A courtyard space is among the key features of West Village's £20m overhaul. Credit: via Citypress

Bruntwood SciTech bags QBE at West Village

The Australian-headquartered insurance and insurtech group will take three floors of redeveloped workspace, accounting for 37,000 sq ft in one of Leeds’ largest office deals this year.

QBE has global operations across 27 countries offering commercial, personal and specialty insurance products alongside risk management solutions.

The move will see QBE relocate and expand its 300-strong employee base from its current workspace on the southern fringes of the city centre into its heart, along with cementing the new home for its robotics centre and technology development hub where it uses robotic process automation for some tasks.

Deploying such innovation into the insurance market has so far saved QBE 50,000 work hours, and now automates 30,000 customer claims tasks per week, the firm said.

QBE has commissioned contractor Denton to fit out its new workspace at West Village.

Bruntwood SciTech, a joint venture between Bruntwood, Legal & General and Greater Manchester Pension Fund, is currently undergoing a £20m redevelopment at West Village to transform it into a 230,000 sq ft hub in line with its other collaboration and innovation-focused spaces.

The site will form a key location in Bruntwood SciTech’s Leeds city centre cluster of workspaces for innovation-led businesses, alongside Platform and 14 King Street.

West Village will feature a premium wellness studio space operated in partnership with training brand FORM, billed as RESET Leeds, which will host yoga, pilates and barre classes, as well as mindfulness and wellbeing sessions.

The workspace hub has been centred around a main courtyard, where Bruntwood SciTech is creating a landscaped ‘urban oasis’ with expansive, tiered biophilia including two private roof terraces in QBE’s workspace, communal breakout spaces and business lounge, flexible indoor and outdoor event spaces.

The offer also includes what’s billed as the largest cycle storage facility in the city, and food and drink pop-ups alongside anchor retailers, whose spaces are also being enhanced as part of the project. It will also create a new usable green space within Leeds’ city centre.

Improvements are being made to the building to reduce CO2 emissions, improve air quality, reuse rainwater, reduce noise and create new habitats for local birds and wildlife. As part of the redevelopment, the building will be fitted with air source heat pumps, sensor technology to promote the use of natural ventilation, new windows and additional wall insulation.

Bruntwood SciTech has already pre-let 75% of workspace at West Village, including to Australian fintech firm PEXA and Advisory Insurance Brokers.

Andrew Cooke, regional director for Leeds at Bruntwood SciTech, said: “QBE is one of the world’s leading insurers, so the business’ decision to choose West Village as its hub for technological development is a key deal for the region. It also reaffirms West Village as a hub for innovative and evolving businesses and it’s exciting to see that we are continuing to succeed in our mission to grow a cluster of high-growth and forward-thinking organisations that will benefit from collaboration and knowledge-sharing with other like-minded firms.

“We’re looking forward to welcoming QBE to the West Village community and to continue growing our network of innovative, sector leading businesses ahead of its opening later this year.”

Nathan Fuller, chief operations officer, QBE Europe commented: “QBE has had a presence in Leeds for over 20 years and our expansion in recent times has been about leveraging the strong local talent base to support us in our technological development, including the establishment of our robotics centre of excellence almost three years ago.

“Moving to West Village is the next chapter in our story with the city, and we are excited to be moving our people to such a prestigious location that is in tune with our commitment to sustainability, modernisation ambitions and focus on employee wellbeing.”

CBRE’s occupier services team in Leeds acted for QBE on the deal. Charles Parkinson, associate director, said: “It has been great working on this move with QBE over the past 12 months and sees another occupier relocate to a best-in-class building in the city centre, highlighting the business’ goals of finding more sustainable, amenity-rich buildings. The central location and good transport links, combined with its green credentials, were a real draw for QBE.”

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