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Expert Talks | Banking and Finance: Real estate strategy boost to achieve digital, workforce and ESG goals

Oct 25, 2023
Foundational shifts across the banking and finance sector are presently underway, with a transformative focus on digital, workforce and ESG priorities. Real estate portfolio performance is pivotal to powering industry priorities.

From our Thought Leader Partner, Colliers.

Foundational shifts across the banking and finance sector are presently underway, with a transformative focus on digital, workforce and ESG priorities. Real estate portfolio performance is pivotal to powering industry priorities.

Having invested significantly in technology, people and workplaces, banking and finance companies today find themselves at an inflection point. Customer expectations are evolving at speed. Digital transformation has reset workplace dynamics. Workforce needs and daily work patterns have changed. And now, the net zero urgency is real and immediate.  

Today, as banks and financial services firms rethink their future with Artificial Intelligence and next-gen technologies, integrating a diverse workforce with new ways of working, real estate plays a massive role in influencing positive business outcomes, and holds the key to powering the industry's digital, workforce and environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals.

Physical offices have a profound impact; more so on the digital transformation journey. It sets the ground for innovation and new technology adoptions - a critical imperative for players in the hyper-competitive banking and finance industry. Offices provide an absolute opportunity to ensure customer experience along with employee satisfaction and productivity, collectively contributing to the overall business performance while also pivoting climate action goals.

Powering Banks and Financial Services in achieving digital, workplace and ESG goals.

Powering Banks and Financial Services in achieving digital, workplace and ESG goals


Challenges | Technology adoption to accelerate business and workplace performance.

There's growing burden of data that businesses struggle to manage or make sense of, aside from related privacy and security concerns. Four out of five banks in Asia Pacific are increasing their technology budgets in 2023.

Opportunities | Technology enablement across portfolio workplaces with the right real estate purpose, approach and strategy. 

The opportunity to draw on tech tools and solutions is immense. From apps to enhance employee experience, to monitoring systems that provide insights into employee engagement or progress versus energy consumption targets. Real estate’s tech revolution is a game changer enabling up to 40% cost cuts.

For data monitoring, collection and having privacy issues under control Colliers, for example, has developed tools that draw on information from a variety of sources – such as lease data, headcount, occupancy census, as well as context from meeting room or employee engagement apps – to create dashboards that drive informed decisions. Customized dashboards help track real estate transactions, check new projects, equip new locations, while also creating reminders of important milestones. 

Technology that enhances workplace experience is an area of intense focus. Sensors and dynamic displays not only monitor environmental and health conditions, but also to keep employees informed on progress against targets, as a means of raising awareness and inspiring change. Tech tools to measure and reduce employees’ personal carbon footprint help create environmentally conscious communities.

State-of-the-art facilities management technologies - such as real-time desk and room bookings and seamless visitor management support smart hybrid workspaces, powering the most efficient use of offices. Ergonomically designed high-tech workstations linked with reservation systems and automated solutions, infrared motion detectors, contactless check-ins with QR codes, virus-proof break in rooms, circadian lighting, wellness facilities and advanced remote work tools create desirable employee experience.

The ability to monitor and control real estate assets remotely has profound implications on everything from employee wellness – for example real-time occupancy figures used to prevent overcrowding and encourage social distancing – to portfolio efficiency and costs, for instance by ensuring power and other utilities are shut off after work hours or channeled only where needed.


Challenges | Winning the battle for talent, employee satisfaction, wellbeing and productivity.

The widening skills gap in the financial services sector is fuelling the urgency to uncover new talent sources, driving firms to consider new or secondary locations and reimagining what the workplace can or should be. Juggling these with evolving talent needs and protocols for hybrid working is a challenge.  

Opportunities | Diverse workforce, flourishing workplace a competitive advantage.

Reimagining the role of the workplace is a business priority today. Despite the hype around remote work, physical offices will remain albeit new dynamics will change their form and function. For instance, the reduced emphasis on fixed desks to create more malleable environments that welcome a more flexible workforce, which is more conducive to collaboration, whether in-person or virtual. 

Offices need to enhance engagement and consistency of experience across locations and work environments. This is the only way to meet employee demands for both flexibility, and face-to-face time to build a sense of connection with their teams. Investment in hybrid/remote working experience can also reduce some of the challenges that come with distributed working models, such a sense of isolation or reduced productivity. Workforce analytics is crucial. 

Advancing diversity and inclusion is critical to attracting and retaining talent as well as overall performance. It means offering similar levels of infrastructure and support for very different ways of working – not just remote versus hybrid versus office, but also for workers who require quiet spaces versus those who perform best in more collaborative environments.

Health and wellness are playing a greater role in workplace strategy and design with the pandemic resetting workforce and government standards and expectations, and companies emphasizing employee well-being as a differentiator in the battle for talent.


Challenges | Race to net zero, ESG for talent development & retention.

Embedding net zero and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) principles in real estate portfolios to demonstrate progress towards ESG goals in the years ahead. Changing regulations and managing concerns among stakeholders about the organisations’ ESG credentials.

Opportunities | Driving ESG goals, with focus on technology to ensure diversity and inclusion.

From better building materials to new platforms for virtual interaction, a host of exciting solutions and practices help occupiers break new ground, whether in boosting the performance of buildings, or developing more integrated hybrid teams.

Sustainability focus from the earliest stages of planning is key and must be pursued on all fronts, including for example, incorporating green clauses into leases, monitoring recycling levels in buildings and setting stringent power consumption targets.

Locations should be carefully evaluated based on environmental and accessibility criteria from the outset. The difficulty and costs involved at a later stage in buildings that fall short of ESG standards are multiple times greater. 

It’s vital to map how time and regulatory changes may impact the viability of assets. Regulations are evolving rapidly, and changes to emissions or health standards – or even in employee expectations - can quickly make a formerly serviceable property unfit for purpose, or prohibitively expensive to maintain.

There is a sizable surge in demand for gap analysis of what needs to be done by the companies to align real estate and corporate net-zero goals. The right approach varies by industry and whether occupiers lease or own their buildings, and there are levers to be pulled accordingly to create impact.

Act where it makes sense for your organisation and be tactical. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to sustainability.

Real estate strategy boost
There is consensus among decision-makers today on the direct impact of real estate portfolio performance on the bottom line and overall business success.

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