XTX Markets

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What makes a perfect Mix project story? Well, ideally, we’d start with an exciting, rapidly emerging end user client. Then we’d add a forward-thinking design firm. Next, we’d hope to find a number of design features we’ve never seen before in a workplace – and the cherry on the cake would be if it were all wrapped up in an impressive new building at the heart of a much talked about new regeneration district.

Bingo! We might just have found it! XTX Markets is a pioneer within the FinTech sector, leading the way as an award-winning electronic market-maker since it was established in 2015. The firm has experienced consistent growth and, to help maintain its current trajectory, has now taken 22,000 sq ft over three floors at the R7 building in King’s Cross – the new heart of London’s tech hub.

XTX’s name refers to the linear regression formula used in its trading strategy. The enterprise was founded by Alex Gerko, a Sci-Fi fan with a PhD in mathematics from Moscow University. Co-CEO Zar Amrolia has a PhD in mathematics from Oxford. XTX helps market participants throughout the world obtain the best prices in the various assets classes they cover by providing consistent liquidity, regardless of changing market conditions.

The space needed to mirror the methodical and strategic business practices of XTX, while providing a truly inspiring environment. XTX is looking to attract people who are within the top 0.1% of candidates – people who, rather than looking towards the City for work, will instead be looking at the likes of Google, Facebook and other leading tech giants.

The office environment had to offer a balanced, inspirational working environment that would attract and retain the best talent available in the industry and mirror the firm’s innovation in technology.

The design focus for the space was to create a physical representation of what the firm is about; its people and its core values. The company’s core values of transparency, fairness, collaboration and excellence – combined with a focus on consistent liquidity – are displayed visually throughout the space and complement a workspace inspired by Sci-Fi, mathematics and algorithms.

Every element of the office design has been individually considered and combines futuristic space elements with high-end residential finishes to foster an intriguing, one-of-a-kind working environment.

Achieving a design as original as this requires an in-depth understanding of the client and an ability to look beyond the brief to see what it is they are trying to create. The design process behind the XTX space lasted nearly two years and revolved around delivering a final design that would provide an environment that was distinctly ‘theirs’, entirely bespoke and would give a platform to continue growth and development. For this design challenge, XTX turned to Peldon Rose, who tell us that inspiration came from a number of areas.

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‘We wanted this office environment to challenge the minds of XTX staff and create a space that would match the inquisitive nature of the business and its people,’ we’re told. ‘We were inspired by many concepts and ideas, but the most prominent influences include Sci-Fi (there are elements of the movies Tron, Firefly and Battlestar Galactica here), mathematics, Steampunk and other industrial elements, which have been pulled from the surrounding area of King’s Cross.’

To design the space and provide such a stand-out facility, Peldon Rose worked with notable partners, including Jason Bruges and Acrylicize for all light/art installations, and Andrew Martin for furniture and finishes.

‘Our project partnerships needed to address a high-level of precision as well as adopt an entirely bespoke approach. We partnered with some of the most inspiring minds to deliver interactive art installations throughout the office, which create moments of intrigue and levels of detail that you only notice when you understand its greater importance. Jason Bruges Studio, Acrylicize and Andrew Martin played a pivotal role in delivering the incredible features in the office.’

Inspired by the company’s love for programming and mathematics, the art installation wall in the Portal (reception space) is an algorithmic study in itself. The design is based on the 15th monohedral tiling convex pentagon, which is the final solution to a mathematical problem devised by Reinhardt in 1918. For the first time, this pattern has been animated as a cellular automata, and the system uses the same rule base as John Conway’s ‘Game of Life’, but operates over the five faces of the pentagon. This has never been achieved before, and is inspired by the firm’s highly methodical approach and importance of code and algorithms in its day-to-day business. The wall of light is designed to challenge the minds of the people who can understand it, and visually captivate the minds of those who don’t. We firmly fall into the latter category.

Jason Bruges Studio provided their innovative design and technology skills to conceptually develop and deliver the bespoke installations in both the Portal and the amazing Experience Tunnel. These unique, interactive art pieces go beyond simple aesthetics. They required over 35,000 LEDs to transform these parts of the space into memorable, experiential moments. There is even a ‘lifesize’ Cylon from Battlestar Galactica here!

As you move through the Portal, you arrive in the Experience Tunnel, which again resembles something you would expect to find on the set of a movie. As you move through the tunnel, thousands of bespoke individual sensor and light units detect your movement and illuminate to capture your silhouette in lights, making the transition through the office space an engaging experience.

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Consistent liquidity, a staple of XTX’s business, is represented by the ‘water fountain’, which flows through the spiral staircase and leads onto the trading floor.

The fountain, which flows between the 8th and 9th floor, uses a combination of blue light and water to showcase XTX’s provision of liquidity, and continues through the experience tunnel and onto the trading floor.

As we move through the space, past a series of cool breakout areas, we have the astonishing Hoberman chandelier pointed out for us. Created by Acrylicize, the chandelier is a mechanical ‘breathing’ light fitting, expanding and contracting independently, so that it changes its appearance as you pass it.

There was a real focus on the creation of a collaborative, community environment here and we’re told that the new working environment has inspired a change in the way people work together and has encouraged greater collaboration through the diverse choice of inspiring spaces, relaxing areas and communal zones. Each space has its own distinctive atmosphere and, as you move through the environment, each flows naturally into the next.

The furniture is inspired by an assortment of influences from different cultures and adds to the interest in exploration and discovery at XTX. The mixture of furniture offers staff a variety of spaces to collaborate in and relax away from the desk.

When designing a space for a science fiction loving FinTech company, it would, of course, be churlish not to include a full replica of the Apollo 11 landing capsule. The landing capsule is inspired by the Co-CEO’s love of Sci-Fi and space exploration – but this is no mere gimmick. The capsule importantly serves a purpose beyond its design value and gives staff extra space to use as a meeting pod, play games consoles or relax and watch a movie.

Andrew Martin provided the concepts and brought the replica Apollo 11 space capsule to life. The capsule sits proudly in the corner of the breakout space – well, we say breakout space, but this is much, much more than a place away from the desk.

Featuring bespoke pool and table tennis tables alongside arcade game machines, once the working day is over, the space transforms into a high-end bar (there is even Brewdog beer on tap!). Indeed, hot and cold drinks are provided all day, alongside fully stocked fridges of food along with snacks and fresh fruit to ensure staff can maximise their breaks away from the desk and enjoy healthy refreshments during the day.

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XTX’s staff are provided with everything they need to enable them to execute their work, consistently, at the highest level. We are shown a room housing four sleep pods, with full-sized mattresses, headphones, TV’s and electric blinds, which offer a place of respite and escape for when people need to recharge and refresh themselves.

We haven’t even mentioned the formal working spaces here at R7. Bright, generous and sharp, as we now fully expect from this organisation, staff are given all the tools they need to work to an optimal level. The space is also extremely generous for the 80+ staff here – although that number is likely to increase.

Furthermore, we’re told that the firm is also having a fully equipped, in-house gym built on the currently unoccupied 10th floor, complete with sauna!

Interestingly, throughout our tour, the word ‘wellbeing’ is never used. Wellbeing here isn’t a tick in a box – it’s at the heart of the company’s culture. We get the feeling they don’t know any other way of doing things.