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Inside CBA's tech-heavy office: photos

It's taken 18 months from go to woe, but the Commonwealth Bank has begun moving over 300 staff per week into its lavish new tech-filled offices on the Sydney Harbour foreshore. ZDNet Australia was invited to tour the offices with the bank's chief information officer, Michael Harte.
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By Luke Hopewell, Journalist on
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(Credit: Commonwealth Bank of Australia)

The two buildings are situated on Harbour Street in Sydney and are jointly owned by Australian Prime Property Fund Commercial and an institutional investor. The facility is valued at approximated $500 million, with a 13-year lease signed by the Commonwealth Bank on the site. The buildings are set to play host to 6200 staff with over 300 moving in every week.

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(Credit: Luke Hopewell/ZDNet Australia)

The six-star-rated green buildings aim to save 2500 tonnes of carbon emissions a year and to reduce water consumption by 90 per cent. They also play host to their own tri-generation power plant, rather than solar, as solar returns "little bang for buck", according to the bank. The building plays host to many different screens, which track the building's green energy management, via comparison charts looking at water and power used, as well as how many coffee cups are being recycled.

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(Credit: Luke Hopewell/ZDNet Australia)

Three projectors display the building's green credentials.

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(Credit: Luke Hopewell/ZDNet Australia)

The screen is displayed within the building's built-in coffee shop to promote cup recycling.

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(Credit: Luke Hopewell/ZDNet Australia)

The coffee shop, of course, comes with the bank's own PayPass terminals. The barista told ZDNet Australia that she hadn't yet seen anyone using the terminal with the bank's near-field communication cases, which are currently set for release later this year.

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(Credit: Luke Hopewell/ZDNet Australia)

The bank said it wanted interesting 3D structures to be visible to the upper floors. This honeycomb in the south building is one such structure.

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(Credit: Luke Hopewell/ZDNet Australia)

The retail precinct downstairs from the bank plays host to a flagship Commonwealth Bank branch, a smaller version of its flagship Brisbane CBD branch, with a bevy of technology, including iPads and a foreign exchange ATM.

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(Credit: Luke Hopewell/ZDNet Australia)

More 3D tricks are contained within the mini-flagship branch.

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(Credit: Luke Hopewell/ZDNet Australia)

Each staff member in the Commonwealth Bank's new precinct is issued a fully specced out 11-inch MacBook Air running Windows XP, as well as a Jabra DECT headset. The headset connects to the Microsoft Lync voice suite, allowing staff to talk to anyone in the building. CIO Michael Harte said that staff are still able to bring in their own laptops.

Each desk has a standard docking station, complete with USB ports, power and 24-inch external monitors.

Staff are encouraged to go mobile around the building, since the bank has provided the tools necessary for a paperless, activity-based workplace.

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(Credit: Luke Hopewell/ZDNet Australia)

To support activity-based working, the Commonwealth Bank has installed a variety of spaces for different types of meetings. Staff are not assigned a fixed desk, but are instead given access to a locker in their "home zone" area where they can securely store their gear.

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(Credit: Luke Hopewell/ZDNet Australia)

Meeting spaces are engineered to contain the sound of conversations to help confidentiality.

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(Credit: Luke Hopewell/ZDNet Australia)

Smart boards are littered across the building, which allow staff to brainstorm, take notes on the board and write presentations. They can save the image and share what was discussed to keep printing at a minimum.

The bank's CFO, David Craig, conceded that the bank hadn't reached the ideal of a paperless office yet, but said that it was an operation that was certainly coming along.

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(Credit: Luke Hopewell/ZDNet Australia)

To keep paper use down, the bank has installed "Follow-You" multifunction devices (MFD).

The Follow-You MFD allows staff to swipe their security ID at a printing terminal, and bring up their print queue for the last 24 hours.

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(Credit: Luke Hopewell/ZDNet Australia)

Harte showed ZDNet Australia around his chosen position in the office, complete with his own choices of art, a teleconferencing suite and a wine chilling fridge.

Access to the office is controlled by swipe cards issued to staff. Once inside, staff can wander around the office to collaborate with other teams. Harte said that while biometric-level security is something the bank will have to consider going forward, data leakage prevention is something that's taken care of at a software level.

"Biometric [security] is something we'll have to consider in the future, but we haven't had any behavioural problems. We have software to prevent data leakage and see which user is downloading what information to which device. I think you'll find we have inherent security because each person has their own device, their own access and authentication. We know what's on it and when it's being moved. We don't need biometric capability there."

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(Credit: Luke Hopewell/ZDNet Australia)

The Commonwealth Bank's help desk aids staff when their tech fails. It was jokingly referred to during the tour as the Commonwealth Bank's own Genius Bar.

The bank's latest general staff survey found that the average employee now only occupies their desk 45 per cent of the time. In the bank's previous setting, only 31 per cent said that they felt inspired by their workplace, making the move to a more open, collaborative and exciting office a no-brainer for the finance giant.

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(Credit: Luke Hopewell/ZDNet Australia)

The building plays host to the largest atrium in the southern hemisphere.

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(Credit: Luke Hopewell/ZDNet Australia)

The bank's garden terrace plays host to a barbecue and several vegetable patches.

A survey run for staff who had already moved into the building found that 95 per cent of those that had already moved in wouldn't go back to their old circumstances. Harte said that the open plan nature of the building is still something some staff are getting used to, however.

"A lot of people come into where I'm sitting and say 'oh, sorry!', but I say to them that it's fine and 'come on in'! It's truly open plan," Harte said. The CIO revealed that he explored the building as soon as he was able, and asked to jump the queue in order to move in earlier.

"This is better than my house!" Harte said.

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