We’re back in the City and the streets are teeming with brokers, bankers and the like.
As we make our way through the busy thoroughfares from Liverpool Street we can’t quite work out whether the new financial optimism here means that it is very much business still at the forefront of everyone’s minds – or whether lunch is top of the agenda. Either way, it’s nice to see so much activity.
Food is the last thing on our minds right now, that’s for sure. We’ve got our own work to do – and that means getting off the ‘mean streets’ of the City and into the relative tranquillity of one of the district’s leading businesses.
Momentum Global Investment Management is a subsidiary of the MMI Group and was established in the UK in 1998 as its international asset management arm. As with any growing business, the company has evolved with the times and the ever-changing investment landscape, developing into an investment-driven business that focuses on tailored products and solutions for a diverse client base. Its clients and partners span institutions, corporate, wealth managers and professional advisors in key geographical target markets: the UK and Channel Islands, South Africa, Europe, the Middle and the Far East.
The relocation from 20 Gracechurch Street to the impressive REX Building on the City of London’s Queen Street was, we understand, about beginning a new chapter to further promote Momentum’s identity.
We are met in the bright, welcoming 2nd floor space by Momentum’s Nick Robert-Nicoud and leading design firm M Moser Associates’ Dominic Dugan and Richard Fisher. Nick takes us through to a smart adjacent meeting room, and we’re immediately aware that this might not be the usual meeting we might have with a City firm – in an extremely good way. For a start, the immediate talk is not of snagging or things that might be changed with the space now that Momentum have settled in – instead it’s of single speeder bikes (a passion shared by all three of our afternoon’s hosts). This bodes well, we think.
Nick moves the conversation on to the project here at the REX building, and begins by telling us a little more about the background. ‘I work for an asset management business – so we look after chunks of money on behalf of pension schemes and investors. We shared an office just up the road and following a corporate action we saw it as a great opportunity to relocate to a new home.
‘There are about 45 of us in here. We evolved a clear idea of how we felt we wanted the space to work.’
‘We decided to find a suitable space and then figure out what to do with it. We soon found this space, which was a shell, and we then arranged a beauty parade with a number of design firms. I’ve got to be honest, we had quite an odd bunch on the project team; there was myself, COO, CIO, CFO and the Facilities Manager – not a typical design-minded bunch of people, but the process and end product is fantastic.
‘There are about 45 of us in here. We evolved a clear idea of how we felt we wanted the space to work. I’ve been dealing with designers for about 15 years – and we all liked these guys (MMoser) straight away. They really listened to what we wanted and then came back to us with something based upon what we wanted but developed – not ‘we listened to what you, the client, wanted – and here’s something that has little to no bearing on that.
‘MMoser came up with a quirky idea about using a ‘red ribbon’ to define the office space – this fitted in very nicely with what we wanted. There were a couple of things that were really key to us; I look after the clients and had a very specific idea of what we wanted them to feel when they came into our office and, from the investment side, we also needed to make it an environment that the investment professionals wanted. The two don’t often work together.
‘In South Africa our Group employs some 16,000 people and is one of the biggest brands in the market. We can’t compete with the biggest brands over here (in terms of profile), but what we did want to do is for clients to leave our office remembering the environment and the team. On the very first day we moved in, we had three financial journalists in here – and they were blown away by the space. It’s been a really nice collaboration and I think we now have something here that works on all kinds of levels.’
The meeting room in which we’ve been chatting is, in many ways, a perfect example of how this flexible space works on a number of levels. The room can be opened up into a larger meeting space and, with the press of a button, be transformed into a much larger auditorium or function space.
The two client rooms alongside currently feature, as a talking point, a ‘puzzle wall’ – although Nick informs us that this might soon transform into a Lego wall, with employees’ kids showing off their own creative skills off. Nice, personal touch – and a great icebreaker.
‘During the pitch stage, we met with the project team on a number of occasions and, before we’d even won the job we were coming up with different ideas,’ Dominic explains. ‘We’re designers and we can make it pretty, create a rationale and come up with a nice concept, but when you have a brief that says we don’t want to be presented as a typical financial business, we want it to be different and we want it to be personal, we can’t help but get enthused.
‘We realised, however, that if you want the space to be personal, the only person who can do that is you. We felt it would be great if these different environments had these elements which were almost individual projects in their own right and which would involve the entire team.
‘We set the parameters but it’s actually about engaging everyone. We were keen to have a really good reason for everything we did here – there is a reason for all these environments and there is a reason for the red ribbon. They work for this particular client because they have a genuine intention of creating a really diverse workspace. We were quite chocked by how open these guys were. They wanted to keep pushing, to keep going further.’
‘When we started presenting sketch plans the red ribbon was something that people here quickly latched onto,’ Richard recalls. ‘It became an important part of the project – and I think that was really nice and also, from the beginning, we could see how everyone was getting involved.’
‘We realised, however, that if you want the space to be personal, the only person who can do that is you.’
‘What we didn’t want was senior management making all the decisions and then 45 people walking in here on Day 1 and saying ‘So that’s our new home’. We installed a coupe of live cameras here and people could go onto a website and see how the project was developing. I think that was a really nice way of keeping everyone involved. At the end of the day, from senior management down, this was going to be everyone’s new working home.
‘We were keen to try to think of things that would actually make the environment nicer for everyone. We’ve got three different zones in reception, for example, so that people can come in, have a coffee and use our WiFi.
‘We have also put in all sorts of different workspaces throughout; you can get away from your desk yet still be within your team, and there are also a number of quiet rooms that people can use. We really wanted to cater for all sorts of different people in the one space. It seems crazy to me that some of the guys here would go out to Starbucks for a coffee and then walk back into the office – so we’ve got really nice coffee machines and a nice space in which they can sit and enjoy their coffee. That, to me, is a no-brainer! The Pantry here is designed so that people don’t have to eat at their desks – we’re doing something wrong if people haven’t got half an hour to get away from their desks.’
The oft-aforementioned Red Ribbon is actually a faceted red glass wall which leans in different directions, encloses informal meeting areas, the Pantry and quiet rooms, while supporting the firm’s values of collaboration, transparency and dynamism. Furthermore, the ribbon smartly connects the front of house arrival space with the main workspace, encouraging visitors to use areas throughout the office. ‘The ribbon connects everything together. It’s there to remind you that this is all one thing, one language, albeit different vocabularies,’ Dominic tells us.
The flow through the space works brilliantly; this environment is open, friendly, professional, creative and – dare we say – very non-City.
‘I think one of our key objectives here was to create a personal connections between the client and the team – and also to create a different and unexpected experience for clients, Dominic concludes. ‘Ultimately, we wanted to create an environment that is synonymous with the boldness and energy of the business.’
Job well and truly done.