The new staples of office life go beyond hand sanitizer and air filters. For some Wall Street banks, they involve natural light, lots of plants and cold brew on tap, too.

As return-to-office plans accelerate—with hopes they will stick this time—many bosses are embracing new setups and perks meant to evoke the comforts of home. At Mizuho Americas, Bank of Montreal and Deutsche Bank AG, the changes have gone even further: New York workers came back from the pandemic to entirely different buildings.

The moves, while planned well before Covid hit, gave the banks an opportunity to revamp space for new types of work, particularly as each company embraces hybrid policies allowing many employees to be remote at least part of the week. From pool tables to open seating, their arrangements show how once-stodgy Wall Street offices are turning into a shared collaborative space more reminiscent of Silicon Valley’s tech digs.

“There’s a huge emphasis on wellness, air filtration, the idea of natural light as part of the environment, the ability to see the sun move through the sky in the course of the day,” said Mary Ann Tighe, chief executive officer of the New York tri-state region for brokerage CBRE Group Inc. “These values have been moved to the top of the hierarchy for office space among financial-service firms.”

It’s a trend likely to continue: In January, Citigroup Inc. said it would overhaul its London tower to “reflect the changing nature of work,” with emphasis on shared spaces and new technology.

For banks, revamped office space isn’t just about providing extra perks for employees. They’re in competition to retain and attract new talent—not just from other finance firms, but from tech and cryptocurrency companies as well. Cost-cutting also is a factor, with some companies simply finding ways to do more with less space.

With Covid concerns ebbing, this month stands to be a key one for New York’s efforts to bring back workers. A January survey by the Partnership for New York City found that the majority of Manhattan employers believe their daily office attendance will exceed 50% by the end of March.  Here is a look at how Mizuho, BMO and Deutsche Bank have set up their new offices as staff come back.

Mizuho Americas
Old address: 320 Park Ave.
New address: 1271 Avenue of the Americas

Mizuho relocated to its new Midtown tower—originally known as the Time & Life Building—in February 2020, just before the pandemic exploded. The move brought together the firm’s securities business, which was originally stationed at 320 Park Ave., and bankers who were just across the street at 1251 Avenue of the Americas, where the company still has some space. 

The firm gave staffers the option to return to in-person work in September. Last month, employees were told they were expected to be back, albeit with most still operating on a hybrid basis.

“There is an energy in the office and it feels more permanent this time. Lots of smiles and gatherings again in the lounges and huddle areas,” said Jerry Rizzieri, chief executive officer of Mizuho Securities USA. “Some haven’t seen each other in two years and for our new hires, it is their first time in the office.”

They’re being welcomed to cafeterias outfitted with cold brew on tap and lunch rooms that overlook the stretch of road made famous by the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Many spaces feature large works of art that allude to Mizuho’s Japanese roots. 

Each room is equipped with video conferencing technology aimed at making sure everyone, whether at home or in the office, is on a level playing field during meetings. Trading floors, which can accommodate as many as 800 people each, are even outfitted with extra benches to make space for unscheduled confabs.

“For our junior employees, we are an apprenticeship business, so face-to-face and spontaneous collaboration is great to see,” Rizzieri said.

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