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ASB’s high tech office breaks workplace traditions

ASB’s high tech office breaks workplace traditions

ASB’s new head office environment means employees can work anywhere, with the device of their choice, and printers are often on respite. CIO New Zealand takes a tour of North Wharf in Auckland’s Wynyard Quarter.

North Wharf is a stunning building towards Auckland’s waterfront, with a structure mirroring Auckland’s volcanic cones and lighthouses. “It is designed to be very visually diverse, very much like a village concept,” says Bergin.

There are two buildings joined by a glazed multi-level walkway over Te Wero Lane. It has a total of 18,000 square meters over six floors, with each floor larger than a standard rugby pitch. Aluminium louvres arranged in a pattern of fin and leaves in front of the north of the building deflect heat and light without obstructing the view of Auckland Harbour.

At the entrance to the building is the state of the art Innovation Lab. Here, customers can perform all regular banking functions they have come to expect at any ASB branch. The laboratory has a foreign exchange desk and a 24-hour ATM. Noticeably missing are paper brochures or traditional teller counters. Instead, customers can use a raft of interactive technology designed to help them explore new ways of banking, says Bergin.

Related: Inside ASB’sInnovation Lab: A bank branch without tellers and print brochures.

There are gesture-based, interactive 103-inch plasma screens operated by Microsoft Kinect motion sensors. Customers can navigate through digital brochures, real-time rates and videos using gestures and without touching the screen.

Some of the technologies in the Innovation Lab are prototypes like the touch-enabled ATM – one of the first of its kind to be installed in the Southern Hemisphere. This prototype will allow ASB to explore merging the traditionally separate ATM, Internet, and teller-based platforms.

Inside the building, the stairs and lifts are positioned in a way everyone can see what is happening, and none of them can be found in corners, says Jones. “When you go down, you can see who is moving into the building and what is happening.”

The help desk – called iConnect - is likewise an open counter, where staff can borrow accessories for their smartphones and laptops.

iConnect: Russell Jones checks out the help desk, where employees can borrow accessories for their smartphones and laptops.
iConnect: Russell Jones checks out the help desk, where employees can borrow accessories for their smartphones and laptops.

The building has earned a five-star rating from the New Zealand Green Building Council. Integrated technology links light, security, communication channels and climate control to maximise their use while minimising energy consumption.

North Wharf, built by Fletcher with architects BVN and Jasmax, has a five-star rating from the New Zealand Green Building council.
North Wharf, built by Fletcher with architects BVN and Jasmax, has a five-star rating from the New Zealand Green Building council.

Bergin says the system, for instance, pushes fresh air into the building and displaces hot air out on top, a “chimney effect”. The full fresh air displacement system is a healthier option than the traditional airconditioning system.

Jones observes people tend to work on the right hand side of the building where the sun is in the morning during the winter. It is also warmer in the upper level of the building so people go there during the cold season, and people who want cooler areas to work will go downstairs.

Read more: Movers and shakers: NZTech has new CEO

The initial business driver for the move was the end of lease for the 31-storey ASB Bank Centre in the central business district. Options were explored, says Jones, around whether ASB will stay in the building or build something new, and if yes, where it will be and the format.

Jones says CBA was already doing something on activity-based working at the time. “It all came together.”

Jones says there were three tracks for work: technology, people and property. “Clearly a lot of the upfront work was in the property area.”

ABW is not new, and Bergin cites some of the buildings that have inspired the concept for North Wharf were the Interpolis insurance company and the Microsoft office in the Netherlands. Bergin says ASB officials visited similar these buildings, including the Macquarie Bank in Australia.

Next: Paperless office? Try ‘paper independent’

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Tags CIO roleMicrosoftfinanceenvironmenttransformationnew technologyCommonwealth Bank of Australiaasbconsumerisation of technologyrussell jonesCIO100James Berginactivity based workingInterpolis Netherlands

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