Since Joe Plumeri took over as Chairman and CEO of Willis in 2000, he’s guided the international broker through turbulent times, making a number of radical and innovative changes along the way.
Nowhere is his presence more evident than in Willis’ new London headquarters building. Located at 51 Lime Street – just across from Lloyd’s – the building rises 28 stories in a tiered design by the visionary architects Foster + Partners.
Willis offered the press a guided tour of its new facility on Tuesday, May 13. It is a spectacular addition to London’s skyline. The building won the “2007 New City Architecture Award for its unique architectural form and contribution to the streetscape and skyscape of the City of London,” a press bulletin noted.
Not only is it the 4th tallest skyscraper in the City, at 125 meters (410 feet), but it’s also the most modern, and the “greenest.” Foster’s design incorporates a number of state of the art environmental features, which reduce energy use and maximize recycling. “The Willis Building received an ‘excellent’ BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) sustainability rating which measures the environmental impact of buildings. This is the highest possible score that can currently be achieved and is given to less than one in five newly completed buildings,” said the press bulletin.
Moreover, as Plumeri stressed in his opening remarks, the building is designed to maximize contact and interaction among the some 2000 Willis employees who work there. Open spaces, including outdoor terraces with stunning views of London, encourage interaction between the brokers and administrators. “Even my office doesn’t have a door,” Plumeri assured the press.
Some of the building’s other features include:
— The Client Advocate restaurant on the 23rd floor – used for private client dining and entertaining.
— The Associates’ restaurant – the One Flag Café – on the 15th floor is named after the global teamwork culture that Willis is famous for.
— A Wellness Center featuring a full-service gym and medical facilities.
— A 375 seat state-of-the-art auditorium.
— Cutting-edge technology including wireless zones, plasma screens, video conferencing rooms and IP telephony throughout.
— A tree-lined public plaza around the base of the building with bustling cafés and restaurants.
The “Wellness Center” in particular – it’s the size of your average modern health club – is an American feature that is virtually unknown in the UK. It’s already proved to be” very popular with Willis’ employees,” said media representative Ingrid Bosch.
After 32 years at CitiGroup, Plumeri bought a banker’s financial acumen to the insurance industry. His tenure at Willis has seen the Company hold an initial public offering (in 2001), consolidate its position as the world’s 3rd largest international broker, eschew contingent commissions, and embrace transparency with its clients that is the most wide ranging in the industry.
The new headquarters building (already dubbed “Plumeri’s Palace” by the City’s insurance community) is the latest testament to his creative thinking and management style, but it most assuredly isn’t the last.
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