Tenant Talks Recap: The Future of Workplace Experience in Finance

On May 27th, 2021 Axiom Workplaces hosted the latest edition of our virtual speaker series, Tenant Talks™. It was a great event where we talked in-depth about the future of the office. Topics included the physical workspace, hybrid options, and processes that have changed over the last year. 

Panelists included representatives from Teachers Mutual Bank, HSBC Bank, Credit Union Australia, and Axiom. Vanessa Beggs, Chief Operating Officer at Australian Banking Association moderated the discussion for us.

Our panelists discussed how their firms have changed in the last year. They also weighed in on trends they have seen in the banking and finance industry as a whole.

(More of a watcher than a reader? Watch a video of the full discussion here.)

Question #1: Can you share a significant change that your company has made to your processes or habits as a result of 2020?

Annabel Flynn, Head of Strategic Partnerships and Corporate Services at Credit Union Australia started off the discussion. She talked about the new, increased need for video conferencing software as well as collaboration software, like Microsoft Teams

Lastly, Annabel said that the pandemic has promoted new ways of working. She used the example of going paperless and the benefits to the environment. 

Stuart Davie, Head of Corporate Services in Australia and New Zealand at HSBC Bank said the major challenge his firm had to deal with was the social distancing requirements put in place by health departments. Stuart said this “challenged the whole purpose of the office.” As a result, at HSBC in Sydney, they kept their offices at 50% capacity while distancing requirements were in place

Now, as an answer to these challenges, Stuart says that firms are embracing flexibility as the new normal way of operating business. 

Jose Fredes, Head of Property & Facilities at Teachers Mutual Bank said that his firm experienced similar challenges to Stuart and Annabel. He talked about how Teachers Mutual Bank is addressing these challenges by allocating more meeting spaces and introducing a quarterly review process

Michael Hala, Associate Design at Axiom Workplaces talked about being a design firm and the need for face-to-face collaboration on design projects. 

Then we asked our audience and panelists to answer a poll question. The question was: Have you adopted a hybrid working model and if so, how many days are you working from home?

The majority (60%) of respondents said they are working from home 2-3 days per week

24% said they are working 4 or more days from home. 

12% said they have not adopted a hybrid model.

4% said they are working from home 1 day per week. 

Question #2: Based on the results, Vanessa asked: how does that affect company culture?

Michael said it has had a huge impact on company culture and morale. He said it constantly comes up in meetings with clients and it’s been a challenge. 

To combat that challenge, Michael said that Axiom is “working with clients to reorganize workplaces” in a way that works for their staff. 

Michael also said that it’s important to increase the opportunity for human connection. He said that people are craving a human connection at this point. 

“COVID has been all about anti-density and making sure that people are separated, but there’s a critical mass because people are uncomfortable that there’s no one around,” Michael said. 

Stuart agreed that his staff is feeling a pent-up need to return to the office. He said that, while video conferencing allows for interactions to happen remotely, it still doesn’t promote company wide communication, because it’s still limited. 

Jose said that more recently, to help with company culture, his company has been focused on the physical and mental wellbeing of its staff. He said they have implemented an app and a support system for their employees. His company also regularly sends surveys to staff to check in with them

Annabel wrapped up the question for us. She said that her company has also had a very similar experience to the other panelists. At her company, they are focusing on engaging their employees

“Lots of surveys, lots of feedback, It’s the employee engagement that makes a difference in terms of understanding needs,” Annabel said.  

Question #3: What do you think the workplace is going to look like in 12 months?

Annabel brought up the fact that we have a lot of opportunities in the workplace as we look ahead. With hybrid working spaces and increased flexibility, companies can strategize a plan that works for their space and staff. 

Michael said that companies have really started to focus on the “why” of the workplace. Why do we come into the office? Michael said it has to do with connection, learning and collaborating. He also said that this has an impact on workplace design. 

“So all of the future design thinking is making sure that you center the design decisions on why we come to the workplace, Michael said.  Stuart, as an employee in a global company, weighed in on the future of the workplace, saying that he sees a future of hybrid working.

“I’m optimistic with the modern workplaces that many of us have created in recent times,’ Stuart said.

Question #4: How has confidentiality taken a turn in the post-COVID work environment?

Stuart weighed in first by talking about the difference between confidentiality and privacy. A lot of employees in the finance industry tend to think they have to keep every conversation and document confidential. 

Stuart said that it is especially important for younger employees to understand the importance of confidentiality when it is necessary. 

Jose said that Teachers Mutual Bank has had similar experiences as Stuart. He said that it is part of their onboarding to teach their staff about the importance of confidentiality, especially in a hybrid working environment

Question #5: How do you plan for a future that is still evolving? What challenges are you facing and how are you overcoming them?

Annabel said that her company is focusing on flexibility. As far as workspace design goes, they are looking at ways to get multiple uses out of certain spaces

“Our thought process has been, ‘How can we get more from the spaces we have?’ and really just thinking very hard about every space, in terms of how we can adapt for different uses,” Annabel said. 

Michael added to what Annabel said in terms of flexibility is key to the workspace, including in terms of its design. He said adopting a flexible workspace gives you an opportunity to grow, or move. 

Question #6: How is the human experience going to change or evolve in our hybrid workspaces? 

Jose started off this discussion with his firm’s experience. He said that it’s important to communicate and collaborate across different backgrounds and experiences

“The pollination across different genders, different experiences, and different background enriches our culture and it’s what we’re trying to work really hard on at the moment,” Jose said. 

Stuart brought up the idea that firms need to “dial up the fun” in the office. He talked about the importance of giving employees a reason to come into the office. Including just offering them the opportunity for human connection. 

“We’re giving the people a reason to come into the office. Just providing an opportunity for people to reconnect social piece so important to us at the moment for the employee experience,” Stuart said. 

Question #7: How are firms dealing with staff members who do not want to return to the office?

Annabel said that she has personally dealt with this at her organization and that the key to solving the problem is through flexibility. Specifically, her firm has adopted a hybrid model which has been widely accepted in her organization. 

“We’ve actually done a lot of surveys and research and it’s actually showing that the hybrid model is really well accepted and driving the highest engagement,” Annabel said. 

Michael talked about the behavioral changes that his firm has seen. He used the example of some employees joining meetings virtually, rather than in person. He reiterated that flexibility is important, so that staff who want human connection can still get that

Question #8: There has always been a connection between physical property, HR, and IT. What’s changing inside your firms, as far as communication and collaboration between property, HR, and IT?

Stuart started off the conversation by discussing the importance of all three departments working together. He talked about the need for a cohesive strategy. He said that in his firm, all three areas are working together on a “future of work” strategy.

Jose agreed with Stuart on the importance of all three departments working together. Especially as we move forward in this post-pandemic environment. He talked about the fact that there are some roles that simply cannot work remotely, and that IT, Property, and HR are currently working on a strategy to figure out a designation for each role in the organization. 

Annabel talked about tweaks in technology that her firm will be adopting. She also talked about finding better ways to communicate and collaborate with these other areas. 


It was great to hear industry experts discuss the future of the banking and finance industry in Australia and globally.

Watch our full video recording to hear the second poll question, hear audience questions, and listen to the rapid-fire session. Watch the full video recording here.

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