Working for Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) has been the culmination of Jody Brown’s career. She has been able to leverage every one of her past work experiences in her role as director of real estate for the commercial bank serving tech and life science companies and their investors.
“I’ve had a lot of great experiences in the past with large global companies including Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, Pfizer, and Thomson Reuters, where I was able to learn how to run real estate, workplace strategy, and facilities in large global organizations,” says Brown, who also serves on the advisory board of real estate CoreNet. “These organizations helped me understand how to build relationships and constituencies across different pillars to foster change.”
Brown uses the breadth of her experience to spur innovation for her SVB team, and recently she’s been relying on it to help fulfill a recent company-wide focus on defining the look and feel of its workplaces. Just prior to Brown’s arrival in May 2017, SVB had developed both a playbook and lookbook that sought to bring definition and clarity to the bank’s future expansion and a policy around occupancy, which Brown has helped hone and execute.
“The playbook was the way forward in terms of a comprehensive set of guidelines, policies, and procedures to bring leading practices to SVB in order to build our presence where it matters, place the right people in the right locations, improve the utilization of our space, and speed up decision-making and timelines,” Brown explains. “It really set the tone for how we would use space going forward.” This was a first for SVB, and Brown says it has been instrumental in providing a vision.
The lookbook, which was developed in conjunction with SVB’s architect partners, sought to be what Brown calls “a physical expression of our brand, values, and culture in the workplace.” It created regularity among design that had not been there previously, and it gave architectural partners and internal relationship-management partners a way to communicate with internal stakeholders about the renovation sites and the design. “This created buy-in and a consistency of brand that translates the SVB culture throughout the portfolio,” Brown says.
In 2017, SVB underwent $48 million in construction on various sites. In line with its new workplace strategy, Brown says, the bank has largely done away with private offices in newly built sites and offers choices of collaborative spaces to support the type of work being done at any given time of the day. “We want to create opportunities for collisions,” she says, “and we do that throughout the workplace so that our folks can have opportunities to run into each other to spark innovation, ideas, and conversation.”
SVB hosted more than 2,000 events for customers and partners in 2017, so Brown says the bank is also building out more space where clients can continue to be celebrated. Brown believes these “Welcome Zones” are just a doubling down on SVB’s commitment to its clients, whose services the bank seeks to utilize whenever possible, including living walls from Biome and carpooling services from Scoop. “From a real estate and facilities perspective, there are so many great opportunities to be able to engage with our clients, utilize their services, and help them grow, which is what SVB is all about,” she says,
SVB’s focus on innovation continues with the building of a new site in Boston. “We selected a new architect to see if we could challenge them to evolve our lookbook based on our lessons learned and how we’ve been expressing our culture and brand,” Brown says. That includes amenities for employees such as wellness rooms, mother’s rooms, and new technologies that Brown hopes will continue the bank’s commitment to innovation.
From a larger scope, Brown says it’s a particularly interesting time to be in her role as SVB continues to look to the future of its real estate holdings and current leases. “We’re really looking at our overarching strategy to further underline SVB’s positive growth,” Brown says. “Not a lot of people in my position always get the opportunity to approach their job that way.”
Brown says working to keep the company’s pace of scaling is essential, not just to keep the business running but to be able to offer SVB employees the environment and amenities that she believes are indicative of the culture of unity. “Our workplaces are pivotal in attracting and retaining the best talent as we grow and providing industry-leading experiences,” she says.
“Unity is one of our most important cultural values here,” Brown adds. “It’s a wonderful place to work and grow. There’s not enough I can say about how thrilled I am to be part of such an amazing organization.”
Built for Growth: Silicon Valley Bank’s NYC Offices
Technology advances on a daily basis, and Silicon Valley Bank is matching that pace. Designed by FENNIE+MEHL and Environetics, its new, 13,000-square-foot office reflects the growth of its clients and complements the rapid progress being made by those innovators.
The fast-track schedule fits right into that vision as well. Silicon Valley Bank’s clients are movers and shakers, and there’s no way the bank could slow their operations for the move. The Structure Tone team worked efficiently and collaboratively to make sure SVB was up and running as quickly as possible without sacrificing the quality and impact of the design.