As several colleagues are following my blogs, and as it is part of my life here in england, I thought I would do a blog about the KPMG Offices.
The main KPMG Office tower is at Canary Wharf in Canada Square 15. So first of all you may wonder why is the office tower called Canada Square…well that goes back to the original developers of CanaryWharf, who were the Canadian Reichman brothers owners of Olympia and York. But more on the history shortly.
First off ,Canary Wharf is a major business district for London… easy to get when you step off the underground an go up the high speed escalators out of the station with thousands and thousands of people streaming into work every morning. Really 90,000 people work in this financial district. Major banks, financial institutions, professional services firms etc. It’s definitely a business district of gorgeous modern glass and steel towers. Today of course there are also plenty of high rise condos for those who like to live where they work
Canary Wharf is really an island ..as it is surrounded by water and was built on the West India Docks on the Isle of Dogs in East London. Canary Wharf takes its name from No 32 berth of the West Wood Quay where the fruit trade with the Canary Islands was conducted. The West India Docks at one time were one of the busiest shipping docks in the world. But shipping waned and by 1980 the docks had closed and the British were looking for someone to consider redeveloping this area. In 1987 the Candadian firm Olympia and York agreed to build on the site and construction began in 1988. I remember this as I worked at CIBC at the time and we were the Reichmans bankers. The first building Canada Square One opened in 1991 . It was the tallest building in the UK and a symbol of the regeneration of the docklands.. I remember going to visit this area at the time.. it was still pretty remote and docklandish..very different today given the number of buildings there are there now!!!
However upon opening the London commercial property market collapsed and Olympia and York Canary Wharf Limited filed for bankruptcy in 1992. Tough times for awhile …a recession and resistance by many British firms to relocate from the traditional financial district. The long promised( by Margaret Thatcher) underground line the JUBILEE long was constantly delayed and did not open until 2000.
Nevertheless by 1995 an international consortium ( including former owners of Olympia & York) bought the investment and the new company is called Canary Wharf Group and construction commenced again
Today the 83 acre site which was one of the largest development projects in the world has 14,000,000 square feet of commercial space. Condos which one could purchase for 20,00 0 pounds ( according to colleagues here ) now go for 250,000 pounds. If only eh?
The KPMG offices at 15 Canada Square are pretty state of the art. They are all open concept. Everyone Partners, staff , admin all sit in this open office space. Lots of areas leverage an office booking concept (office is a misnomer as what you are booking is a desk space—its pretty large though) so row upon row of desks. The dividers are also very low so you literally see your partner across the table and have people on each side of you. Even though one would think it might be noisy, it is not. Largely because everyone speaks very SOFTLY and all use headsets for their teleconversations which of course pick up your whispers better than a regular phone.
Basically you do your computer work in this space. If you have an international conference call, headset goes on and people speak quietly. However if you want to meet with people, you typically go to one of the many places to sit and chat or meet. There are a lot of conference rooms you can book…glassed in, or simply go to one of the many sitting areas spread along the centre of the building. Small tables with chairs, or booths, or more open conference style.. check out the pictures. Lots of light as it is a glass building and well lit. the open chat areas are connected by opens stairs in 3 floor segments … and there is always a coffee station near by to grab your latte with your pass card ( remember my initial blog where I said my pass card was loaded with $ or rather Pounds every day?) It is a neat space and very much conducive to open planning. They did not just tear the walls done and make people sit together..they also have all the conversation areas that make it work.
The area where I sit is usually occupied by transient workers ( like me although I am hanging around a lot longer than most) Because of this, work colleagues don’t tend to say hello and introduce themselves…so initially I found it cold and unfriendly.. I also had a very negative experience receiving a real put down one evening for having my computer speakers on… but I have determined he is a jerk and others thought he was just RUDE. But over time I of course introduced myself and am now finding it a very collegial way to work.. and I LOVE all the conversation areas!!! As you can well imagine. It is colourful and modern…I think it is probably the way future offices will look and operate. More of us will work virtually, we will not always go to the office to work, we will drop in , book a desk, gather with our colleagues for conversation . Bottom line I like it !!! its been a good experience.