Interior design for hedge funds

At the forefront of the nouvelle vague, Hong KongÆs design and build specialists are filling the aesthetic gap when designing work-pads for hedgies.
æRenting office spaceÆ is high on the to-do list when setting up a hedge fund. However, thinking about interior design matters is seldom at the top of the list of priorities when starting up your fund.

Sitting in serviced offices in Hong Kong means that your hedge fund is not going to be taken seriously by the local regulator, so you have to move into your own place. However, it is not like renting an apartment, as these offices invariably come as bare-shell units. Previous inhabitants are required to deliver them back to the building management in that spartan form. You are unlikely to inherit a place that is already kitted out.

Confronted with the empty space, no carpeting, and just a floor, ceiling and white-painted walls, the hedge fund managerÆs first thought is often to call his prime broker and ask him who can get it ready for business. Whilst acknowledging their remarkable gift for all matters practical and intellectual, your prime broker isnÆt going to turn up with a hammer and circular saw. However, they do know people who can fix it.

Hollywood Road-based RHK Design is one of Hong KongÆs leading design and build firms for hedge funds, with a client list including Man Investments, RAB Capital and Stark Investments. æDesign and buildÆ means that as well as doing the planning and lay-out, the firm will project manage the building work and deal with the outside sub-contractors.

After you are shown a few properties, you can ask the estate agent to send through the floor-plan to the designer/builder who will work out what can be accommodated in terms of trading desks, server room, conference rooms and reception, then send back a computer generated impression together with sample boards of carpet and wood/stone floor coverings.

The cost of hedge fund fit-outs can vary from HK$650 to HK$2,000 per square foot, although the average is HK$700 to HK$1,000. For that you get furniture included, but not IT, audio/visual equipment or cabling. The design firm will, however, manage the technicians who come in to install such facilities for you. The typical area leased by hedge funds ranges from 1,000 to 5,000 square feet, with the design and build-out processes taking from four to six weeks

If required, the designer/ builders can even act as the clientÆs representative in taking possession of the unit and sign-off on taking possession of the office, checking for example that the windows donÆt have scratches on their surface.

ôInternational hedge funds have a certain corporate identity,ö says RHK DesignÆs managing director Keith Hemshall in Hong Kong. ôWe can emulate that, perhaps including an Asian twist.ö

Special requests can be accommodated. One fund asked for and received a five-metre long solid marble table for its conference room.

ôOne important thing for a hedge fund is to have a decent kitchen, one with accessories like a top-quality imported coffee machine, and a fridge with an ice maker,ö says Hemshall. RHK will also fit out that pantry with swanky touches such as Corian work surfaces. How about an office soda machine that you have to pay to use? ôNoö, he says. ôThatÆs bad, employees want to feel that their company is looking after them.ö

Not surprisingly, it is cheaper to import custom-built furniture from China, rather than import everything. (Although one hedge fund did import every single item from Europe and the USA, including the entire false ceiling system). A US or European-built trading desk will cost about HK$15,000, and take three months' notice to order and ship. A Chinese-made trading desk will cost HK$6,500 and be ready in five weeks.

What is fashionable? You want to make sure your hedge fund office not only feels and looks good to work in, but conveys the right message of not only professional money management, but of also being effortlessly cool.

Oak-panelled Edwardian library-redux is out. ôPeople donÆt want æold schoolÆö says Hemshall. ôThey want something modern and original, and they donÆt want to look like anyone elseÆs office. Earthy tones are in, beiges and greens. Generally, lighter wood colours are preferred, with bamboo also a popular alternative material.ö

Very much a look for yesteyear is the ædot-com lookÆ. That today is a style no-no with its playroom primary colours and shiny metal. If you try to impose such a vision of naffness on your interior designer, then they will try to talk you out of it and appeal to your inner muse. Ultimately though you are the boss, and if you want a replica of a dungeon, a trampoline and a Playboy mansion hot-tub grotto, then thatÆs what you shall have ready on the first trading day, to show to your investors and visiting analysts from funds of funds.
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