Financials Find a Home
he manicured perfection and sophisticated appeal of Newport Center® make it difficult to imagine that just 64 years ago, the dirt-packed site was being spiffed up for the 1953 National Scout Jamboree. With 50,000 uniformed boys debarking for 10 days of brotherhood, sport and Stadium Shows at the first jamboree to be held west of the Mississippi River, The Irvine Company® carved out a transportation corridor from the coast to the train stations farther inland. That thoroughfare would be named Jamboree Road.
Jamboree still delineates the northern edge of Newport Center, joining Pacific Coast Highway to the west and MacArthur Boulevard to the south to form the unofficial border of Newport Beach’s corporate and commercial hub. The first office building went up in 1967; most of the others were completed in the 1970s. Current tenants of Newport Center occupy 2.5 million square feet in one of the tightest rental markets in the country.
Drawn by a “secret sauce” of amenities anchored by the upscale eateries and shops of Fashion Island® and the luxury accommodations of Island Hotel Newport Beach,® financial and professional businesses, including 12 Fortune 500 companies, have flocked to Newport Center to establish regional, national or global headquarters. We asked three of them what makes the area such a prestigious address.
Bank of America/Merrill Lynch
For decades, Bank of America has operated in and around Orange County. Forbes listed the financial conglomerate in 2016 as the 11th-largest company in the world, but until last summer, the Southern California region, which includes commercial real estate, financial services, business and individual banking centers, had never consolidated its lines of business under one roof.
In August 2016, executives cut the ribbon on an airy, elegant space at the top of 520 Newport Center Drive.
“We’re biased, of course,” said Allen Staff, market president and region executive for Bank of America/Merrill Lynch, “but in our opinion, Irvine Company’s 520 Newport Center is the finest new high-rise building in Orange County.”
State-of-the-art offices, nearby amenities and panoramic views of Newport Harbor became sources of pride as 500 “teammates” settled into their new digs. But beyond the pride was a feeling that they had landed at a country club.
Heck; we work at the beach! You spend a lot of waking hours together, and where you work in terms of the physical atmosphere is important.”–Allen Staff, Bank of America
LED displays in the garage and building elevators impart the news of the day, priming executives for client mealtime discussions. At lobby level, 520 Marketplace offers not just a barista but quick lunch and breakfast foods. With secure bike storage, private showers, electric vehicle charging stations and security personnel on hand to escort those working late out to their cars, employees feel safe and healthy. Finally, the building’s Gold LEED certification aligns with Bank of America’s strong focus on environmental sustainability.
Staff, whose role as region executive for BofA/Merrill’s commercial real estate banking frequently requires him to travel out of state, finds plenty of opportunities to compare Newport Center’s quality and work life with those of other business locations.
“I see interesting architecture and real estate all the time,” he said, “and I can confirm that we’re in one of the finest locations in the country. The weather’s hard to beat and it’s always fun to come home. I grew up in Irvine, but I still get excited to go to the beach.”
That excitement is shared with clients at every opportunity. “Quite often we invite out-of-town clients and teammates in just to show off our space,” said Staff. “We’ll go to lunch or dinner with them, but first we take them upstairs to see the view and the investment we’ve made in Orange County.”
Formed in 1971 as a unit of Pacific Life, Pacific Investment Management Company (PIMCO) exploded onto the global financial scene and now boasts more than $1.5 trillion in assets under management. As a long-term tenant of Newport Center, PIMCO occupies a vaunted spot in the Center’s financial hub.
“Our entire history is here,” said Peter Strelow, chief administrative officer at PIMCO. “When you’re working as hard as we are, it’s nice to do it in a beautiful setting.”
Recruiting personnel from near and far is made easier when the offer includes year-round warm weather and miles of beaches. “An active Southern California lifestyle is appealing and, contrary to popular belief, we do a lot of walking around here,” said Strelow. “This is not an insignificant move when you’re coming from certain financial services hubs. But the ability to live relatively close to the office with commutes that are substantially shorter than other areas can be a real draw.”
After occupying—and outgrowing—space in several buildings, PIMCO moved all 1,200 employees into a 20-story building leased from, and designed for them, by The Irvine Company.® In addition to ample office space, PIMCO has its own gym, auditorium and cafeteria to accommodate its almost around-the-clock schedule.
“We may need to start early,” said Strelow, “but the California time zone allows us to work with colleagues and clients across the globe. We’re working the London day by 2 a.m., and the cafeteria is humming by 5 a.m. The Asia-Pacific day comes online mid-afternoon.”
Of all the benefits afforded PIMCO’s Newport Center-based employees, Strelow’s personal pick is the proximity to home. “When you’re working long hours, the commute becomes a significant part of your life,” he said, noting with a wink that the drive along Pacific Coast Highway isn’t much of a hardship. “It’s awfully nice not to be in a massive, dense city that requires a lengthy commute. I love my work, but I’m always glad to get home to my family.”
Insurance giant Pacific Life has called Newport Center® home since 1972, when it relocated its headquarters from Los Angeles to Newport Beach as part of a strategic decision to put down roots in an area poised for financial, commercial and residential success. Pacific Life purchased 10 acres of land in the emerging center and broke ground on a building that remains its corporate base.
“We viewed Orange County as the next up-and-coming place,” said Tennyson Oyler, Pacific Life’s vice president of brand management and public affairs. “With the University of California, Irvine, nearby, we had ready access to a young, educated talent pool, while Newport Beach offered employees the housing, shopping and entertainment opportunities they were looking for.” In a win-win partnership, Pacific Life also supports the Center for Insurance Studies, an actuarial science program at Cal State Fullerton, offering 10-12 student internships each year.
Because insurance companies don’t sell a tangible product, Oyler explained, success is based heavily on individual skill sets. From the moment the company moved to Newport Center, it sought out top-notch employees with financial, sales, technical and actuarial acumen. While Pacific Life sells in all 50 states, the headquarters houses 1,275 employees, or 37 percent of the workforce.
“In addition to being a powerful selling point for attracting talent,” said Oyler, “Newport Center is a great place to host meetings and educational training sessions with third-party distributors. Since we have no brick-and-mortar stores, we conduct face-to-face business here. Being close to airports, hotels, restaurants and entertainment is key.”
Oyler, who was raised on nearby Lido Isle, appreciates the everyday amenities that come with the territory. “Working across the street from Fashion Island® allows me to be a more effective employee,” he said. “My dry cleaner, my lunch spots, my doctor and dentist and last-minute shopping are all here. I can get out of the office, refresh a bit and get right back to work.
“Being a life insurance company, we’ve always focused on long-term promises and long-term investments. Our home base is Newport Center, and we expect to be here for a long time.”