Shades of blurrrghhk
A few weeks ago, I walked through a part of London I don’t know well as I strolled from the Standard Life offices in The Gherkin to Clerkenwell. For those that know The City, I was walking via Finsbury Circus heading west past Barbican.
The roads I found my way around, apart from a detour when I relied on my sense of direction rather than my iphone, are where the London design community calls home. Each office strives to stand out from the business next door by using art, colour, structure and furniture in a fresh way. They are shouting their creativity to anyone who walks past and they look like fun places to work.
At each turn there were exciting approaches to decorating reception areas, meeting rooms and open plan offices. Some are impressive, some quirky, some… interesting. These businesses know their customers and understand that a boring office will not dazzle potential and existing clients. These businesses are emphasising what they do by surprising visitors from the moment that they walk through the door.
Financial services is a serious business, but too many offices are still too close to being an unwelcoming homogenous blurrrghhk, with some finding an impressive level of blandness. I’m sure that it’s not helping to inspire clients.
I have visited hundreds of adviser firms in recent years and I arrive in a beige reception and it can be a little depressing. If we use a meeting room, the television on the wall used for client presentations, looks very professional. It’s probably the newest thing in the room by a decade. The table, carpet, walls and art (if you are lucky) are usually the same blurrrghhk. These are not uplifting spaces, so what will clients recall, subconsciously or otherwise, from the place where clever financial plans are constructed and realised?
I’m no interior designer, but I know that it doesn’t take much to paint walls, add some art, invest in some furniture and perhaps even buy flowers.
Most of the time, I sit in grey offices with certificates on the walls. It’s been proven that a quality working environment improves productivity, yet some could easily be the film set of a cold war thriller set in East Berlin. I’m always thankful that I will see daylight again in a couple of hours.
Financial services has moved away from salesmen in an industry to educated financial planning professionals using cutting edge technology with substantial and engaging strategies. Perhaps we can look to the designers and also inject a little colour?
At a previous employer, the boss said that advisers had to “wow clients” and everything they say, produce and do has some kind of impact. So whether it’s the structure of a meeting, the layout of reports, style of writing, quality of literature and website, it all combines to represent the business. As do the offices.
Over the years, only one firm has blown my mind with it’s originality of design. Thankfully, an increasing number of adviser firms are improving the client spacebut there is still some way to go.
This is all extremely subjective of course, all design and art is and you may think I’m being overly critical. As you know your clients very well, why not consider what they may like and perhaps improve the space where they spend time with you? It might make a small difference and, call me selfish, but I may then see less beige in my life.
…To those that I visit on a regular basis, I’m not talking about your offices of course!
[First published on Linkedin]