highlighting their value for inclusivity and collaboration.

3- Story Vertical campus enhancing transparency and line of sight throughout
Asset Management firm with glass front private offices including glass partitioning between offices
  • Take a People-Centric Approach

A study by Sodexo on workplace trends in 2014 found that 54% of our waking hours are spent at work. With more than half of our time spent in the office, putting people at the center of workplace design is crucial to creating a space that promotes wellness instead of simply restocking the snack supply.

Spectorgroup put the employees of both Waterfall Asset Management and PineBridge Investments at the core of its design strategy, envisioning a space that would give its people the tools to perform at their best while enjoying their work-life at the same time. Waterfall used its dispersed floor plan to its advantage by humanizing the idea of traditional trading floors and transforming them clusters of neighborhoods; promoting frequent and free movement throughout the workspace enhancing the feeling of openness. Group culture is a powerful force and feeling part of a group and included fulfills our phycological needs, safety needs and the need to belong. PineBridge Investments took this notion to heart with the design of their pantry. Elegantly designed to be an environment of refuge from the hustle and bustle of everyday life while being able to observe the external world through the glass partitions facing the central vertical campus connecting each floor.

Both designs allow for freedom of movement between the various neighborhoods and the choice of work style and openness between the employer and employee; something which is uncommon in most financial firms.

  • Create a Frictionless Environment

Increasing employee engagement has shown beneficial impacts on overall organizational performance. The goal, however, is to engage employees with the brand’s mission, which allows the values and goals of an organization to be infused in everything they do leading to increased productivity and stability. Some of the basic ingredients for successful employee engagement are communication, social interactions, and wellness. When mixed together they form the recipe of stability and trust within an organization.

Both Waterfall Asset Management and PineBridge Investments combined collaborative huddle rooms and small conference rooms with easy access, promoting social encounters while having a direct line of sight of their external environment and those within their private offices. Whether their employees are looking for privacy within a conference room or social interactions in the centralized café; quiet and focus to handle complex tasks or collaboration and brainstorming to build grand strategies; they have the power to decide and mold their day the way they see fit.

Glass front huddle booth
  • Tailored for Top Talent

Competing for and retaining top talent is a continuous challenge that most companies are faced with – especially in the highly competitive world of asset management. Talented young people are making career choices that consider work/life balance more than ever.

Having a flexible environment that balances the social and productive elements of your work and your everyday life has now become a staple if organizations that wish to compete for the new talent entering the workforce. But having a decked-out café and gym on hand might not be the answer for your unique brand. Companies need to authenticate themselves by driving home their brand and values which foster employee investment.

Waterfall Asset Management and PineBridge Investments envisioned a space that their employees want to be in. PineBridge Investments used elegant finishes of natural stone and warm walnut wood accents to speak to the boutique, intimate vision of its brand. Upon entering the space, you experience openness and freshness in the sleek design and natural elements; speaking directly to the transformative design concept PineBridge Investments envisioned. Bringing people together without restrictions.

Waterfall Asset Management departed from the traditional notion of the classic financial firm with the vision of a workspace that would be a ‘home away from home.’ Combining walnut accents, modern colors and textures and elements of greenery, into its diverse neighborhoods. The space radiates elegance while the exposed black ceilings and the industrial frames and fixtures give the space an edgy look and feel. Modern colors and textures add an extra touch of contrast to each space, enhancing the hospitality feel of their work environment.

With law firms and financial service firms trying to appeal to a younger, more ‘aware’ workforce; the approach to these spaces is moving further away from higher-end more polished spaces- to more creative and authentic ones- with open ceilings and fewer closed offices.
– Sara Agrest AIA, IIDA, LEED AP | Design Director at Spector Group

Waterfall Asset Management_Open Plan
collaborative break out area adjacent centralized cafe fostering teamwork, productivity and employee engagement.

In the fast-paced and ever-changing world of design, how we encourage, empower and motivate employees can make all the difference between organizational success and failure. Changing your space can facilitate a change in culture, deepen employee trust and attract the best talent. Departing from the old and embracing the new is an investment in your company, your people and your success. We are encouraged to see how the asset management industry, and financial services broadly, are embracing workplace strategy and applying it to their industry.