OPINION 

What's in an address?

Nicole Elliott

What's in an address?

Shakespeare's 'What's in a name?' is famous. But what's an address worth? Not formal address as in Mrs, Sir, Dame, Lord, Your Excellency or whatever, but a business one. Remember that in today's world this may not mean physical premises, but could be a website, email address, a mailbox in a tax haven, or something hovering somewhere in the cloud.

Back to bricks and mortar for now, though, and 'location, location, location' the estate agents' mantra. A 'good' address might be in the right part of town regardless of how boring the street name; avenue, square, and crescent have a posher ring. Some names are cute, like Adam and Eve Mews in Kensington. Others like Maiden Lane and Porter Street in Borough hark back to tradesmen in the area. Number one London (Hyde Park Corner) was famous because the first Duke of Wellington lived there. Some businesses are determined to remain in situ, longevity being a status symbol, like bankers Hoare and Co who have been in Fleet Street since 1690.

Another set of bankers who cleave to their original address at New Court, St Swithin's Lane, are the Rothschilds. Not because it's within spitting distance of the Bank of England, but because Nathan Mayer set up home above the shop at number 2 in 1809 - his calling card a simple Mr Rothschild. Having been demolished and rebuilt over the years it is now in its fourth incarnation - the address conveying a sense of stability, particularly important to the firm’s wealth management clients, according to CEO Helen Watson.. Designed by starchitect Rem Koolhaas, at just 75 metres high it is discreet and too cool for school. An elegant, ethereal presence with a translucent milk white 'box' floating above the rooftop garden, plus a dedicated archive reading room across the courtyard.

By contrast, the London Metal Exchange, owned by Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing since 2012, moved into spanking new premises on Finsbury Square in February. The 139-year-old institution had operated from several City locations, including Plantation House, finally settling at 56 Leadenhall Street in 1994. Insiders tell me there were emotional reactions from past and present members at a party thrown on the final day before they cleared out to - shock horror - Islington! A smart slip of a building sandwiched between the green grass of the square and the playing fields of the Honourable Artillery Company, open outcry continues on the ground floor (offices above) and the famous red leather benches remain in daily use.

 

New Court, the new Rothschild headquarters, City of London

 

Metallgesellschaft AG, a Frankfurt-based industrial conglomerate founded by Anglo-German merchant Wilhelm Merton in 1881, started off as a bank in the centre of the city at Reuterweg 14, just behind the opera house where it remains today. Starting off with 40 employees and just one telephone, first introduced in the town that same year, its metal trading activities grew to dominate the business, which at one point had 23,000 members of staff. During WWII Wilhelm's sons, Richard and Alfred, were forced out of the company and fled to Britain; the head office suffered bomb damage, and was later requisitioned as administrative quarters for US troops. Richard returned as chairman in 1947 until his death in 1960.

Financial Times staff, including Investors Chronicle, also face a move - back to the old HQ, Bracken House (named after the then chairman). Built on a WWII bombsite south-east of St Paul’s cathedral to a 1955 design by Sir Albert Richardson, it was sold to Japanese developer Obayashi Corporation in 1987 for what was then a record price per square foot. It’s Grade II* listed status meant a massive rethink and cost overruns that its bankers worried the project would founder before completion. As a leg up, and to ensure interest repayments, the bank agreed to be the first tenant. For me, too, it'll be a move back as I worked there at the Industrial Bank of Japan's head office.

 

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