41 (136) 2019
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Finance & related services

Warsaw. The financial capital of CEE

by Maciej Ozdoba, associate director, and Maksymilian Sobczak, senior property broker, Nuvalu Polska
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International banks and companies from the financial sector are relocating their offices to Poland in ever-increasing numbers.

Why? The biggest CEE market provides access to qualified, well-educated employees and modern office space for a reasonable price. Poland is a country with several large conurbations, yet most foreign financial-sector companies choose Warsaw as the location of their outsourced services or CEE headquarters.
The capital of Poland is a logical choice. Warsaw is Poland's biggest business centre, headquarters for most of the public-sector entities as well as the stock exchange. It also has the biggest labour market in the financial sector with graduates from a number of reputable universities (such as Warsaw University, Warsaw School of Economics, Warsaw Technical University and the Leon Kozminski Academy). Warsaw also sees the biggest inflow of qualified staff from all over the country. The capital attracts the most ambitious people. It’s still the best destination for those who seek to pursue a career in the financial sector.

The financial sector chooses CBD

Warsaw is definitely the biggest office market in Poland with a total of 5,600,000m2 of space. It’s in the best condition ever – it’s growing year to year and demand remains high. Over the next two years, developers will deliver a further 800,000m2 of modern office space in Warsaw, which means a 14% growth in area.

Warsaw’s central business district (CBD) has always been the most popular location for the financial sector, but its centre of gravity is moving west. The new heart of the CBD is situated close to the Metro Line 2, between ulica Marszałkowska (the main north-south axis of central Warsaw) and Rondo Daszyńskiego, where the new business district is being developed. The CBD was chosen by the most reputable brands - Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, Standard Chartered, Santander, mBank, EY and Deloitte.

The district is dominated by modern A-class buildings, which meet the highest European standards. Many of them are really spectacular. In 2017, Warsaw Spire won the MIPIM Award; while Norman Foster’s Varso Tower project (currently just past the half-way stage in height) will become the tallest office building in the EU at 310 m. Along with prestige and recognition, the district provides excellent access to public transport (Metro, bus, tram, suburban and long-distance trains) and a well-developed infrastructure of services. 

The approach to interior design is also changing. Due to their prestigious character and the relentless struggle to recruit and retain the best talents on the labour market, companies from the financial sector are at the forefront of this trend. Employees, their well-being and comfort are in the spotlight. Traditional open spaces give way to creatively designed, flexible project workplaces which create a friendlier work environment. It’s the era of vast, attractive social spaces, well-developed office kitchens, relaxation zones, playrooms and exercise rooms. But the modern office also acknowledges different styles and methods of working – collaborative work in teams large or small, and focused ‘deep work’, cut off from distractions such as noisy chit-chat and phone conversations. In recent years we have observed the rapid development of Polish design studios, offering world-class fit-out projects while their cost of implementation is still much lower compared to Western Europe’s biggest business centres.       

New opportunities: relocation and consolidation

The huge investment leap we face in Warsaw has sparked a wave of relocations. They mainly concern the financial sector’s biggest market players as well as BPO/SSC/IT/R&D companies – Poland has become the biggest European hub attracting international organisations with their shared services centres. The rapid development of the banking sector has resulted in the increase in such locations. Dispersion of office space is problematic due to difficulties concerning administration, cost-management, and communication. Currently, we can observe a growing trend for consolidation, which is possible thanks to the development of many new office facilities with rental space exceeding 50,000m2. As a result, there are many record transactions that integrate structures of companies, such as mBank (eight locations), BGK (three locations) and Warta (two locations). By the middle of next year, we expect several new deals for spaces exceeding 20,000m2.  

Such a wave of relocations will trigger an aftermarket. Companies which move to new facilities will release their current space. The majority of these facilities are still attractive. Some of them will need to be modernised to meet the newest standards and customers’ expectations. 

Time for right decisions

Leasing rates in the CBD and in the Wola district just to its west are between €16-24m2. They are competitive, particularly compared to those in London, Berlin, and Paris. Conclusion? It’s a perfect moment for companies which plan to launch their Polish office or expand already existing structures. Currently, there is good access to modern, attractive office spaces for a reasonable price. Due to high demand, we expect that prices will rise, so it’s worth making decisions quickly. Most of the new facilities are being immediately commercialized by a rapidly growing flexible office space sector. WeWork is a good example here – in just two years the global co-working giant has leased 52,000m2 in Warsaw. The right moment is now.

Nuvalu Polska is one of the leading advising companies on the Polish commercial real estate market. The company specialises in the transactions on office, retail, industrial & logistics, and investment market. Experts working for Nuvalu have advised on the processes of over 1,000,000m2 of space. 

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