Schroders had recognised a shift in the way businesses consume and procure workspace, as well as the role that internet connectivity played in that shift.
“Connectivity is the buzzword now; tenants want that fast connection in the workplace,” Tom explains. “It is a competitive world out there and people want to feel as connected as they can be. We need to make sure we have robust assets that meet the needs of the tenants.”
Schroders saw the potential in partnering with a communications specialist which offers fully enabled connectivity into buildings. This meant that tenants could sign up under individual contracts as required. This would eliminate the need for lengthy wayleave processes for individual tenants, thereby reducing lead times, improving occupancy rates and driving the performance of the asset.
“We won’t have tenants signing up to our buildings if they are afraid there are going to be issues with connectivity when there’s a building just down the road that is fully enabled – it’s a big marketing thing for us,” explains Tom.
Schroders was introduced to Backbone Connect in mid-2017, initially with a view to improve the Wired Certification Scores of a number of key assets. Schroders had the foresight to see that by investing in connectivity they could enable their tenants to work better, smarter, faster and more flexibly.
The Schroders team worked together with Backbone to develop a new “Connected Building” concept which would enable building managers to adapt to contemporary business expectations around building service lead times, of which connectivity was a key part.
Jourdan Rajwan, Investment Manager, looks after all Schroders Central London Assets. He met with the Backbone Connect team at the outset and agreed the Backbone service was a necessary amenity that Schroders needed to offer to its
“From our perspective running the assets and dealing with tenants on a daily basis, one of the biggest issues they suffer with is getting good quality internet connectivity into their workspaces. So, if there is a way that we as a landlord can differentiate ourselves and make their life a bit easier, it is a necessary investment into our buildings.” Jourdan says connectivity is “not yet a prerequisite in London yet, but it will be. And we want to be ahead of the game.”
In early 2018, Schroders began by testing the concept at one of its assets; Battersea Studios in SW8. The property is in an emerging location with a dynamic mix of tenants for whom connectivity is important. “Backbone had much better technical offering; they came with technical people from day one. Then, once we understood the financials around it, it was an obvious one,” says Jourdan. Tom Newman explains, “Battersea Studios has been quite a success with Backbone, because it means that businesses no longer have to spend that long period waiting to get enabled.
Having that immediate connectivity has been a real sell for us and it has worked really well.” Schroders is now using Backbone Connect to transform assets into Connected Buildings across its funds.
Annie O’Hara, Asset Manager at Schroder Real Estate is responsible for coordinating the installations of the Backbone Connect service across the multiple building locations says, “Following the success at Battersea we then started to roll out Backbone Connect’s services across ten properties initially.” She explains, “We drew up a long list of properties and Backbone gave us different options of specifications and pricing. We began where we had vacancy in the properties, where we can approach potential tenants and explain that they can be hooked up with the Internet service in a matter of days. Whilst the service is good for existing tenants, our view is this service is a marketing tool.”
Annie praises both the technical and marketing support she has received from Backbone Connect during the rollouts. “Backbone were really helpful all the way through. Most of the buildings were completed by September last year, and across the board it’s been really well received. Agents report that it has boosted the marketability of the building. Backbone Connect offers a high quality service at an attractive price. A number of existing tenants have indicated that they will explore switching providers to Backbone when their current contract comes to an end.”
Tom Newman sees the relationship continuing: “It is something we will be rolling out further.”
This is a complex decision based on:
• Building type
• The type of occupiers Schroders is trying to attract
• The location/ geography
• Tenant churn, etc.
“It has worked really well,” Tom continues. “Working with Backbone gives us connection speeds that are second to none and ensures that, for our tenants, those days of sitting there frustrated because the line keeps dropping are completely gone.”
Historically, landlords weren’t helping tenants out as they weren’t interested. Schroders have had the foresight to address this issue, and Backbone enable Schroders to do it without too much pain. It’s still not a given that landlords are doing this, but building managers should be investing in this technology before they start to lose out.
Senior Tenant Engagement Manager at Backbone Connect, Henry Ng, says; “Our work with Schroders offers another tool within their kit to compete against the vast choice in office space across the UK. The development of our Connected Buildings sees Backbone Connect as a technical extension of Schroders benefiting all tenants, existing and incoming.”
“We understand that office moves are extremely stressful for many businesses and the setup of their internet and required infrastructure may not be the top of their list, even though it is a vital aspect.” says Henry. The aim of Backbone’s Tenant Engagement Team is to offer end to end solutions, covering all aspects of tenants requirements. Beyond this the team aims to educate and aid all landlords, building management teams and letting agents, so that they are all supported when tenants have questions in relations to our solutions.
“Our aim is not only to manage tenant and landlord network requirements but to create partnership focused on reliability and technical support.” explains Henry. “This partnership with Schroders offers an industry leading concept that demonstrates what direction office spaces should be headed in future.”
“Therefore, the service Schroders is offering is not just cheaper, but better. Here, Schroders are doing something the rest of the industry aren’t even following.”