Can you tell us a bit about your role?
I am responsible for running our Insights programme which sits within the Research team. This involves looking at long-term macro-trends and applying them to real estate, across a five, ten or even 20 year time scale. It’s then about understanding what those impacts might be across all real estate sectors including agricultural land, residential, alternatives and more traditional commercial.
In the UK, I started off working for Strutt and Parker so with the BNP Paribas Real Estate merger, I’ve now been working on the Insights programme since 2012.
Can you tell us about your career path?
My career before BNP Paribas Real Estate was in property research with CBRE in Chicago. Before that it was with a boutique firm called MB Real Estate and before that I was in the Fast Moving Consumer Goods industry. All in all, I’ve spent about 20 years doing research across the globe and have pretty much covered every sector of the property world.
I have a slightly unusual educational background when it comes to being in real estate because I have a Bachelor of Science (BSc) degree in Food Science and my Master of Science (MSc) is in Hospitality and Tourism Management, so I have a very unusual pedigree. I do feel though that it is one of the advantages that I bring as I tend to have a slightly different approach to real estate.
How would you say the American property market compares to the British one?
From my experience of working in property in the USA and the UK, my observation would be that the difference is one simply of maturity in different parts of the real estate markets. For example, multi-family is an asset class that has existed in the USA since the 1990s but in the UK the institutional residential market, commonly referred to as the Build to Rent (BTR) sector has only really been an asset class for the past five to ten years.
How did you come to work in real estate?
It was a combination of events! I was first exposed to the real estate industry whilst in high school but at the time I thought I wanted to be in research and development, so I went to university for an undergraduate in Food Science. Fast forward ten years and I decided to go back to do my Masters, this time focusing on hospitality and real estate. Thanks to great advice from my mentor at the time I started working at MB Real Estate which is where I really got exposed to the capital markets and investment world as well as leasing. From there I had an opportunity to create a research role and that was really where I sunk my teeth in and never looked back.
I need to recognise that I challenge the status-quo and that I can be adding a layer of uncertainty, which can be uncomfortable. So the most challenging part of my job is keeping all of that in mind and making the insights relevant for our clients for today
What is the most challenging thing about your job?
Leading the Insights programme, part of my job is to provoke conversations and get people thinking about how the real estate sector is changing. This means that I am typically talking about impacts to the real estate market that aren’t going to happen today or tomorrow but more likely in five or ten years. This means that when I’m presenting or sharing insights, I have to put myself in the shoes of our clients. I need to recognise that I challenge the status-quo and that I can be adding a layer of uncertainty, which can be uncomfortable. So the most challenging part of my job is keeping all of that in mind and making the insights relevant for our clients for today.
What is the most rewarding?
For me, the most rewarding part of my job at BNP Paribas Real Estate is creating and sharing thought leadership. I love seeing the signals that are happening in other industries outside of the real estate sector or in other countries and cities. Then being able to apply those trends to property and sharing that insight with colleagues, clients and professional peers. I like to think that those conversations play a part in making better places, whether that’s for work, living or play.
What’s certainly great is being able to walk around different cities and being able to say that I had a little part in making that.
You’ve recently been appointed as the Chair of the Urban Land Institute. What exactly will you be doing in this role?
My responsibility is to provide strategic leadership for the organisation in the UK whilst continuing to fulfil the mission of ULI in providing leadership in the responsible use of land and creating and sustaining thriving communities worldwide.
The great beauty of ULI is that you can have an architect, a developer, a financial analyst, an investor and a local authority expert all sat around a table together having a conversation, all bringing their expertise to the problem. As ULI is a non-lobbying organisation, it allows for a neutral environment which is truly about making better places. So being able to facilitate conversations and getting like-minded individuals, from different disciplines, in the real estate sector together is a vital part of my role.
At ULI, we are looking at innovation in the built environment and the different elements that technology brings. This is combined with looking at how we measure the social and financial impact and how they work side by side. I am looking forward to launching a number of new projects and being seen as the organisation that is thinking about the future. This is by being able to draw on a global network to be able to say these are the things we need to be talking about and addressing.
You’re ULI UK’s youngest ever Chair, how do you think you achieved getting to this point?
I’m not new to ULI, I’ve been a very active member for quite a long time; sitting on the Executive Committee in Chicago as a Young Leader. As soon as I moved to the UK I immediately joined the Young Leaders, helping to launch the Mentoring Programme and was able to show my leadership at quite a young age. I’m also a natural networker so I know a lot of individuals in the industry and was in a position to be put in front of the board and subsequently nominated to be Programme Chair. This meant I was in charge of organising the annual conference, the largest event for the UK. I think I was probably quite successful at putting together unique, thought-provoking conferences whilst raising sponsorship and the profile of the organisation. I was then appointed Vice Chair which I was doing for a couple of years before becoming Chair.
I also have a passion for the organisation and what it stands for and have been extremely fortunate that BNP Paribas Real Estate has fully supported my involvement in the organisation and I’ve embraced that!
What does this role mean to you?
I am thrilled that the organisation is ready to enter the next chapter and hand the reigns over to a younger professional. I am excited by the opportunity to showcase what the next generation of leaders in the industry are capable of, whilst still being respectful of everything that’s been done before. It’s about raising the profile of how we can be better ambassadors for our industry.
In your field of expertise what keeps you up at night and what gets you up in the morning?
The pace of change and how sometimes our industry is not going at the pace that I think it should be definitely can keep me up at night! When I am aware of new trends or ways of working that, because of the way the real estate sector is structured, cannot be implemented, it is frustrating. The real estate sector affects everyone so it’s about being agile enough to respond to changing needs and situations, so making sure that I can influence enough people to make a difference.
What gets me up in the morning is the fact that I love the industry and also the fact that every day is different for me. I’m not an individual who likes routine so every day I know that, whether it’s coming into the office, or going to meetings or talking to a client that the day will be different.
What advice would you give to someone looking to start a career similar to yours?
I think it’s recognising that you can never stop learning and have to continually embrace that uncomfortable change factor. In an era where creativity and thinking are becoming more and more important we must never stop using our brains to read, explore, challenge and converse.