Capita Sydney
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Capita Sydney

Interior Designer:
BKH Architects
Sharrin Rees

It reads like fiction. An insurance company decides to update its corporate image but in so doing tears up the rule book.

Seemingly overnight City Mutual Life Assurance shed its corporate cocoon, shrugged off its brown veneer clinging middle-of-the-road insurance sensibility and emerged as Capita.

A new creature, a creature with wings.

In 1984 City Mutual was a sorry number 15 in the insurance industry charts, today they've leapt to number three behind AMP and National Mutual.

Pre-1984 they rumbled on slowly, solid and cold, with office interiors that had a1l the interest and vitality of a suburban undertaker.

Then as if by magic came the rejuvenation. Suddenly, inexplicably, City Mutual was re-born.

The old name ripped down and the new in simple, bold red letters hoisted in its place; staff were given training courses in assertiveness skills and telephone behaviour, a tall, impressive Harry Seidler designed head office grew 31 storeys toward the heavens; male employees were issued with Italian silk ties complete with corporate logo; and Neil Burley and Partners were commisioned to design the interiors of the refurbished branch office in Melbourne, Sydney's Capita Centre and the new branch office in Chatswood.

Ruthlessly the old was pulled down and the new carefully fixed in place.

The changes were heralded with a striking campaign.

Few could ignore the advertising image of bouncing baby atop the shoulders of the musclebound superman, nor miss the strength and caring symbolism.

Clearly all this did not happen overnight. If there is even the most fleeting link between the name of a company's managing director and its success then with the appointment of David Greatorex in 1984 City Mutual had it made.

Sporting a high public profile and responsible in no small part for Capita!s enormous growth over the last five years in marketing, products sold and the streamlining of operations perhaps Greatorex greatest knack is the selection of key staff notably one Georgina Carnegie.

Carnegie joined City Mutual in 1985 as general manager (development).

A fine MD David Greatorex may be, but the responsibility for the change of image, for the new Capita, falls squarely on the shoulders of Georgina Carnegie.

Tall, slim and not lacking in self-confidence she dominates and directs conversation where she wants it to go. Still aware of what is required she speaks with 1 candour, although quick to end discussion the moment she feels enough has been said.

Upon joining City Mutual, Carnegie pushed immediately for change and was soon asked to interview for a new logo.

Going out on a limb and realising this did not i fully address the problem, she brought in American corporate identity specialists Landor and Associates. 'We agreed to change the name and I recruited Brian Beh (communicationsmanager) in 1986. He and I did the advertising."

"It's fair to say Georgie created that campaign in a cab going from Tullarnarine airport," adds Beh. "Her exact words were: 'I just want a man, I want strength and I want It simply to say Capita!.. the core of the campaign came from Georgie"

"Anyway that's a long story," she interrupts. 'We didn't follow any rules. I wanted strength and I wanted caring in the imagery, in the identity. So we just did it. "We've been around 110 years. Take this building (Sydney's Hunter Street City Mututal building).

The interior may not reflect quality but in 1933

It was the most exciting building in Sydney and it's still an absolutely beautiful building. The external appearance is just marvellous.

I have the sense that if you build landmark buildings and pay attention to image and design, over time you need not refurbish as much and it should in fact be cost effective for you.'

Sound advice. It was in this tradition and perhaps with this foresight that Neil Burley and Partners were appointed to flesh out the new offices; fill the carefully crafted and marketed corporate shell and give the Sydney Capita Centre, Chatswood and
Melbourne buildings substance and unity.

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Capita Centre

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On a restricted site, Harry Seidler proposed an entirely different approach for this building. Parts of the tower are hollowed out, creating an external atrium effect. With less floor space the building was twice as high as the planning code permitted. Since the 30 m wide and 42 m deep site has only one street frontage, the centre of the plan form is opened to admit daylight to the int... More

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