Finance and Fish Tanks: Bloomberg London

At the ACCENT London Study Center, our favorite visits to organize are bespoke tours suited specifically to the academic interests of each group. For instance, for the Washington University in St. Louis Business students, we recently organized a visit to the Bloomberg L.P. offices in London, a visit particularly suitable to their interest in business.

Upon arrival at the remarkable building located on Finsbury Square, we were greeted by a young graduate named Rob who was to be our guide for the day.  After some quick introductions, our first stop was “the pantry,” a large self-service canteen where the students were invited to help themselves to hot and cold drinks and snacks. We grabbed a few coffees and Rob led us through the offices to a large open hall.

Walking through the hall, I found the use of bold colors everywhere and the glass walls and tropical fish tanks quite striking. The glass walls, it turns out, are a symbol demonstrating the company’s transparency and collaborative work culture. The office is completely open-plan, allowing anyone to see into all of the meeting rooms. Supposedly not even Michael Bloomberg has his own private office! In terms of the fish, Rob informed us that Bloomberg has the largest private collection of fish in the world, including a miniature shark at the London office. The story goes that when the company was founded, for each terminal sold, a fish was bought in celebration. With over 160,000 Bloomberg terminals in the world, I can imagine that this bizarre tradition is no longer feasible.

As the tour went on, Rob gave us a quick history of the company and quelled a few misconceptions I personally had. Before the visit, I had assumed that Bloomberg was predominately a media organization, but we learned that media actually only accounts for five percent of their business; the other ninety-five percent is from their terminals, which provide their clients with huge amounts of financial data.

After having a quick look around the TV studios, our guide gave us a demonstration of some of the features of the terminals. Utilizing the terminals that store so much data comprised of a large amount of variables, you can retrieve extremely precise bits of information. For example, Rob compared the correlation between U.S. presidents and the price of bonds; data compiled showed that whether a Republican or Democrat was in office had a significant impact on some businesses. Rob also pulled up a map on a screen that, at first glance, looked to me to be similar to a Google map. However this map was much more advanced; using some filters, Rob was able to show us not only the location of ships around the world, but also what goods they were carrying.

Finishing off the tour, Rob gave a quick Q&A focused on graduate careers and explained the application process for Bloomberg. He emphasized that even someone like him, who had no background in finance, was able to join the company; with thorough training, any intelligent go-getter can be brought up to speed in a short amount of time at Bloomberg.

The students filled their bags again at “the pantry” on the way out and chatted more informally with Rob. Students left the building with lots to think about based on the unique insight they were given into the workings of international finance.

~Tim Marsh, ACCENT London