A financial innovator breaks down barriers in their workplace

NatWest Ventures needed a space to incubate innovation while remaining compliant in a tightly regulated industry

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The challenge: traditional offices can put up barriers between teams

With the emergence of everything from competitor banks to fintech disruptors, the financial services landscape looks very different than it did just a few years ago. NatWest Ventures, which builds and scales standalone digital businesses on behalf of NatWest bank, was created in response to exponential changes in technology and today’s business demands. 

The agile Ventures group, made up of six businesses brought together under one portfolio, incubates ideas and scales up new digital businesses on behalf of the bank. As such, it needed a workplace that would incubate that innovation—and a conventional office wasn’t going to cut it.

“We’re building things quicker than anyone’s ever built them in NatWest,” says Andy Ellis, head of NatWest Ventures. “We need everyone to work together. You can’t do that in a traditional environment where you’ve got barriers and borders. You need a [space] that says, ‘Can do, we’re open.’”

NatWest team members are able to utilize the common areas for casual meetings or breakout sessions. Photograph courtesy of Vic Adamson

With Ventures growing at breakneck speed, being able to attract a diverse pool of talent was a necessity—and its workspace had to work harder to recruit the best people. “It doesn’t matter how many times you say, ‘We’re different than the rest of the bank,’” says Kate Litler, COO of NatWest Ventures. “A traditional bank building doesn’t give off those vibes.” 

That’s why the group decided to have their headquarters in a WeWork location. “Being in a WeWork space is a physical demonstration of how we’re trying to do things differently,” Litler says. 

The solution: a secure space that invites curiosity, builds company culture, and enhances collaboration

Ventures moved into a private floor of WeWork 8 Devonshire Square in London, which Ellis describes as “a transparent, high-energy environment.” Choosing the campus-like Devonshire Square—which includes three WeWork buildings as well as other businesses, cafés, and shops nestled around a historic square—has given the business an unparalleled sense of community. 

Within their private space, WeWork and NatWest Ventures worked together to create a flexible floor plan that houses numerous spots for spontaneous breakout sessions, informal meetings, and small group gatherings. This cuts down on the number of large meetings clogging up people’s calendars and allows them to be more productive, collaborating with the right people exactly when they need to. 

The workspace design and culture gives the Ventures team the freedom to test and learn new innovative technologies, drive collaboration, and support fast-paced acceleration of ideas.

The new location has the added bonus of being mere minutes away from NatWest and the NatWest Group. As Litler puts it, “We’ve got the best of both worlds. We’re away from the mothership, but we can pop back when we need to—and our key stakeholders can come and see what we’re doing.” 

In customizing the space to their needs, some requirements were nonnegotiable for the bank—and WeWork fulfilled them all. “Compliance is not a nice-to-have in banking. It’s a must-do,” explains Ellis. “WeWork was able to deliver what we needed from a security point of view—be that tech security or actual, physical, property security.” 

The result: a collaborative space for the brightest talent

The new WeWork space is an environment that people want to be in, says Litler, and it’s helping NatWest attract top talent across tech and financial services.  

Kate Litler, COO of NatWest Ventures. Photograph courtesy of Vic Adamson

With all the teams on one floor in an adaptable configuration, colleagues immediately began to learn from one another’s successes and failures. “[Our] setup has really enhanced collaboration,” Litler says. 

“Collaborative environments that are both fun to be in and promote productivity are here to stay,” Ellis concludes. “You want to work somewhere like this.”

Key highlights:

  • Occupies an entire floor at 8 Devonshire Square in London
  • Complies with physical and digital security requirements for the financial services industry
  • Increased productivity through higher employee engagement  
  • Enhanced employee collaboration due to the addition of flexible spaces
  • Situated very close to the NatWest Group headquarters, which allows Ventures to develop its own culture yet have stakeholders check in regularly 
  • Helped attract talent, particularly in tech

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