In the heart of Geneva’s financial district is the grand Signature, 5 Quartiers des Banques, a new coworking space from IWG brand Signature, which promises its users a modern serviced office experience with a luxurious twist.
Dating back to 1877, the former ING bank has been reinvented to house 69 offices of various sizes, all chicly designed and surrounded by stunning contemporary art supplied by renowned gallery Pace. The 3,500sq m centre also includes a gym, a cinema, a stylish bar and lounge, and a restaurant by Michelin-starred chef Philippe Chevrier, Monsieur Bouillon.
The man behind the innovative concept is Philippe Peress – a Geneva-based investor whose group (P Peress Group) and the J Safra Sarasin group together bought the IWG master franchise in Switzerland in 2018.
This latest Swiss centre took 14 months to complete. “I had the vision of creating this multifaceted work environment where, if I went there, I wouldn’t want to go home,” Philippe Peress explains. “I think we’ve succeeded in turning a 19th-century building and restored its charm. I think we have created a centre that I would actually dream of working in.”
A secure, safe and friendly space
Unsurprisingly, the centre has seen huge demand since it opened its doors in September 2020, with occupancy at 60% after just one month. From high-profile technology companies to biotech firms, there’s an eclectic mix of businesses clients – something Peress says he’s particularly proud of. He believes it’s a result of the inspiring environment he’s tried to create through the building’s design.
As the owner of Quartier des Banques, Peress first came into contact with IWG as a landlord, renting the building to the company. After getting to know many of the senior management team, including CEO and founder Mark Dixon and Paulo Diaz (CEO Southern Europe-Brazil & Co-Head of Network Development), he discovered that their vision of the business aligned with many of his own views.
In particular, they shared a belief that derisking and flexibility were going to be vitally important to employees and employers in the future – a view that proved to be prescient in light of the impact of Covid-19 this year.
Speaking of operations today, Peress reflects: “We wanted to address the new challenges, where employers are concerned that their employees are at home and unable to be productive. We want to help their businesses with office environments across the country. We want to give people a secure, safe and friendly space to work in.”
He adds: “We should never forget that, whatever the new version of ‘working life’ is, the importance of social activity – particularly spontaneous social activity – for creativity and innovation, is very important. And our environments can provide that space.”
Getting things done
Of course, achieving this vision for Peress’ coworking space would have been impossible without his confidence in the IWG brand and the support offered to him as a franchisee. Peress says that, despite having 3,300 centres around the world, the global flexspace leader’s ethos of hard work, commitment, dedication and an ambition to exceed expectations is clear in every level of involvement during their partnership. Most importantly, he says, IWG cares.
“I always say, give me people who care rather than one PhD and I’ll build you a successful company,” he says. “No matter who you engage with at IWG, they all care and are there to get things done. As a franchisee we may have some demands and requests from them, but most of the time they are ahead of us. They know what they need to do to run this business well.”
Despite a “soul-searching” year in which Peress says his group has had to “put on our boxing gloves” and do what was necessary to protect the business, he admits that the pandemic has been a wake-up call, forcing them to really focus on the vision for developing the business. With a new space just opened in Geneva and another in Zurich, he is optimistic about the brand’s future in Switzerland, where IWG already has more than 50 centres.
He says a flexspace franchise remains a very good investment, even during these uncertain times – though notes that its success all depends on who is running it and who your partner is.
“With IWG, the teams understand that, in order for us all to succeed, we need to keep pushing to exceed expectations – whether that’s in terms of technology or product offering,” he says.
“We need to exceed expectations when it comes to being a service provider. Even during this period, the focus has always been on: where do we need to be and how do we get there?”