Santander cuts its Belfast HQ office footprint in half with move to City Quays 3

Wide view of City Quays office development from across the River Lagan.
Santander's CEO of retail and business banking, Enrique Alvarez, opening its new offices at City Quays 3 on Thursday.

Santander has completed the relocation of its Belfast headquarters to the City Quays 3 waterfront office development.

The banking business, ultimately owned by Spain’s Santander Group, has moved its 560 staff from its former base at Mays Meadow to Belfast Harbour’s 16-storey tower.

Santander has taken 27,000 sq ft across two floors at City Quays 3 following a 20 week refit programme, meaning it has halved the size of its office footprint in Belfast.

The company confirmed in August 2023 that it would not seek to extend its 25 year lease at the 57,200 sq ft Mays Meadow complex next to Lanyon Place train station.

The contact centre was originally opened by Abbey National, but it became part of the Santander group when the Spanish financial giant acquired Abbey in 2004.

Santander’s new Belfast offices were officially opened on Thursday by its CEO of retail and business banking, Enrique Alvarez.

“It’s fantastic to be here today to celebrate the opening of our new home, City Quays 3,” he said.

“The work of the people based here is at the very heart of what we at Santander stand for – talking to our customers every day to help, support and advise them.”

He said Santander’s Belfast operation supports 150,000 customers each month.

The financial group joins Microsoft, US insurance company Aflac and health-tech firm B-Secur at the 250,000 sq ft City Quays 3.

It’s understood Microsoft has also taken two floors at the office development.

Santander’s official opening came just days after the Lloyds Banking Group announced plans to relocate its Halifax contact centre from The Gasworks estate to the new 11 storey Paper Exchange development on Belfast’s Chichester Street.

The operation, which employs 1,600 people at the 120,000 sq ft 24 Cromac Place, will downsize to 29,235 sq ft across two floors at the Paper Exchange.

A report published by Savills on Monday said 53 deals were done for offices in Belfast last year.

While the number of deals did not drop last year, at 261,500 sq ft, the volume of office space being taken is shrinking.

Savills said £334 million was invested in commercial property in Northern Ireland last year, the most since 2017.

That figure was primarily driven by major retail deal, including the £46.5m paid for Rushmere shopping centre.

Savills said the emergence of private local investors in 2023 reflected the changing commercial real estate investment landscape since the 2016 EU referendum.

“Prior to this, institutional investors accounted for a significant volume of transactions in any given year.

“After Brexit, UK institutional investment ground to a halt as investors took to the sidelines amid the ensuing political turmoil.

“While institutional investors remain unconvinced that this turmoil is over, the resultant void has been filled by property companies, high net worth individuals and private equity investors who have identified better yields on NI real estate when compared to the GB or ROI markets.”