OAKLAND — Credit Karma is telling employees it expects its employees to return to the office in September, a move that solidifies the tech company’s headquarters presence in downtown Oakland.
The financial services tech company has also decided to pull out of San Francisco entirely, saying its only Bay Area operation will be at its headquarters in downtown Oakland.
“We have been very clear with our employees about when we intend to return to the office after Labor Day,” said Colleen McCreery, Credit Karma’s chief people, location and promotions officer. “We don’t want a permanent remote workforce.”
Credit Karma has leased 166,700 square feet of The Key at 12th Campus at 1100 Broadway in downtown Oakland. The lease deal includes eight floors, floors 11 to 18, as well as a basement and a roof deck.
That amount of office space can potentially accommodate about 1,000 employees. Ellis Partners is the developer of the imposing new office tower, a project that has preserved the historic Key Systems Building.
Back in the office makes sense for a tech company that — like every tech firm — rewards its innovation culture.
“We think we create better, we innovate better, when people are together,” McCurry said. “Working from your garage is very different from coming into the office with people dedicated to a mission. We are very excited to return to the office.”
Oakland-based Credit Karma is operating what the company calls “soft openings,” which bring about 100 people a day into downtown offices.
“We had about 600 people who signed up for the soft opening,” McCurry said.
Wendy Blakeman, director of compensation at Credit Karma and the company’s employee of three years, said being in a downtown Oakland office is a welcome contrast to her position during the monotonous months of business and facilities closures linked to the coronavirus.
“I returned to work in May for the soft opening of my new Oakland office,” Blakeman said. “I live in cramped quarters in San Francisco and yearn to separate work and personal life. Coming back to the office gave me a sense of normalcy I was missing before the pandemic.”
Blakeman also said that she enjoyed being back in the office with the staff she had been separated from during the COVID-linked shutdown.
“Seeing my team members and being in this brand new office strengthened my decision to come before the whole company collapsed,” Blakeman said. “The Oakland community welcomes Credit Karma employees with open arms.”
Credit Karma says the decision to pull out of San Francisco completely and offer all of its offices for sublease was “a COVID-related decision,” McCurry said. Credit Karma placed 162,000 square feet at 760 Market St. in San Francisco for sublease, she said.
It was during 2019 that Credit Karma began an extensive search throughout the Bay Area for an Oakland office that would first become the company’s East Bay hub and eventually its new headquarters.
“The opportunity of a new building is unusual in a city market and urban market,” McCurry said. “Oakland made sense because we saw how many people in the tech industry were coming from the East Bay to San Francisco and the Peninsula.”
Another major attraction: the new Credit Karma headquarters are above 12th Street BART station in downtown Oakland.
“We have a new building, we have top-of-the-line ventilation, we have great space for desks, we have over 100 conference rooms,” McCurry said. “We also have a rooftop deck with a barbecue grill.”
The rooftop is one of the most popular meeting places within the new headquarters tower.
Overall, Key to 12th Headquarters provides offices that are the type that companies can demand in the coronavirus era.
“We have the luxury of space in downtown Oakland that we don’t have in San Francisco,” McCurry said. “In San Francisco, people would be sitting on top of each other.”
Credit Karma is also looking forward to a physical presence in Downtown Oakland, which is in line with the company’s overall philosophy for its technology services and products.
“Our business is to help people make financial progress,” McCurry said. “By staying here, we can help the small businesses, restaurants, shops, theaters of downtown Oakland. We can contribute to the community in this way. The local community is very happy to have us here.”