True North

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We really like it when we get to revisit great end users. It almost feels as though we’re on the journey with them, watching them grow and mature before our very eyes.
True Potential is a perfect example of this.

The business has worked with Ward Robinson’s Interior Design Director, Simon Grundy, on several projects in Newcastle and London over the last 15 years as the company has grown.

True Potential, established in 2007, is a group of financial services and technology companies. A disruptor in the wealth management sector using technology to deliver financial services, the group works with almost 20% of UK financial advisers and their clients. The company has won a raft of national and international awards including European Business of the Year (turnover €26-150million) at the European Business Awards in 2017.

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This latest project has seen True Potential take over the whole of the 35,000 sq ft, three-storey headquarters building they have occupied on the first and second floors since 2011. The brief was to create reception space, meeting and training rooms, a large cafe style kitchen area and storage on the ground floor, and redesign the upper floors for new functions.

‘We work globally with other financial services companies and it’s important to us that when people visit us on home turf they immediately see we are operating at the same level, and that they feel comfortable in an environment they recognise,’ Luke McGrath, Head of Marketing at True Potential, comments. ‘For our staff too it’s equally important that each team has high quality workspace and breakout space, designed to help them do what they do best. Even though each team space is slightly different to facilitate that, there’s consistency throughout.’

‘This project combines a significant element of hospitality with workplace design,’ Simon Grundy, Interior Design Director at Ward Robinson, tells us. ‘The overall look is streamlined yet comfortable, and the reception area has a very intentional international hotel feel.

‘There’s clear definition between work and breakout space, while meeting and training areas have been designed to have flexibility.

‘We’ve created openness wherever possible. The building itself has large windows with views down the river Tyne and out to the countryside, and all of the meeting rooms have full-height glass partitions and doors. The company makes a lot of its own video training material, so filming can take place in any of the meeting rooms on each floor, using the office areas as a backdrop.’

As we mentioned previously, Simon had worked with True Potential a number of times before. So how did this project come his way – trad tender process or that extremely welcome phone call? ‘The latter. We’d been in discussion for a while on how to reorganise the existing space and the option to take the ground floor of the building as True Potential had grown.

‘It’s certainly the most reliable way to get work. We stay in touch with our clients, as it’s important for us as designers to see how people are actually using the space on a day-to-day basis and whether any tweaks are necessary to optimise the environments. When you create work that not only looks good but also really performs for clients, they do call back!

‘The success of True Potential meant that the teams were growing and more people were visiting the head office. There was a need for much more back of house office space, more flexible training accommodation and a significantly larger client reception area providing service and meeting facilities.’

The ground floor has a large reception area with seating, ‘at seat’ menu service and storage for visitors’ luggage, video display and full height awards cabinet, through to an open plan work area for the investment analysts. A series of meeting rooms, all of different shapes and with iPad-based ordering for room service, lead through to a cafe style kitchen and breakout area with training rooms beyond. The cafe style area has an informal feel with an exposed ceiling, lit in the company’s brand purple, and a large circular bar.

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‘The re-stack and rework of all the spaces allowed us to bring a lot more agile workplace settings into the mix. There are many more flexible breakout spaces throughout the working environment and the flexible training area provides multiple collaborative and quiet working options.

‘The floorplan of the building is two wings off a central ‘knuckle’,’ Simon continues. ‘The shape and location of the knuckle made it a good choice for the cafe style kitchens and breakout areas on the upper two floors, and this has proven to work well for the teams, so we used this arrangement again and extended it on the ground floor.

‘When the two training rooms are opened up to the cafe/kitchen, this area can accommodate over 300 people – and regularly does for all staff meetings.

The spatial flexibility required for running the training programmes means furniture has to be moved and rearranged, and storage space was carefully considered so that furniture not currently in use is completely out of sight.

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In Short

  • Established in 2007, True Potential is a group of financial services and technology companies.
  • Disruptor in the wealth management sector, using technology to deliver financial services.
  • The company has won a raft of national and international awards, including European Business of the Year (turnover Euro 26-150 million) at the 2017 European Business Awards.
  • Based and headquartered in Newcastle.

 

The first floor accommodates the development team in one wing, with two full-height revolving screens in the centre for developing ideas. Through the cafe/kitchen and breakout area in the other wing of the building is the growing contact team. This space has a different atmosphere, it is louder and there is more movement. Ceiling tiles have been replaced with boards wherever possible to give a smooth continuous surface, while lighting is softer in the breakout spaces.

The second floor accommodates the administration teams in one wing and the management teams in the other, again connected through the cafe/kitchen and breakout space. Each management team of six to eight people work in their own ‘pod’, open on two sides, and share a large desk to facilitate communication and discussion.

Light finishes contrast with American walnut for the bespoke cabinets in the reception area and the meeting rooms on all floors.

‘The company continues to innovate and develop. For example, when the previous refit was completed three years ago, there wasn’t a contact team,’ Simon recalls. ‘As space needs have changed over the years, we’ve been able to adapt the building. And as we’ve always invested in high quality furniture and fittings, both from the design and materials perspectives, we’ve been able to reuse some furniture and even partitions that were in storage and they still work perfectly as part of the redesign.’

We ask Simon about the major challenges faced here. ‘Creating spaces that are both great at appealing to high-end financial sector partners and customers and great at helping to attract and retain talented staff,’ he considers. ‘We think we’ve achieved this, creating something truly unique within a standard Cat A space, on time and on budget.’

Commenting on how the design impacts operations for the company, Daniel Harrison, Senior Partner at True Potential says: ‘The real test of the design has been working within it and we’ve found that, without exception, each area is used for the same purpose we intended.

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‘Our staff enjoy working in the space as it’s light, open and helps them communicate in smaller specialist groups where needed. Most make use of the café style kitchens for lunch, allowing them to feel away from the work environment and recharge despite staying within the office.

‘When we recruit, one of the first things candidates mention when they interview here is how good the office looks and feels, it’s usually far more impressive than anywhere else they’ve worked throughout the UK.

‘As part of our application for European Business of the Year, we filmed a short commercial for True Potential and were able to shoot in-house using the office as a backdrop. This really helped us show that everything we do happens right here in Newcastle.

‘Simon understands what it takes to design a great working space. With our head office refit, he and his team at Ward Robinson have brought in our brand, company values and an extremely high level of hospitality, all while making sure our employees are in the best place possible to complete their day-to-day work.’

It’s good to catch up with both Simon and True Potential. Potential most definitely realised!

 

Project Team
Interior Design Ward Robinson
Project Management Ward Robinson
Contractor Graeme Ash
Furniture Vitra
Photo–credit © Kristen McCluskie