It’s strange to think that, when you’re all reading this issue, you’ll probably be scraping frost off your windscreens and turning the heating up as autumn takes hold.
Strange because, at the time of this visit, we’re in sunny Reigate, Surrey, to take a look at the new UK headquarters of Hyundai Capital – and it is literally in the mid-30s! It’s only a short walk from the railway station, but even this is enough for us to be crisscrossing the road to find areas of shade. We’re grateful to reach our destination – which is, to be frank, a relatively nondescript multi-tenanted building on a leafy, pretty road – and so incredibly thankful to find that, upon entering Hyundai Capital’s own space, the fantastic air conditioning is ramped up to ‘11’.
We can immediately see that the air con is not the only thing that is cool about this space. We’re immediately in the social heart of this new facility, where our new cool attitude is matched by the brilliantly biophilic, informal, relaxed bar and lounge space in front of us.
We’re joined by Louisa Dempster, HR & Facilities Coordinator for Hyundai Capital UK, and Gensler Senior Associate, Hilary Allbrook. ‘When you see the building from the outside, you never expect to find this on the inside,’ Hilary confirms our initial thoughts. ‘It’s a really nice area – and it’s great to have views over so much greenery.’
Awarded ‘Captive Finance Company of the Year’, Hyundai Capital UK Limited is a joint venture company established between Santander Consumer UK, Hyundai Capital Services in Korea, Hyundai Motor UK and Kia Motors UK. It operates under two customer-facing brands, Hyundai Finance and Kia Finance, as a point of sale finance provider for customers looking to acquire a new or used vehicle through franchised Hyundai and Kia Dealerships.
With a long history of designing spaces for Hyundai Capital, Gensler was commissioned to create this new UK headquarters. With remarkable growth in its relatively short history, it was important to Hyundai Capital to have an attractive, practical and creative work environment, capable of responding to its ever-evolving office structure. Gensler looked closely at its business needs, culture, employees and aspirations, and put an onus on making the new space lean, agile and authentic.
We ask Louisa to tell us the story that led to this stunning new scheme. ‘We were previously in Redhill – which is about 10 minutes away,’ she says. ‘The reason for that is that our shareholder – Santander Consumer Finance – is in Redhill and we had a small area of their offices. With the company entering its fourth year of operation and the headcount growing year-on-year, it was time to find our own space and establish our own corporate culture.
‘Hyundai Capital was founded in 2012, with approximately 20 people. The reason we were able to operate at such a low headcount was that we outsourced a number of our services to Santander Consumer. As the company grew and became firmly established, we brought more of those services in-house and so the headcount continued to grow.
‘When this project was starting – about two years ago – our headcount had grown to 51 and it is now over 60, with plans for further growth.
‘The initial search for a suitable building went as far as Leatherhead, Walton-on-Thames and Weybridge. One of the main attractions of being here in Reigate – as well as it being a lovely town – is that it is close to Redhill. We still have a lot of dealings with Santander and a lot of our people still go back and forth for meetings – so we’ve also ticked the carbon footprint box by moving here!
‘Our people come from all over – but we didn’t want to go anywhere that would mean it was an impossible journey for any of our staff.’
As we mentioned earlier, Gensler has a long history of working with Hyundai Capital outside the UK, which Hilary can expand upon. ‘Philippe Paré (Gensler Design Principal) is the anchor point of the relationship,’ she reveals, ‘and this goes back to his time in the Los Angeles office. He’s done a number of projects in Korea – in fact, we’ve just completed a couple of projects for Hyundai Capital in Korea and another in Newport Beach, California. So there is that relationship and it has been fantastic to carry it through to here.
‘The original design was done out of the Los Angeles office and then, purely coincidentally, Philippe relocated to the London office at the same time as this was moving into the construction phase – so that worked quite well, because we had that continuity of design. It has also been great for our London office!’
As a forward-thinking firm, Hyundai Capital wanted a space that would empower its employees – a highly useful environment, not just a beautiful workplace. ‘As we were quite a new company with a mixture of shareholders, and a real amalgamation of cultures, we saw this as an opportunity to establish our identity and our own culture. That was a huge driving force behind the look and feel of this space. I think that, for the employees, who had become used to sitting in a fairly squashed up office in someone else’s branded space, this is a massive step forward. People liked working for Hyundai Capital UK but if you asked them to describe the firm, I’m not sure they’d have been able to easily answer that.
‘It was really important to have our own identity, our own sense of ownership – and pride as well. So, we combined the move with a big internal corporate culture project. We set up Culture Lab and redefined our company values and behaviours. This is ongoing – and it was really nice to be able to tie it in with the move here. We’ve even changed our dress code – we moved from business casual to jeans and trainers!’
‘They wanted to be seen and to feel more like a younger, vibrant tech business,’ Hilary continues. ‘They wanted to move away from the traditional financial services look and feel.’
‘You have to set yourself apart from your competition – and I think we’ve done that in a really innovative, visual way. When candidates apply for a job here, I’m sure they don’t expect to see this on our website!’ Louisa grins.
We ask Hilary to talk us through the thought process behind the scheme. ‘We wanted to capture the idea of the home,’ she considers, ‘so we have the lounge and the kitchen and the games room. There is no reception – so it is like walking into a home. There is immediate informality and a big part of the idea was to give ownership of the space to the people who work here. There’s a sense of fun here. Around the corner from the lounge there’s the games room, complete with a Playstation and a record player – and people bring their own books and records in, or suggest things they’d like. This is about enabling them to make it their space. It was important that we put this in a prime position at the front – and not hidden away at the back. The best space is for everyone! It’s also great that the staff come together at the kitchen bar and table and have lunch together – it’s like a family kitchen.’
A smart boardroom sits opposite the lounge space – while there is also an individual phone booth here for those private calls and moments.
The new space offers contemporary, flexible working through a variety of different settings – with adjustable desks, folding walls, pull-down power cords and writable walls – tailored for an expanding workforce and accelerating innovation.
Moving through to the open plan workspace, the clever industrial metal grid ceiling, complete with those bright hanging power cords, provides a huge contrast to the serene kitchen and lounge area. It is, however (and we don’t say this too often), the workstations that really catch our eye. We’ve only seen Vitra’s Hack system in exhibitions and showrooms – until now.
Designed by renowned product designer Konstantin Grcic, Hack is a table system that counters traditional desks with an innovative functional and aesthetic approach that satisfies the demands of today’s hi-tech companies. Such companies need to offer young graduates an attractive, practical and creative work environment while also being able to respond to dynamic changes in their office structures.
With its raw wooden panels, each Hack unit forms an autonomous element able to satisfy various needs – the height adjustment feature offers standing, sitting and lounge options.
The system certainly works for Hyundai Capital’s busy staff, who are able to fully focus on their work thanks to the privacy provided, yet are also able to interact with colleagues, with some collaborating and sharing a single system and others ‘meeting in the middle’, chatting with their backs to their Hacks!
Senior managers have fully glazed cellular offices, which line one side of the space, while IdeaPaint allows staff to freely write and create on the walls.
Like we said at the start, this is a very cool space – and not just because of that beautiful air conditioning!