(Photo by Roberto Torres)
Exposed ducts. An open floor plan. A blackboard with encouraging messages that read “Let’s make something awesome.” There’s even a “Dream big” up there.
You’d never guess the 16,000-square-foot office we just described was anything but a well-funded startup, but it’s actually Vanguard’s new Innovation Studio, a research and development space from the Malvern, Pa.-based investment management company.
On Tuesday, the firm held a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the outpost, which will house 100 employees to be dedicated “solely to project work.”
Exiting CEO Bill McNabb, who will be replaced come January by long-time executive and former CIO Tim Buckley, was the event’s main speaker. In a short but emotional speech, McNabb said the firm had benefited greatly from infusing innovation into its ethos.
“In the beginning we didn’t set out to be innovators, but it eventually became part of our strategy,” said McNabb. “I’m not sure we can rely on serendipity much longer,” the CEO said in reference to the research hub helping guide the way for the company’s future.
Also at the ceremony was PIDC boss John Grady. He was there because the Mayor’s office, along with the Commerce Department and PIDC, helped Vanguard source the location for its Center City beachhead.
“We work with a lot of partners, none more thoughtful than Vanguard,” said Grady. “This could be a game-changer not only for Vanguard but for our city.”
Per Vanguard’s own admission, it’s still too early to call how much of a game-changer the space will be. Lisha Davis, the Vanguard exec tasked with heading up the studio, said much of what the studio will look like and the projects it will undertake is a work in progress.
“This will add a nimbleness to our work,” Davis did say. She also mentioned connecting to the startup community was another task of the new office.
Housed in the Philadelphia Design Building, at 2300 Chestnut, the Vanguard outpost will give the company an upper hand in recruiting city talent. The location is now within a tiny tech corridor in itself: iPipeline also has its tech offices there and, while not strictly tech, Saxbys main office is also in the building. A short bike ride away is Curalate’s HQ and coworking center CityCoHo.