Inside Scotiabank’s new Digital Factory, with a bowling alley, a speakeasy behind a safe, and 18,000 square feet of whiteboards

Inside Scotiabank’s new Digital Factory, with a bowling alley, a speakeasy behind a safe, and 18,000 square feet of whiteboards


What: Scotiabank’s office for its digital banking teams
Where: The former Sun Media building at King and Sherbourne
How big: 70,000 square feet for approximately 350 employees at maximum capacity (right now there are around 250)

Sure, Scotiabank’s Digital Factory, a cool new space dedicated to digital innovation (and the first of its kind globally), has a neon-lit bowling alley and a vaulted speakeasy bar—but those aren’t even the coolest parts for staff. Digital Banking SVP Jeff Marshall, who heads up the new office, is much more proud of the abundant whiteboards, which if combined would make up almost a third of a football field. “Our teams use them like paper,” he says. And everyone else is obsessed with a room called “The Plant,” a quiet greenhouse-like space that acts as a serene sanctuary for getting work done.

To nail down the design, which was spearheaded by Interior Architects, Scotiabank execs travelled to New York and Silicon Valley to tour the headquarters of places like Google and LinkedIn, and asked employees there to share what worked and what didn’t work. They also surveyed their own staff for preferences, and found that simple things like bike racks and showers mattered most. So when Scotia’s engineers, developers, designers and data scientists started taking over the place last November, they were greeted by all sorts of ultra-considerate details, like an app-enabled intro to the office’s cultural norms (which covers topics like whether or not to eat at your desk) and separate coat closets for smokers and non-smokers.

The office has its own logo, made up of a gear and pixels, which is meant to be a nod to the company’s analog past and digital present. The office has a private entrance on the main floor, with an initial security check, and a main reception desk upstairs. Instead of staff pass cards, all security checks are done by high-speed biometrics, so staff simply wave their hand under a scanner or use their thumb print to enter different areas of the building:


The office is all about accountability, and even have dedicated employees (called “agilists” after the company’s approach to project management) who guide teams and set routines. At the beginning of each day, employees share what they accomplished yesterday, and what they’ll accomplish today. Successes are even displayed on screens around the office, like on these pillars in the reception area:


Also in the reception area: a casual café, where employees can stop and chat as they come into work. “We wanted to make people feel welcome,” says Marshall.


The rotunda is used for meeting with large tours, clients or new teams. It’s lined with acoustic panels that can be opened or closed:


Each team (and they’ll run about 20 teams at full capacity) has its own storage unit, with lockers and the aforementioned smoker/non-smoker coat racks. All desks are standing-adjustable, of course:


The office’s mascot is Elmo; staffers invoke him when meetings run a little long (at Scotiabank, “Elmo” is shorthand for, “Enough, let’s move on”). This work station has a screen that can be split four ways, which lets developers compare code:


Whiteboards cover practically every surface, including the outside and inside walls of this booth:


As a nod to the company’s heritage, they showcase this antique coat of arms that was sitting in the archives of an Ottawa branch:


This is “The Plant,” so-named for obvious reasons. It’s enclosed in thick glass, with floor-to-ceiling windows (on the opposite side of the camera):


Marshall describes the Gear Shack as the Scotiabank version of Apple’s Genius Bar. To the left is a writable wall map, where staff add suggestions for things like great neighbourhood lunch spots:


The kitchen café, called “Southside Betty’s” in reference to watering hole Betty’s on the north side of King, serves gourmet breakfast and lunch on the cheap. When we visited, butter chicken and Moroccan vegetable tagine were on the menu:


Also down here is a cozy light-and-steam fireplace and lounge:


This vault leads to the speakeasy bar:


Inside, the walls are lined with thousands of pennies. During the office launch party, cover band Dwayne Gretzky played an acoustic set:


Just outside is a massive games room, with ping pong tables and giant wall-mounted versions of scrabble and checkers. Since there are no windows down here, Marshall wanted to make it as fun as possible:


This in-house bowling alley is where Sun Media used to store its newspaper archives. “It was kind of a bunker,” says Marshall. The alley was his idea: “It says a lot about how we’re not behaving like a typical bank.”


Every bowling alley needs proper bowling shoes:


The office crowdsourced meeting room names from their staff. Most are named after technological breakthroughs, important characters or influential creative types:


The gym has super-nice locker rooms with showers:


This room is only used for ultra-confidential meetings. Everyone who enters has to sign a non-disclosure agreement: