From Open-plan offices to FinTech and regulation: Four ways the City is changing

Jessica Morris
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Open-plan offices are becoming increasingly popular (Source: Getty)

The City will face a number of opportunities, as well as a few adversities, in the years to come according to a new report by published by the City of London Corporation.

Here's a quick round-up of the main changes:

Rise of the open-plan office

The rise in flexible working, technological changes and cost pressures are driving a trend in the UK towards collaborative workspaces and an open-plan layout.

Some say it increases collaboration as well as the ability of managers to supervise lower level employees, however others argue that it increases distractions and can actually harm employees' productivity.

Architects are increasingly designing workplaces with employees' health and productivity in mind, such as 22 Bishopsgate (previously referred to as the Pinnacle).

"Technically advanced with care for people at the heart of its strategy and taking new ways of working as its essence, the building will assist personnel to feel motivated and earn its place as the finest working environment in Europe," Sir Stuart Lipton, whose company owns the development, has said.

Open-plan work spaces in the style of Old Street's Silicon Roundabout are all the rage but these aren't always compatible with the work demands of banks and law firms in the City. This is due to the high levels of concentration some tasks require, as well as the confidentiality issues on certain deals.

"[Yet] Cameron McKenna (CMS), is making a forward-thinking change to an open-plan set-up in their new offices, and is one of the first major law firms in the City to make such a move. Another firm that has recently made this change is Addleshaw Goddard," the report said.

But technology creates threats

Technology is something of a double-edged sword for the City: while the ease of communication bolsters international business opportunities, it also presents a number of challenges.

The sheer size of some financial services firms, particularly major banks, means that they'll struggle to upgrade their IT systems to the standard clients expect. Additionally, the creation of more digital channels can make these businesses harder to manage.

"Big data" is another cause for concern. One study suggests that the continuing need to put more data into IT systems with bad processes could cause systems to break down. Think an RBS-style technical glitch, which caused 600,000 payments to go missing a few months ago.

Some say technological innovations such as Apple Pay pose a huge threat to financial services firms as "tech giants shape customer expectations [because] they have already tapped into the ‘experience economy’ with the products they offer".

However, FinTech is a boon for banks, because it lets them form partnerships with the so-called "disruptors". This lets banks update their IT systems, meet an increasingly demanding regulatory environment and offer customers a range of attractive add-ons.

As does increasing regulation

It's no secret financial services firms must navigate an increasingly complex regulatory environment, and as this is a trend that looks set to continue. This means it's important companies have they right individuals on board.

Regulatory roles were the most in demand from recruiters last year, and Robert Walters forecasts that regulatory reporting and policy skills will be in demand throughout 2015.

"Chief compliance officers need to be able to demonstrate that they know the business and understand the strategy, enabling them to be a trusted senior adviser on the board," the report said.

"As with IT, regulatory and compliance employees need to be fully integrated within the company’s core strategy, as without adequate systems and controls in place in financial services companies, they would not be able to function as efficient businesses."

Flying the flag for FinTech

London must nurture its budding FinTech industry so that it can compete fully on an international stage.

"London is the global centre of financial services and a hub for technology, which means that there is an enormous pool of talent here to develop products, implement compliance policy and efficiently sell new products," said the founder of one FinTech company, which recently raised £40m from venture capitalists.

"There is also a substantial platform of willing investors, and existing financial services companies that, as has been discussed, partner with FinTech companies to find mutually beneficial outcomes."

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