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Broker move from financial district exacerbated by quakes

Tuesday 8th March 2011

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A move from Christchurch's traditional financial district by stockbroking firms has accelerated after earthquakes damaged the city.

The magnitude 6.3 earthquake on February 22 has sparked a debate about the future of the central business district (CBD) it devastated but financial firms were already moving from Hereford Street, the traditional address for banks, insurers and brokers.

Brokers said technology allowed service to be maintained to clients through the natural disaster and the new locations being found may be more convenient for clients.

Forsyth Barr has taken out a long-term lease on new premises in the Hazeldean Business Park on Hazeldean Road, which is just outside the so-called four avenues which define the city's centre. Its office on the corner of Columbo and Amargh Streets was badly damaged in the earthquake last month.

The business park has high quality new buildings and 700 carparks.

Forsyth Barr director of private client service, John Owen, said the new premises were "quite American" but very convenient.

"It will be easier for clients, to be honest, to park at the door and walk straight in," he said.

Hamilton, Hindin, Greene was the last stock broking firm to move from Hereford Street just a few days before the earthquake. The firm moved to expensive new offices in Victoria Street next to Knox Church.

The new office has been damaged and the company is relocating again to premises on a short term lease on Lincoln Road.

A main support column has been blown out in its Victoria Street office and the building needed to be made safe before staff can remove items.

"We'd only been there a day and a half," director Grant Williamson said. The company's old office was near the Grand Chancellor Hotel, which has been in danger of toppling.

He said the stockbroking community used to be located on Hereford Street but it had become scattered even before the earthquakes.

Williamson said a lot of businesses were moving to the suburbs and "I don't believe they are going to move back to the CBD".

Owen said brokers used to be located near each other and near banks in the days when settlement of trading was by paper. These days it was electronic and brokers could be located anywhere.

He said it was a bit "old school" to talk about a financial district.

Goldman Sachs' head of New Zealand business, John Cobb, said his firm's office was near the city's art gallery in a relatively new building. The company could not access it because it was inside a cordoned off area but the building only sustained superficial damage. It was likely that the firm would return to the building, he said.

"We are in the business of private wealth management. Clients tend to be individuals and for them being in the middle of the CBD isn't necessary," Cobb said.



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