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ABN Amro to sell head office as it focuses on enabling remote working

Dutch bank is selling its head office and redesigning another facility to facilitate increased home working

ABN Amro is redesigning one of its facilities to support the increased adoption of remote working and help reduce energy consumption.

The bank announced plans to cut 2,800 jobs – 15% of its workforce – sell off its headquarters in the Zuidas business district of Amsterdam and redevelop another office in the city to support remote working.

As a result of the measures, ABN Amro is aiming to slash €700m from annual costs, which it predicts will be €4.7bn by 2024. Part of this will see the bank change the way it uses buildings.

“We will redevelop one of our locations in Amsterdam into [an energy-efficient] workplace designed to facilitate the trend of remote working. Alongside this, we will sell our head office building and lease back part of it,” said the bank.

ABN Amro is also continuing its digital transformation, according to its latest announcement, with plans for around 90% of high-volume processes to be digitised end-to-end by 2024. “We are a personal bank in the digital age, engraining the customer experience. We deliver a convenient daily banking experience increasingly digitally,” it said.

The Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns across the world forced businesses to pull out all the stops to enable staff to work from home. It also instigated a major rethink of future working methods.

For example, early on in the pandemic, Barclays CEO Jes Staley said office blocks packed with staff, such as its own Canary Wharf building, might not be needed in the future. “The notion of putting 7,000 people in a building may be a thing of the past,” he said.

A few months later, however, Staley said Barclays wanted to get its people back into some offices, with “a major presence in places like Canary Wharf” kept on. He said the reaction to the coronavirus lockdown had been a learning curve for the bank and had helped it to understand how a “dynamic work environment” could operate.

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Tushar Morzaria, finance director at Barclays, recently said: “We have some very large offices in different parts of the country [and] we’re not sure how they’ll be utilised prospectively. We haven’t made any decisions on this – I think these are very long-term issues, and we want to be thoughtful and deliberate.”

Barclays is not alone in this view. In June, Denmark’s Danske Bank said sending thousands of staff from the office to work from home would have a lasting impact on how work was structured and conducted.

“This experience has proved that there is so much untapped potential in the virtual workspace that we need to explore and use to create a more attractive and flexible workplace, while still maintaining the inspiration, energy and social connection that comes with belonging to a physical team and environment,” said Danske Bank CEO Chris Vogelzang.

A recent KPMG and Financial Services Skills Commission (FSSC) survey found that half of workers in the UK’s financial services sector want to continue to be able to work from home for at least part of the week when the Covid-19 pandemic passes. It also found that 26% of staff want to work from home permanently and 13% want to relocate.

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