Thanks to Hong Kong’s gentrification, the place where you work indicates your standing in the social pyramid.
If you commute to Central each day, you are probably a banker, a stock broker, a lawyer or a doctor. Chances are you belong to Hong Kong’s crème de la crème.
If you work in Kwun Tong or Fo Tan, you may be a member of the city’s residual manufacturing sector, and should your office be somewhere in Tai Po or Tseung Kwan O, you are likely to be working in one of the city’s news outlets.
Even in Central, the tower where you go to work can also be your status symbol.
The 415-meter, 88-storey Two International Finance Centre is indisputably the most prestigious symbol of the city’s global financial hub identity, and those who hold office in this skyscraper consider themselves belonging to the top stratum of the job market hierarchy.
So which offices are inside this commanding landmark?
There’s the Hong Kong Monetary Authority for one. In 2001, the de facto central bank made news by splurging HK$3.7 billion of taxpayers’ money for the purchase of 14 floors of Two ifc to become its headquarters.
The office of HKMA chief executive Norman Chan Tak-lam is on the 88th floor, serviced by a private express lift.
According to Land Registry data, UBS is currently Two ifc’s largest tenant, leasing more than eight floors of the tower.
Other major occupants include BNP Paribas, Bank for International Settlements, Blackstone, Nomura Securities, Commerzbank and State Street Corp.
A financial analyst at Ernst & Young, who happens to be my roommate, once told me how frustrated he felt when the audit firm decided to move out of Two ifc and relocate to the 33-storey Citic Tower in Admiralty.
“It’s like moving to the Third World from the First,” he grumbled, though his new office is closer to where he lives and his pay is unchanged.
Your company needs to be in a robust financial position to appear on the Two ifc tenant directory, with the average annual rent in the tower at US$264 per square feet, according to a Knight Frank report.
Standard Chartered, one of the tenants, struck a deal to rent two floors of the tower at HK$5.75 million per month, but rumor has it that the bank is looking to sublet some space to trim its rental costs following a loss in 2015.
If you’d like a sort of a tour of Two ifc and enjoy a view of Central from a new perspective, one option is to visit HKMA’s exhibition hall cum library on the 55th floor. It’s open to the public during office hours, and there’s no entrance fee.
There are several other sleek modern edifices in the area. These include Exchange Square (home to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, several law firms and foreign consulates), Jardine House (another time-honored landmark with its circular window design), The Center (a glass-curtained, 73-storey skyscraper), Chater House (J.P. Morgan’s Asia head office), the Landmark complex, Prince’s Building, Hong Kong Club Building, AIA Central, Bank of China Tower, Cheung Kong Center, Pacific Place, Citibank Tower, and so many more.
Pulsating with energy, this archipelago of architectural icons forms the central processing unit of Hong Kong’s financial system and constantly electrifies the elites working in the concrete jungle.
In short, it’s all about the view, prestige and CBD convenience. Central is central.
Central constantly beats Manhattan and the City of London as the world’s most expensive commercial district, and new supply of offices in the area is extremely scarce.
The situation has given rise to decentralization with some firms relocating some of their departments, such as back offices, to Causeway Bay, Tai Koo or Kowloon East.
There are other alternatives for those who simply need an address in Central.
Virtual office services have been thriving in the city with dedicated receptionists managing calls, mail and courier at a chosen location.
It’s said that you can reserve to use, from 10 minutes to a whole day, a physical office suite at Two ifc to impress your customers even if you work from home most of the time.
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