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A place of your own

Developers used to put up offices for banks on a speculative basis. Now banks' requirements have become too specialized for this to work. In the late 1990s building boom in London, the trend is for the major houses to design their own. Philip Eade reports on the many projects underway.

A good index of confidence in London's future as a financial centre is the number of banks currently employing architects. True, many banks in New York are also refitting their premises, speculative bank buildings are going up in Shanghai, and there are mini booms in construction in the Netherlands and in central and eastern Europe, but few of these match the scale of "bespoke" financial building in London.

Paribas moved its entire London operation into new tailor-made red-brick accommodation in the west-end district of Marylebone in March. Now it seems as if virtually no bank is happy with the premises it occupies. Several financial institutions ­ including Citibank, abn Amro, securities house Daiwa Europe, Merrill Lynch and futures and options exchange Liffe ­ are building or commissioning new headquarters to equip their London businesses for the new millennium. Others, such as Deutsche Morgan Grenfell, Credit Suisse First Boston and Goldman Sachs, are building extensions. Others still, such as Chase and hsbc (each rumoured to be looking for a million square feet at Canary Wharf to the east of the City of London), along with Westlb and Dresdner Kleinwort Benson, are in the market for new premises.

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