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Employee's Interview: Fabrice Paumelle, Head of Retail in Central and Eastern Europe

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We spoke to Fabrice Paumelle, Head of Retail in Central and Eastern Europe at BNP Paribas Real Estate about his current position, and discussed the most challenging and rewarding things about it.

Can you tell us a bit about your role?

I lead the retail advisory business line in Central and Eastern Europe, and I’m based in Warsaw. About 75% of our activity takes place in Poland, mostly due to the market size. Of course, it’s also due to the appetite of retailers and developers, since Poland represents half the region with a population of 38 million people.

At BNP Paribas Real Estate, our organisation is divided into three different business lines: retail letting, retail investment and retail property management. In the past, I used to be the Head of the lettings retail business line. Due to the evolutions and dynamics of the market, the standard services of classic business lines were no longer enough. A new solution was needed to gain our clients’ trust and answer their more complex needs. Today, their needs are more global than only letting, transacting or managing properties. That is how the idea of the new business line and my new position were created. Within the Retail Active Management (RAM) department I respond to complex client’s needs and requests while using skills and professionalism from one of the three business lines, in order to boost the quality of our offer. Take, for example an old shopping centre which struggles with various challenges such as a high vacancy level or low footfall. I need to find an answer for the client’s needs in order to better serve their new sometimes complex challenges

This is essentially what RAM is about, the optimisation of client services. Offering them three solutions in one package: property management together with the specific leasing, with the aim of boosting the value in order to resell it later at a higher value.

Why did you choose a career working in the real estate sector?

When I finished my studies, I knew that I definitely wanted to work in an international environment, around the world. At this time, I had received the opportunity to join a large French retail group, which was also a developer and a real estate operator. I started working there as a retailer and then I quickly moved to the expansion team, and was responsible for real estate related activities. Instead of only managing the retail stores, I soon moved on to preparing future real estate assets. And naturally, I enjoyed it very much.

Why did you choose Poland?

Back in the 90’s, many French Retail groups were either starting up or diversifying their international development. At the time, I was young, mobile and starting my career, so as there was clearly an opportunity to go abroad and I was internationally-oriented, I had this opportunity and I took it.

Can you tell us about your career path?

I started in Poland 20 years ago, and I was a part of the first big era of hypermarket development. After that I developed many shopping centres and had the opportunity to co-found a new retail developer operator here. We followed the market evolution and moved from hypermarkets to larger shopping centres and megamalls. After that, I continued on my path with less and less retail operations and more and more real estate development or advisory.  Finally, I became an agent after being approached by the CEO of BNP Paribas Real Estate in Central and Eastern Europe, who understood that we needed to bring new, more complex, diversified services to the table in order to better serve the needs of a classic retail agency. I’ve now been doing this job for 5 years.

What is the most challenging thing about your job?

In the past I was either a retailer or a developer, so I controlled my investments, managed money, investment budgets and results. Currently, as an agent at BNP Paribas Real Estate, I need to advise instead of making decisions, and this is what challenged me the most in the beginning as I wasn’t used to being an advisor instead of being a decision maker. It took me some time to get used to this, but I believe in the end it went really well.

What it the most rewarding?

The most rewarding thing for me is definitely being at the heart of what’s happening. Being an agent is so rewarding, and especially being at BNP Paribas Real Estate, which is present throughout Europe. I also have close contacts with colleagues who are doing the same job as me in different countries. As an agent, you’re at the heart of all the information, at the crossroads of changes and strategies for all the major players in the market. It’s a great position because it allows you to see, assess and understand everything that’s going on in the industry.

What skills do you think someone needs to work in your department?

My job is mainly client-focused, so what’s really important is flexibility, adaptability and the capacity to generate a specific task force ready to respond to specific client’s needs.

What are you most proud of achieving in your career?

When I joined BNP Paribas Real Estate, I managed to find the perfect location for an Omega flagship store that the Swatch group was looking for. As it was the first direct store on the Polish market for this luxury brand, I believe it was a great achievement. The luxury sector is the last frontier and almost like a summary of my last twenty years in retail.

How do you think you’ve got to where you are today

Passion, motivation and determination. You need to be very determined because not every day is an easy one. Moreover, you often hear the word ‘no’. And when you hear it, you need to think that it means ‘maybe’, otherwise you won't succeed. The most important thing is to never feel satisfied or to feel that you've accomplished the job, because retail is always changing and evolving.

What advice would you give to someone looking to start a career similar to yours?

I would say that, generally speaking, the future of offices is retail. BNP Paribas Real Estate is an extraordinary, powerful and leading European group in the office sector, and retail is the next challenge! Retail is a more complex sector because of the three pronged relationship between a landlord, a building and multiple tenants. Retail is definitely extraordinarily motivating so you need to work hard, but it’s also very exciting.

What does success mean to you?

Client satisfaction. When the client is happy, the job is done right and I feel like I’ve succeeded.

What memorable piece of advice have you been given in your career?

When I started my career in retail, my manager, who was just about to retire, said to me: “There's only one truth in retail. It’s the field. The field, the field, the field.” Today, retail is complex because we make huge shopping centres that are financed by international funds, and which are acquired or sold by private equity around the world. But at the end of the day, the value of what we’re doing is having the right product, at the right place, on the field.

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