Until 18 months ago, you could have forgiven an outside observer for thinking that the property industry hadn’t really seen a huge amount of change in recent years.
The trade publications featured the same businesses, the same people running them and the same sort of deals.
However, the sheer volume of mergers and acquisitions over the past year and a half - together with even half of what is supposedly in play - means the picture today is very different.
It is perhaps to be expected that as a result many were grumbling at Mipim that ‘things aren’t what they used to be’, but there were plenty more who were excited by what’s happening and recognising there’s much more change coming through. As the saying goes, ‘you ain’t seen nothing yet’.
Let’s face it - if there’s any service industry that needs to be on its toes through the unprecedented social, technological and demographic change that surrounds us, it’s ours. We’re in the thick of it.
For starters, all this change has a huge impact on the demand for the very product that underpins our existence: property.
To continue to be relevant to our clients who invest in, develop and occupy real estate, our expertise needs to move with the times. That means we must be nimble, and we need to have answers to the key questions our clients will be asking - the what, the where and the why.
We also need to remember that no matter what the product is, we’re still part of a service industry. Wherever there is process in what we do, clients rightly expect us to bring the best technology to deliver a more effective service. In the case of property management and facilities management specifically, clients expect us to put a very human face on the front of a slick process to meet increasingly high customer service expectations. Clients now see a level of tenant or customer care as a ‘must have’ for good real estate performance - and they’re right.
On both the technology and people fronts, there’s no question that the optimum solutions for the service our clients need sit beyond the boundaries our adviser community typically works in. Either we go and find it, or it will find its way into our world anyway.
The same changing demands are true across the whole industry. It is something of a generalisation to talk about a lack of progress in bringing the public and private sector together - but let’s face it, the surface has only been scratched relative to the need and opportunity across the UK. There is a wealth of expertise in the adviser, investor and developer community, but only a fraction of it is usefully engaged by local authorities or central government.
Both sides need to work on the marriage, but the private sector particularly needs to focus on its empathy to the challenge faced by the public sector. Whether in central government, local government or health, a property ‘deal’ is invariably just a single part of a much broader agenda. The winners in the adviser community will be those who are involved in shaping and delivering that wider agenda. In short - it’s not just about the deal anymore.
Alan Dornford is managing director of real estate at Capita Real Estate