By Andy Tong firstname.lastname@example.org
ONE of the town’s largest employers, Fidelity International, announced yesterday [November 21] that it is closing its offices in Hildenborough.
Oakhill House at 130 Tonbridge Road, which is one of three Fidelity branches in the UK, houses 650 staff. There are likely to be significant job losses.
The multinational said it ‘plans to relocate the majority of employees and roles to its existing Kingswood site in Surrey’.
Kingswood is accessible for those who live locally – it is 25 miles away on the A217 off junction 8 of the M25. Fidelity also has an office in Cannon Street, London.
A consultation period will being in January, when employees will be able to ‘get involved in helping shape Fidelity’s future plans for the office and role transfer’.
The news comes as another blow to the local economy after the demise of Tonbridge family firm Southern Salads in August.
The company went into administration after 31 years, with around 260 job losses.
The decline of the salad supply business was blamed on the pound’s devaluation and import costs since the EU referendum.
Last month Tunbridge Wells stockbroking firm AJ Bell said it would be moving more than 100 jobs to London or Manchester because of a lack of office space.
And at the end of last year the largest private employer in Tunbridge Wells, AXA, decided to relocate up to 150 jobs from its motor claims division to Birmingham.
Fidelity has a total of around 2,500 staff in total. It revealed in July last year that it would move 100 employees to Dublin, and some members of that initial exodus departed from the Hildenborough office.
Peter Horrell, Managing Director UK, said: “We have to work in different ways to deliver for our clients and that includes being more efficient, more collaborative and working with more flexibility.”
He added: “We believe it is much easier to achieve this with one suburban site rather than have our infrastructure and our staff spread across two.
“Closing an office is never an easy decision to make but it is our clear intention and our strong desire that the majority of people who work in our Kent office will come with us to Kingswood in Surrey and continue with their roles in a different location.
“We believe that our Kingswood location gives us the best opportunity for this more flexible and collaborative way of working and we will be developing a new and modern work space to accommodate this.”
The company, which was founded 48 years ago, offers a range of financial services including investment funds, private pensions and ISAs.
The Oakhill House site is home to its investment management operations team as well as back offices sectors such as technology and central functions. The firm has been resident in the village since the late 1980s. There are currently no plans for the future use of the site.
Tonbridge & Malling MP Tom Tugendhat reacted with dismay, saying: “This is really disappointing news for our town. Fidelity are an excellent company who have supported the local community well over a long period of time, employing many local people.
“This decision will have huge consequences for Hildenborough, Tonbridge and the surrounding area.
“It is worth noting that the changes do not take place until 2020 so we have chance to prepare. Having said that, I’m disappointed with the news announced today.”
Fidelity has 1.2 million clients in the UK investing a total of £106billion – that includes almost half a million employer pension plans. Globally the sum more than doubles to £226.2billion.