Personal Finance

An office building that works

 R. Balaji Recently in Melbourne | Updated on March 05, 2011 Published on March 05, 2011




“This will be nothing like any of the bank premises you have seen,” assures Mr David Cartwright, Chief Operating Officer, ANZ, (Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd), as he greets us at the ANZ Centre Melbourne, the bank's headquarters.

“Where is the bank?” You are tempted to ask, standing in a brightly sunlit atrium with the roof several floor levels high. Floor to ceiling high windows, glass lined rooms give a feel of a posh hotel lobby or a mall.

The ambience is very relaxed and nothing like what you would associate with the nerve centre of a multinational bank.

“Banks are normally fortresses, aren't they?” Mr Cartwright continues. “You cannot get into them. But we wanted to be different.” ANZ decided to set up its 124,000 sq.m building in Docklands area, an area undergoing major redevelopment. Melbourne Centre is the “largest single occupied office premises in the southern hemisphere.” When you get to meet a senior executive of a multinational financial institution, a tour of the building and its features is not what you would expect.

Future-proofing

As a pleasant deviation from the norm, that is what, we a group of journalists from India, on a visit organised by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, get.

This building has the highest environmental standards you can find in Australia, he says, as we move through the lobby to the equally spacious and open interiors, it has in-house trigeneration — electricity is generated on-site using natural gas, with the heat from the process feeding the air conditioning absorption chiller in summer and the boilers for heating in winter; solar power; wind power; black water recycling; water harvesting; green walls and roofs. “We have got pretty much state-of-the art,” he says. No part of the building is more than 11 m from natural light.

“We use only 30 per cent of the water and 50 per cent of energy of a traditional building and in a country which is very short of water that is important. This is “future-proofing” us for many years and is also the right thing to do, he asserts.

The building designed by Hassell, a leading Melbourne-based firm of architects, cost $800 million. As the guided tour continues, the hard-headed business reasoning behind all that design becomes apparent though Mr Cartwright feels, “looking at the cost is immaterial; this is not a financial business case.”

So why would a bank do this?

The answer: “Because our view is we have to live in our customer's world. If we do not let customers into your world, how are you going to live in their's? We want people to feel we are approachable – make it an enjoyable experience.

View of Melbourne

This meeting area has one of the best views in Melbourne,” he says as he points through the high windows, at a stretch of water with yachts floating placidly in the afternoon sunlight. This is our public meeting area where people spaces were created to show we valued them. You have got fantastic views, river running by the side, the harbour on the opposite side, the city skyline,” he continues.

The technology that has gone into the building is incidental you realise. It is about the people, not just the visitors, but also the 6,500 employees who work there. The objective is to create an environment which attracts people and retains people. ANZ's operations were earlier in 13 buildings stretched out around the Central Business District and this has now come down to six buildings and will reduce further.

A lot of young people the bank talks to want to work in ethically sound organisations that care about the environment and show that. Clearly, less water, less energy-intensive environment is where you can attract people. You can see from our corporate social reporting we are driving year after year to reduce our energy used per head, to bring down paper use, to increase recycling to reduce water use. It is part of ANZ's culture, he says.

Changing mindset

“Wide open spaces can change your mind set. We used to live in skyscrapers with small, square, 1,000-m floor plates and security at every floor. But here once you get past initial security you have 80,000 sq m of space where you can roam freely. We wanted to make sure people could see each other, interact in ways they were not doing earlier.”

He points to a stall, and remarks, “an important part of my business day is going down to get my cup of coffee over there. I meet a number of people that I would not otherwise bump into, it is part of networking. Today I had three quite important conversations that I had not planned which would have cost me a lot of time and effort if I had to follow them up.” There is even facility for a barbecue and a promenade for people to stretch their legs.

A fine building, but how do people get to it. It is well connected. Mr Cartwright himself, often cycles down. Melbourne is trying to be a cycling-friendly city. There is cycle parking for over 500 cycles in the building and over 50 shower stalls have been installed for the cyclists to freshen up before beginning their working day.

Apart from the ubiquitous car, “You get the tram all the way here to the front of the building and about 400 m awa,y there is a major terminus on the railway station. We are working really hard to make this a good place,” he says.

So, you cannot help but remark is this something that is for the bank's headquarters only? I challenge you to visit ANZ's premises in Bangalore. You will find it “not dissimilar,” he says. What we have done in Indian operations is essentially the same.

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