Insurer Aviva Seeks New London Headquarters to Cut Post-Pandemic Office Footprint

By and | March 5, 2021

Aviva Plc is searching for a new City of London headquarters as the UK insurer prepares to slash its office footprint.

The firm started looking for new offices in the financial district early last year, but shelved its plans once the pandemic hit, according to people familiar with the matter. It will now resume the search, but seek a smaller building than originally envisaged, the people said, asking not to be identified as the plans are private.

The office hunt coincides with Aviva’s plans to cut up to 30% of its 1.7 million square feet (158,000 square meters) of office space across the UK as more employees work from home, according to an analyst presentation Thursday. The cuts are roughly equivalent to the entire office space in London’s Gherkin skyscraper, and should be made by the end of this year.

Aviva is looking to move its City of London base ahead of its lease expiry at St. Helens, the 23-story tower it partly occupies between the iconic Cheesegrater and Gherkin towers, the people said.

“We remain committed to St. Helens, it is our headquarters and we have a lease on the building until 2024,” a spokeswoman said by email, declining to comment on the potential office move.

The insurer joins several other large UK firms planning to cut office space as they anticipate a long-term shift toward more home working, even after the pandemic subsides. HSBC Holdings Plc is eyeing cuts of up to 40% and Lloyds Banking Group Plc is also rethinking its requirements.

Aviva plans to maintain a presence in each of the 14 UK cities and towns where it currently has offices, but will combine or shrink some locations, the spokeswoman said. The changes do not involve job cuts and will purely reflect the increase in home working.

“We will use our office space very differently in the future to the way we use it today,” Chief Executive Officer Amanda Blanc said on an earnings call with reporters Thursday. “It is going to be a lot more about collaboration rather than it is about rows of desks.”

Blanc, who took over as Aviva CEO last July, has wasted no time in streamlining the insurer. The firm on Thursday announced sales of its Italian units, the latest in a series of divestments that have generated more than 5 billion pounds ($7 billion) in cash proceeds.

Photograph: Aviva’s head office in London. Photo credit: Aviva

Topics Carriers COVID-19 London

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