November 22, 2022
4 minutes

Real estate: Telecommuting is melting the square footage of bank headquarters

Faced with the generalization of telecommuting and the reduced occupation of premises by their employees, banks are reducing their real estate in the Paris region, with the prospect of making considerable savings.

Real estate: Telecommuting is melting the square footage of bank headquarters

In the banking and insurance sectors, employees eligible for remote working are over-represented. Faced with this radical change in the organization of working methods, companies are working to reduce their office space. 

The objective is to make savings. BPCE (Banque Populaire Caisses d'Epargne), which has overhauled its real estate policy, expects to reduce its operating costs by 30% to 40%.  

This week, France's second-largest banking player inaugurated two office towers in southeast Paris, consolidating the group's strategy of slimming down its real estate holdings. Thanks in particular to the switch to flex-office, the company is preparing to divide the number of buildings in the Paris region by three.

The delivery of the Duo towers, near Ivry-sur-Seine, has enabled the mutualist group, which includes the Banques Populaires and the Caisses d'Epargne, to reduce the number of buildings in the Paris region from 28 to 10.

By the beginning of 2023, these 90,000 square meters of brand new space will be able to accommodate 9,000 employees, explained the chairman of the group's board of directors, Laurent Mignon, during a visit with the press before the summer.

Flex-office to reduce real estate costs

But not at the same time, since the towers designed by architect Jean Nouvel will only have 6,000 workstations, all in "flex office" except for the trading rooms and workstations adapted for employees with disabilities.

With this mode of organization, which is intended to be more collaborative, the employee does not have a reserved space. A locker allows them to store their personal belongings and dedicated spaces (meeting rooms, "bubbles"...) to isolate themselves.

The rhythm of telework - 10 days per month - as well as the recurrent reasons for absences - vacations, sick leave - allow the mutual bank to apply this ratio of places per employee.

The savings thus generated by BPCE on operating expenses are in the order of 30% to 40%.

Real estate reduction: the savings generated by BPCE on operating expenses are in the order of 30% to 40%.

The suburbs yes, La Défense no

"The use of telecommuting is more consistent in Ile-de-France than in the provinces, especially for large groups and service jobs," Loïc Hervé, deputy managing director in charge of the real estate division at Perial Asset Management, a company specializing in real estate fund management, explained to AFP.

Banks check these boxes perfectly, which is why they are "all thinking about the subject," says Marine Galiana, head of strategy and transformation at the consulting firm Deloitte.

"For good management, these banks and insurance companies will not keep more than 50% of their positions vacant," adds his colleague Bruno Amsellem, who is in charge of real estate, particularly at headquarters and in call centers.

France's leading bank, BNP Paribas, with its many historical locations in central Paris, is gradually reducing its stock and transferring its employees to less expensive areas, such as Pantin, in Seine-Saint-Denis.

On the insurance side, CNP has decided to move from its historic premises above the Montparnasse train station to a new headquarters under construction in Issy-les-Moulineaux, in the Hauts-de-Seine department.

No one is rushing to set up shop in the declining business district of La Défense, where it is now customary to ask one's landlord for between one and four months' free rent per year.

Even Societe Generale, the area's largest employer, chose the Val-de-Marne and Fontenay-sous-Bois to locate most of its IT and technical functions starting in 2016.

A question of generations 

However, French banks are keeping their prestigious buildings in the center of Paris.

"It is undeniably necessary for these large banks to keep a showcase" for the needs of its high-end customers, emphasizes Mr. Amsellem, like the premises of Société Générale, boulevard Haussmann, or the Postal Bank, rue du Louvre.

When the American investment bank Goldman Sachs is looking for a bigger place in Paris, it is typically this kind of property that it is looking for. In May, it finally set down its suitcases a stone's throw from the Arc de Triomphe.

Start-ups in the sector, on the other hand, are moving away from it. For example, the financial services company Qonto, one of the French unicorns (these new technology companies valued at a billion dollars or more) has chosen to set up shop at the foot of Montmartre.

She turned to U.S. shared office giant WeWork to provide a space "designed to meet ever-changing work patterns, with more flexibility and spaces that facilitate interactions between employees," she says.

The Editor

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