Effective property asset management is more crucial than ever.
With many retailers struggling and office occupiers needing to retain employees in an era of historic low unemployment, property owners need new tools to keep pace with constant change.
With an ageing population and more technology-enabled younger shoppers and leisure users, there is the opportunity to improve convenience for the former and for the latter via enhanced experience.
Cue technology, and in Aviva Investors’ case a new way of thinking that we believe will transform the way we approach property asset management.
First, there is the Digital Garage, which we established in east London’s Hoxton in 2016, as a platform to nurture smart tech ideas with real needs in industry that is proving a fertile breeding ground to embrace disruptive tech.
We are currently working with Shepper, which operates almost as a property mystery shopper, to keep a close eye on the presentation of our assets. Shepper can source ’shepherds’ to carry out regular inspections across a portfolio through a social media network driven by the trusted economy.
Second, we are trialling blockchain tech through a pilot with Founders Factory partner Luther Systems on our fixed-uplifts long-lease portfolio to add simplicity, speed up the process, give tenants clearer visibility and avoid human error to improve performance for our investors.
Systems thinking is another field we believe can have wide-ranging application across asset management. This is a method of critical thinking by which you analyse the relationships between the system’s parts to understand a situation for better decision-making.
In a property asset management environment, this means speeding up the re-leasing process when a property or floor is about to become vacant to reduce void periods.
This also means seamless co-ordination of the delivery of units, fit-out, speed of access and marketing, while making the most of customer relationships across our portfolio.
It sounds simple, but much of the property asset management world has yet to capitalise on the range of new technologies emerging across the sector, which can make all the difference when spread across a large portfolio.
This technology isn’t just about enhancing performance for investors, it is about benefiting retailers wrestling with their portfolios and office occupiers seeking to occupy the best space for their staff.
Our direct real estate business is focused on a ’clusters’ approach, concentrating our portfolio on locations that have strong macro-economic prospects combined with highly educated working populations.
London, Birmingham, Manchester and Cambridge are among our key locations, where we look to work with occupiers to provide the best solution across the combined office, retail and industrial properties they occupy.
AI is also emerging as a major force in asset management, with smart tools that will focus on speed, simplification and better customer service.
The days of the sleepy property asset manager are becoming a distant memory. Technology is crucial, which is why we have high hopes for our blockchain trial, which we are partnering with Luther Systems on.
Efficiency is also key, which is why systems thinking has significant potential for our real estate business.
Last, but not least, being close to our customers is crucial. The days of large fund managers getting tenants ’on the hook’ for 25 years then becoming lazy rent collectors couldn’t be more inappropriate in these fast-changing times.
Melanie Collett is head of real estate asset management at Aviva Investors Real Assets