Pre-event planning: Banking giant Santander Corporate & Commercial wanted to mark the launch of its corporate business centre in Oxford with a summer event for its existing and prospective clients, as well as accountants, lawyers and surveyors from the local area.
It chose The Manor at Weston-on-the-Green as the venue, a country house at the gateway to the Cotswolds.
The 28-room historic house, dating back 900 years, came under new ownership last year and carried out extensive refurbishment. Located just off the M40, a 90-minute drive from London and seven miles from Oxford city centre, the venue provided the perfect setting for the event. The Manor at Weston-on-the-Green has been a long-standing client of Santander and the bank wanted to build its relationship with the hotel team, while simultaneously hosting its event in a venue it knew was both sophisticated and professional, which suited the thinking behind the event.
Santander wanted a rural location within easy reach of London, but immersed in great countryside, as a key feature of the day was a collaboration with luxury motor dealearship HR Owen and the chance to explore the area in some stunning prestige vehicles. Attendees would have the opportunity to drive cars including Aston Martins and Bentleys around the back roads of Oxfordshire with a professional driver.
Santander was also attracted to the history and beauty of the property and grounds, which include 12.5 acres of landscaped gardens featuring a croquet lawn, topiary, a hidden Knot Garden and a heated outdoor pool. The event aimed to make the most of these features with breakfast and early evening drinks on the terraces, overlooking the croquet lawn and topiary hedges.
Objectives: As well as officially launching the new Corporate Business Centre in Oxford, which provides a bespoke relationship banking service to corporate and commercial customers, Santander Corporate wanted to thank its customers for banking with them, encourage wider networking and reiterate its commitment as a local bank, helping local businesses.
Challenges: With guests arriving at different times throughout the day and different activities taking place at the same time, the timetable was the most complex element of the event.
Solution: The front-of-house team ensured that the organisation - welcoming and hosting the guests - was seamless and effortless, with the driving element focused on small groups with guests using ten cars at a time, five Aston Martins and five Bentleys.
Attendees were split into two groups of 20 with different arrival times. The first guests gathered at 9am at The Manor, and were welcomed with a refreshing breakfast on the croquet lawn, including fresh British strawberries and pastries.
Lunch was prepared by The Manor's chef, Lahiru Jayasekara, who joined the venue this year and who previously worked in one, two and three Michelin-starred restaurants in London and the South East. It was served in the early afternoon for all 40 guests, and the next batch of 20 attendees were sent out on the afternoon drives.
The event concluded at 5.30pm. Both Santander's and HR Owen's company banners and branding were visible throughout the day.
Client feedback: Justin Hayward, relationship director for Santander Corporate & Commercial in Oxford, says that the company had an excellent time at the event.
"The team was attentive and friendly and responded fully to our brief, exceeding our expectations," he says. "Our guests enjoyed the evening and, as the hosts, we did not have to worry about the organisation or logistics during the event."
Post-event analysis: Hayward says that he would recommend The Manor at Weston-on-the-Green to other companies looking to host a corporate event. Paul Oberschneider, owner of the property, says the fact that the event took place on a splendid summer day helped ensure it was a success.
Company: Santander Corporate & Commercial
Event: Business centre launch
Group size: 40
Date: 27 June 2013
Venue: The Manor at Weston-on-the-Green, Oxfordshire
March 2013: Planning stages for the event
Early April 2013: Venue confirmed
Early June 2013: Numbers finalised
27 June 2013: Event takes place