SEGRO’s managing director, national logistics, on diversity, the ESG challenge and his love of travel.
What is the worst travel experience you’ve had while working in the property industry?
I’ve generally been pretty lucky but missing a flight a few years ago to Poznan after being stuck in a horrendous M1 traffic jam sticks in the mind. I had to join the meeting via a video conference, which was a real novelty at the time, never thinking in years to come such meetings would become part and parcel of working life!
What’s the best work decision you have ever made?
Joining SEGRO 12 years ago. It was a very different company, and indeed sector, back then, and to be a part of the company’s evolution and growth in recent years has been a hugely rewarding, and of course at times challenging, experience.
What’s your greatest work achievement?
I joined SEGRO in a financial role, so making the transition to operations four years ago was something of a leap of faith. It’s a lesson in trusting your instincts, and with the support of a first-class team, I’m proud to have led the development of 3.5m sq ft of industrial space at East Midlands Gateway, while growing our national portfolio.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
While buildings may be our stock-in-trade, real estate is very much a people business, so being advised early in my career on the importance of integrity and to be straight, clear and concise with people, whatever the conversation might be, has always stayed with me.
Who do you most admire in the industry?
The late, great Ian Coull, SEGRO’s former chief executive and an industry legend. I will never forget how good he was to me when I joined the business. Generous with his time and shrewd with his advice, he was incredibly supportive and a truly great man.
What’s the best thing about the industry?
An obvious and perhaps a clichéd answer, but it really is the people. I am fortunate to work with some amazing, talented people in an open, supportive and empowering culture. Across the industry, on the whole, I find myself dealing with intelligent, honest, dedicated people.
And the worst?
The obstacles, constraints and bureaucracy that developers face across the whole planning and development spectrum can be frustrating and require considerable patience and perseverance.
If you weren’t in your current post, what would be your dream job?
As a committed former Sunday League player, and regular in the SEGRO five-a-side team, I would have to say wearing the number-three shirt for my home-town football club, Nottingham Forest.
What one thing would you change about the industry if you could?
I would certainly like to see the industry become more accessible to a broader, more diverse range of people, and for young people from all backgrounds to be aware of the opportunities and have a pathway to the myriad career opportunities in our fantastic industry. Some progress has been made in recent years, but we can do so much more.
What could have the biggest impact on the industry in the next 10 years?
The single-biggest challenge facing the world is climate change, and that goes for the property industry, too. ESG is rightly being taken seriously by the industry and significant measures are being taken, but for an industry which is the largest contributor to greenhouse gases and global warming, it is our duty to act – and act fast.
What’s your ideal holiday?
I love travelling and am not one for lying on a beach, so it would need to be something that combined activity, history and culture with lots of interesting things to see and do. Thailand would certainly tick all the boxes.
If you had a dinner party and could invite three famous people, alive or dead, who would they be and why?
Covering the bases of my three big passions in life – football, history and travel – I would have to go for Brian Clough, Alexander the Great and Bill Bryson. It wouldn’t be an evening for the faint-hearted!
If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be?
Vancouver. A wonderful city, equally captivating in summer and winter (great skiing nearby!), it is beautiful, diverse, rich in culture and amenities, has real character and is populated by irrepressible Canadians.
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Five minutes with… Andrew Pilsworth, SEGRO’s managing director