Opening a new Main Office is once in a generation

Amazon sent shock waves throughout America with a 2017 announcement they’d be opening a second headquarters outside their home base of Seattle. City after city took part in the pitch to incentivize the company to choose their town. The fanfare involved in the search was such that Saturday Night Live spoofed it. Plenty impressive.

While banks and credit unions may not cause a similar hullabaloo when announcing plans for a new main office, it is a very big deal in its own right. The opening of a new main office may happen only once in a generation. In fact, it’s such a rare occurrence that if anyone on the bank or credit union’s team has experience in this, they are likely the exception.

Main Office vs. a Branch opening

Opening a new branch, and justifying that decision, is territory we’ve covered before here and here. The main office, however, is a journey all its own.

The time to plan and implement a facility solution tens of thousands of square feet, involving multiple floors, and technology upgrades, can be daunting. What’s more, decisions on how to optimize your workplace floor plan, to help attract new talent and efficiency can be overwhelming for a C-suite that hasn’t done this before.

That very inexperience leads many financial institutions to develop too much space, or too little. Because businesses are fueled primarily by people (and banking businesses even more so), lack of forecasting an accurate headcount can cause real headaches.

What’s your timeline?

So, what’s truly needed to help guide a team through 6-8 months of planning and 10-12 months building a new main office? Let’s walk through it together in our Main Office series, “The Four Corners of the Main Office.”

Corner 1: Begin with the End in Mind

Sound familiar: Habit #1 from Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Successful People states that private victory comes before public victory. What he means is, you must internalize what you offer before you can offer your services to others. What works for humans also works for financial institutions: planning the main office starts with thinking long-term and putting things in the right order.

Most financial institutions will end up with a solution that addresses the next 5 to 10 years, but they must plan for even longer term. What will the business need for the next 10 to 20 years? Is a crystal ball required? It sounds like a lot to ask, but break it down into a few key areas and it’s not quite so daunting.

  1. Planning for Future Growth – few financial institutions have the ability to build for 20 years, but the next wave is coming, so it must be planned for. Site considerations for expansion are key in this step. (Site Selection article.) The site must have the ability to accommodate future additions, building expansion, and flexibility when growth does occur.
  2. Planning for Flexibility – even when planning long-term, a built-in contingency plan should be considered. What if a better facility presents itself in the future? If the bank is sold, will the building be liquidated? What if the business has to move? What if the bank or credit union is acquired by someone else? Flexible, long-term solutions provide the business options for the future that maximizes the value of the investments made today.
  3. Business Case – much of the above is about future possibilities. However, the need for short-to-mid-term solutions are the likely pieces that will be implemented first. So, if first things are first, then the institution has to understand and quantify the business case for the solution. They must say to themselves, “if we grow from here to there, what do we need and how much is it going to cost?”

Now that you understand the first corner, you are probably ready for the other three. This is the first post in a four part series that will roll out over the next few weeks. As you wait, we’ve written other articles about main office in our blog, so check it out.

We also have main office videos of other banks and credit unions who have walked in your shoes.

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