Occupying Wall Street

Investor Analytics is moving back to the Wall Street area.  We’ve taken the entire 25th floor of 55 Broad Street, just a few doors from the NY Stock Exchange, to serve as our corporate headquarters.  For the past several years, we’ve had an office in New Jersey and a small office near Grand Central, which made for convenient meetings in NYC.  But we’ve expanded a lot in the past year – we’re up to 35 people – and we’ve needed a single space where we can all work together, where we can meet clients and business partners, and where we can continue to attract top talent to join our firm.

Floorplan of the new headquarters (click to enlarge)

When we started looking for space last Spring we focused on midtown Manhattan, especially near Penn Station, and on parts of Jersey City.  But lower Manhattan was just too compelling – Commercial rent near Wall Street is about half of what it is in midtown.  And landlords in the Financial District pay for office build-outs (that means walls, carpets, doors, etc.) and give rent-free periods of several months that midtown and Jersey City landlords just don’t offer.  Besides, there’s a vibe to downtown that we like.  It’s the oldest part of the city and it’s steeped in history going back to 1624 when it was founded as New Amsterdam, and it’s never lost its Dutch roots: commerce and tolerance.

Just blocks from our new office is where Washington was inaugurated and where Nathan Hale – of “I regret that I have but one life to give for my country” fame – was hanged during the Revolutionary War.  Alexander Hamilton’s grave is a few blocks away, as is the house on Maiden Lane where he, as the first Treasury Secretary, Madison and Vice President Thomas Jefferson met over diner when they decided that Hamilton would support the move of the capital from NYC to a newly created city between Virginia and Maryland in exchange for Jefferson’s support for the federal government assuming the states’ debts from the war.  And just a stone’s throw from the office is Fraunces Tavern, where Washington said goodbye to the officers of the victorious Continental Army.  The area has always been a vibrant commercial center, and today just about every major financial institution is within walking distance.  There’s an energy here that you don’t find anywhere else – and it pushes you to do your best.  And in addition to all financial professionals by day, the area has a growing residential population so the restaurants are full even at night.

Having everyone in one space will make IA not only more efficient but downright better.  IA employs a number of different types of people: quants, or financial engineers, who build the models; programmers who develop the interfaces and infrastructure; client service people who work directly with our customers resolving issues; risk analysts who run the system, quality assurance people who test everything we do and salespeople who, well, sell.  Having them all in one place will allow us to get things done like never before.  Instead of coordinating projects and client deliverables by email, phone and webex, we’ll be able to gather in one of two conference rooms to discuss the issues face to face.  Instead of waiting for someone to call back with an answer, that person is a corridor away.  Instead of zig-zagging from office to office, we’ll always know where each of us will be.  Gone are the days of  asking each other “where are you tomorrow?”
The new office is designed specifically for us and how we work.  First, there’s plenty of natural sunlight flooding the open areas.  There’s only one workspace that doesn’t have direct view of a window, but that’s for salespeople who I want out out of the office selling anyway (an old boss of mine always gave the salespeople the most uncomfortable furniture – his way of telling them they shouldn’t spend much time in the office).  We’re on the 25th floor, and the building is set-back far enough that you can see for quite a distance away.  We even have several views of the Hudson and East Rivers.  Each office has a glass sidelight on its wall to let more light through, and my office and the large conference room have complete glass walls to send a strong message: come in.

I subscribe to the idea that programmers need quiet concentration to get their work done.  The long corridor with all those offices is mainly for the quants and developers, who will be in the quietest parts of the floor.  They even have their own meeting and white-board area for brainstorming sessions.  I also subscribe to the idea that workstations should encourage collaboration and be open.  I’ve never liked cubes or sharp corners, and I don’t want people working inside boxes.  Instead, the IA workstations have 120-degree edges and they’re curved together into the interesting patterns you see in the diagram (click to enlarge).  Every workstation position has a rolling cabinet with a colored cushion to give a nice splash to the office.  As part of planning, we examined how many regular 90-degree cubes would fit in the space as compared to these ‘dog-bone’ shaped workstations.  Surprisingly, we gave up only one seat to have this much more interesting and open arrangement.  Proverbial no-brainer.

We made the north-east corner into a common gathering area.  The furniture in the diagram isn’t what we really ordered – I’m leaving it as a surprise for everyone in the office for when they finally see it.  All I’ll say is that people are going to want to spent time there.  The space will be used for lunch, small impromptu meetings and for “town hall” style meetings.  Now that we’re all together, our weekly BBL (Brown Bag Lunch) meetings, where we learn about updates from different departments, will be easier to hold and much more effective.

Most importantly, the office will have whiteboards almost everywhere.  Collaboration is key for us, and sharing ideas so everyone sees them is important.  Whiteboards aren’t just for writing during meetings or conversations: our whiteboards are magnetic, so print-outs and diagrams can be hung up and displayed.  Project plans, to-do-lists, design plans, etc. will all be in public view.  It not only helps people keep track of projects, it’s also a regular reminder for everyone of how interconnected our work is and how many other people are depending on each person’s contributions.  By revealing all this updated information, it also helps prevent nasty surprises.

We’ve been working on this move for quite some time and everyone associated with IA will benefit from being together.  Come Monday, we’re occupying Wall Street.

One Response to Occupying Wall Street

  1. Sri says:

    Congratulations Damian on the new office. Have been following your articles for a few months now and there have been very few times that I have disagreed with your views. Keep up the great work, much appreciated.

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