If you work for the markets division of an investment bank, you're probably used to gloom. Deutsche Bank's European fixed income traders have been known to complain about their lack of natural light, and trading floors at SocGen, Goldman Sachs in New York, and BNP Paribas are all distinctly crepuscular. When Goldman Sachs' new London office opens later this year, however, it's going to be a breathe of fresh air - literally.
Irrespective of Brexit, Goldman Sachs is due to occupy the new 1.1m square foot office in London's Farringdon by the end of the third quarter. The interiors are currently being fitted at a cost thought to be around £130m, and the 6,500 or so people now inhabiting Goldman's three locations in London will begin convening in the new building this summer. When they arrive, they will notice one thing in particular: daylight.
The building on the corner of London's Farringdon Street and Shoe Lane has been designed to maximise natural light, with what some describe as a, "shaft of natural light," coming down through the middle of the building. There's a glass roof, and below that there's a multiplicity of glass ceilings.
As a result, both Goldman's fixed income and equities trading floors will be bathed in daylight. Not since UBS's now defunct feng shui trading floor in Stamford Connecticut have traders been quite so al fresco.
Other features of the new GS London office will include widespread hot-desking, breakout rooms and an open-plan layout. Managing directors and executives who are used to occupying corner offices with impressive views will be dispersed across the floor as daylight is democratised. Instead of taking lifts (elevators if you're in the U.S), Goldman's London staff will be encouraged to make use of a series interfloor walkways (stairs) aiming to promote interaction, exercise and vigour. It sounds a bit like the library in the film Name of the Rose, but less gloomy and medieval, and with a roof garden for entertaining clients.
Goldman isn't the only bank paying attention to aesthetics. Morgan Stanley is refitting 1.2m square feet of office space in an effort to appeal to a more, "dynamic, millennial kind of workforce.” Morgan Stanley too is providing all staff with the kinds of views and daylight previously reserved for the top ranks, plus it's got a new London fitness studio and what are said to be, 'expectional washrooms.'
Citi has also scrapped corner offices at its building in New York. In an interview two years ago Citi CEO Michael Corbat said the bank's office had been designed to create "collision points" to bring people together. Goldman is clearly up to something similar, but has raised the stakes with that shaft of light. It will be hard for other banks to compete - unless they construct whole new office buildings too.