At Property Week’s all-new RESI Convention this month at the Celtic Manor in Wales, we unveiled our inaugural list of RESI Trailblazers.
The initiative, sponsored by Cluttons, set out to identify those who have blazed a trail in the residential sector over the past three years. We enlisted the help of our newly convened RESI Senate, which included the likes of Mount Anvil co-founder Killian Hurley, Places for People fund director Alex Notay and Metropolitan chief executive Geeta Nanda, to collate a long list and help whittle it down to just 40 people, more than 30 of whom were able to join us at RESI for a special networking session. It is fair to say that the diversity of the list surpassed everyone’s expectations.
“The breadth of skills demonstrated by the first cohort of Trailblazers is inspiring and we believe they will deliver significant change in our industry,” says James Gray, managing partner at Cluttons. “I was surprised at how many of the initiatives were disrupting what would have once been considered the only way of delivering certain services, while delivering significant commercial return at the same time, which is an achievement with many of the fledgling businesses.
“We will be watching the progress of this year’s RESI Trailblazers with interest and look forward to seeing who they inspire next year.”
Find out more - RESI Trailblazers will help build a stronger industry
Graham Fleming Barnet
Chief executive/founder, Sigma Capital Group
What do you do? I am CEO/founder of the company.
Career highlight: Launch of The PRS REIT on the London Stock Exchange. This is the first PRS-listed REIT to be floated on the LSE.
Mantra: Family first.
Chief development officer, Spaces
What do you do? First and foremost, I have fun. I spend time building and developing relationships with stakeholders, financiers, developers, landlords and other external parties. I’m responsible for sourcing deals, growing the portfolio and finding other value-add opportunities including consultancy and knowledge sharing – and business strategy road mapping, too.
Career highlight: Either stepping away from the corporate world to become an entrepreneur or persevering with grit, wit and determination to purchase a £20m asset from a starting point of ‘where is the money coming from?’
Mantra: Find your why, find your purpose and pursue that with unwavering and laser-like focus. There is abundant energy in the universe of which we are an intrinsic part – never forget to tap into this to propel yourself day after day. You are enough to succeed – just believe that you are, and 5-4-3-2-1 – take action!
Associate director, Savills
What do you do? I analyse the latest data and trends in the residential sector, with a particular focus on build-to-rent, retirement living and student housing. I communicate this research through print and broadcast media, research publications and speaking at conferences.
Career highlight: Arriving at City Hall to present our new research to then mayor of London Boris Johnson – he spent the first five minutes scrabbling under the table to retrieve his lost pen.
Mantra: Coming up with the right answer is easy; the tricky part is asking the right question.
Founder and chief executive, Brickowner
What do you do? As we are a start-up, I have a pretty fluid, hands-on role that involves everything from creating the overall strategy and direction of the business to the daily management.
Career highlight: Launching the Brickowner platform and seeing our first users invest through the platform.
Mantra: “Keep buggering on” – a Winston Churchill quote.
Chief executive/founder of Spire Ventures and chairman/founder of Pi Labs
What do you do? I am an entrepreneur and investor based in Mayfair, UK. I invest in new property-related businesses, including both traditional property services start-ups and proptech start-ups. My portfolio includes 20-plus companies, including 90 North (a real estate investment management), Accouter Group (a furniture supplier), emoov (online estate agent), Trussle (a digital mortgage adviser), Hubble (an office space marketplace) and Pi Labs (a proptech fund).
Career highlights: I have many highlights as my career is linked to the companies I’ve either founded or invested in, and this portfolio keeps growing. My highlights are the successes of my portfolio companies.
Mantra: Capital isn’t scarce. Vision is.
Founder and chief executive, British Pearl
What do you do? My role is to lead British Pearl to success by motivating the team to provide a service their customers truly value and enjoy.
Career highlight: I am a financial professional with more than 20 years’ experience, initially in global capital markets in the roles of trading, sales and risk management for companies such as JP Morgan and BNP Paribas. I founded British Pearl to be part of the ‘new age of finance’.
Mantra: Personal – be a good person, get stuck in, build meaningful relationships, love hard, fight hard, die with a smile. Company – work hard to create something that makes a difference, have high standards, help people build wealth.
Apprentice surveyor, CBRE
What do you do? I am a third-year apprentice surveyor at CBRE working in the retail valuation team. My role involves assisting in carrying out the valuation of the shopping centres held by TH Real Estate and Aviva. In October, I will be rotating into the tenant advisory group team at CBRE.
Career highlight: As part of my role as chair of the BPF Futures advisory board, we visited 10 Downing Street and spoke with Jamie Cowling, planning and housing policy adviser to the prime minister, on how the industry and government can make a career in real estate and construction a first choice for 16- to 21-year-olds, as well as for women, BAME people, the LGBT community and those with disabilities.
Mantra: Your network is your net worth.
Strategic director, Jo Cowen Architects
What do you do? I navigate the architecture practice through the complex planning, political and commercial realities of the ever-changing real estate arena. I specialise in stakeholder management and balancing high-quality design with overall profitability, providing thought leadership in the build-to-rent and co-working space.
Career highlights: Walking around the newly completed Bakery Place residential development in Clapham, which has won multiple awards and showcases the practice’s ability to design and deliver. Winning our first major blue-chip developer client for a 320-unit, high-rise London scheme, and securing our 400th planning permission achieved in less than five years.
Mantra: Follow your instincts. Identify your customer. Never compromise on quality. Be prepared to take risks. Above all else, culture trumps strategy.
Associate director, Savills
What do you do? I specialise in development consultancy and long-term private rented sector investment. I love working collaboratively with clients to deliver solutions and enjoy the challenge of thinking outside the box on complex projects.
Career highlight: Being promoted to associate director at the age of 25, having been asked to jointly run the national Community Infrastructure Levy team just two years after qualifying.
Mantra: If it was easy, everyone would do it.
Vice-president of investments in the UK, The Collective, and formerly of Greystar
What do you do? I am responsible for The Collective’s new acquisitions, investor relations, transaction management and growth strategies across the UK and in new markets, as rental housing and specifically co-living continue to grow into Europe and the US.
Career highlight: I am passionate about gender equality in our industry and in the past 18 months I’ve created Ladies in Real Estate, a 250-plus member networking group for women in UK property. Also, in my last role, I led the purchase of what will soon be the tallest modular building in the world.
Mantra: I often return to a very basic saying that many developers live by, with slightly modified wording: “Just get stuff done!”
Co-founder, Innerspace homes
What do you do? My role is to drive our company’s vision forward to produce design-led, modular housing at scale and to focus our ambitions on transitioning to lower-carbon housing that not only helps our planet but also our clients’ wallets.
Career highlight: Starting and growing a company that is designing and building its own branded modular homes, homes that challenge convention and a company that can have large, positive societal and environmental impacts.
Mantra: Let’s move the design and delivery of homes into the 21st century.
Chief executive, Donati Immobiliare Group
What do you do? I am the chief executive of Donati Immobiliare Group, which is an international developer, builder-developer and investment company.
Career highlight: I set up the business from scratch, so every step of the way has been a career highlight. I love seeing our developments take shape and creating something out of nothing.
Mantra: Everything happens for a reason.
Deputy director for regeneration and infrastructure, cities and local growth unit (a joint unit between the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government)
What do you do? I look at the delivery of economic growth through investment in the built environment, whether that’s HS2 or high streets.
Career highlight: In 2012, I worked with Liane Hartley to set up Urbanistas, a women-led network dedicated to amplifying the voices of women to make cities better for everyone. It has grown from 15 women in London to more than 1,500 women worldwide.
Mantra: Humane urbanism.
Associate land director, IM Land
What do you do? While working for IM Land, I have built up the national strategic land portfolio, seeking out opportunities to deliver longer-term housing sites, predominantly via promotion agreements. It’s a fast-paced investigative role in which I research places, people and policy to identify suitable locations, then work with landowners through the legal process.
Career highlight: Working alongside famous pottery brand Wedgwood to acquire land at its Staffordshire headquarters for an exclusive and now award-winning residential development for David Wilson Homes. The sale enabled a crucial factory and visitor centre refit, meaning the business could stay in the UK.
Mantra: The best kind of business deal is one where everyone wins.
Richard Hywel Evans
Head architect, nHouse
What do you do? I am head architect at offsite modular house maker nHouse.
Career highlight: We launched nHouse at Mipim 2017, raising more than £1m via crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to help get the project off the ground.
Graduate, Cushman & Wakefield
What do you do? As a graduate working towards becoming a chartered surveyor, I work as part of the strategic consulting team, ensuring clients’ real estate is aligned to their business goals and objectives, offering workplace, portfolio, location and development advice across a range of sectors.
Career highlight: I co-founded the CREation Property Network, which provides free networking and educational events for those starting out in the property industry to ensure that everyone, no matter what their background, has equal access to educational networking events and the chance to build professional networks from the very start of their career.
Mantra: Anything can be possible if you believe in yourself. It doesn’t matter where you come from, or what paths you have gone down before, so long as you have the drive and determination to make a change, step up and be heard.
Chief executive and co-founder, acasa
What do you do? I drive our vision to create a platform that will bring the home into the digital age. I also lead our fundraising efforts. We have a small amount of room left in our current round and are in discussions on a larger series-A funding.
Career highlight: Successfully getting the UK’s number-one trusted financial brand, Nationwide, to make its first-ever venture investment into acasa. Nationwide’s values align with mine and our company’s beautifully. It cares deeply about its 15 million members and is the perfect partner for our growth plans.
Mantra: Make things happen. A simple mantra, but I don’t like to dawdle. I find ways, usually through negotiation or my network, to make things happen – often faster than others believe possible. Not sure yet if it’s artistry or luck, but so long as it keeps improving and working I’m happy.
Founder and chief executive, Node
What do you do? Oversee acquisitions, development and operations for our global co-living platform.
Career highlight: Launching our business in four countries on two continents simultaneously.
Mantra: Obsess over details and be nice.
Managing director, Touchstone, part of the Places for People group
What do you do? I lead a business of more than 200 colleagues, which manages homes across the UK for some of its biggest residential landlords.
Career highlight: Creating a growth culture at Touchstone and watching colleagues progress and succeed through the opportunities that our growth has created. Through our Brilliant Place to Work initiative, seeing a massive increase in colleague satisfaction and making Touchstone a great business to be a part of.
Mantra: Can I have more than one? Be brave, be authentic, be polite – all pretty simple, but they’ve stood me well.
Spatial planning manager, London Borough of Brent
What do you do? I am responsible for leading 15 people across three teams covering: planning policy (local and neighbourhood plans); placemaking (design, heritage, trees and landscape); and infrastructure (community infrastructure levy and section 106 agreements). Brent is home to one of the country’s largest regeneration projects around Wembley Stadium.
Career highlight: In 2016, I co-founded Planning Out, a professional network for LGBT+ town planners. Highlights include holding an event in the Houses of Parliament with the Royal Town Planning Institute’s president and our first birthday event held at London City Hall with the deputy mayor for housing and the mayor’s night czar.
Mantra: Diversity is good business sense and good planning.
Head of sales and marketing, Fizzy Living
What do you do? I am responsible for developing and delivering the overall letting and marketing strategy for Fizzy Living with a strong focus on customer satisfaction and innovation.
Career highlight: Winning the community engagement award at the BPF Tomorrow’s Leaders Awards and turning Fizzy into a pet-friendly company by introducing initiatives such as pet stations and ‘Yappy Hour’, which also generated an additional £1.5m in capital value through alternative pet income. Time Out London named Fizzy ‘London’s most pet-friendly rental company’.
Mantra: It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than it is to get permission.
Founder, Lowe Guardians
What do you do? As founder of the company, my primary role is to secure new business, grow the team and look for new opportunities to innovate. We have been very fortunate to enjoy strong growth since we started Lowe Guardians, so I often find myself getting involved in all areas of the business.
Career highlight: Turning an investigation I did as a graduate surveyor at Knight Frank, which explored six different types of affordable accommodation, into a profitable business and building a business I am deeply passionate about.
Mantra: Attack the day.
Systems manager, JLL
What do you do? I split my time between product ownership of Resiforce, JLL’s new homes applicant management system, and working across the department to define our requirements for future digital initiatives that will offer our clients more transparency and control in the online world.
Career highlight: After spending 18 months on detailed requirements analysis, business case negotiations and vendor selection panels, and six months of agile project implementation, in spring 2018 I was thrilled to see the launch of Resiforce – a milestone in JLL Residential’s digital roadmap and a launchpad for future transformation initiatives.
Mantra: Embrace change; find comfort in the uncomfortable.
Marketing manager, Tipi (by Quintain)
What do you do? I’m the company’s marketing manager.
Career highlight: Driving record enquiry levels over the past two years while reading the glowing testimonials from residents who are so happy they choose to rent and live with Tipi, so much so that they tell their friends about it. Join the ‘rental rebellion’!
Mantra: “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning” – pinched from Bill Gates. Marketers nowadays just want to talk; very few want to listen (and learn). Even fewer want to apply those lessons to customer experience. So I moved into Tipi to live my brand’s experience.
Chief executive, The Collective
What do you do? I am chief executive of co-living provider The Collective.
Career highlight: In May 2016, The Collective launched The Old Oak Collective – the world’s largest co-living building, with 550 rooms. By the end of the year, the building was fully let. The company has a total of 2,000 beds in its portfolio and development pipeline, with rapid growth planned in London and sights set on global expansion into the US and Germany. I have been listed as one of the Evening Standard’s most influential people in London and as one of Property Week’s Forty under 40.
Mantra: Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.
Development manager, House by Urban Splash
What do you do? I focus on driving the growth of our innovative modular housebuilding business. I do this through strategic partnerships and land acquisition across the UK, with both the public and private sectors.
Career highlight: Being part of a winning team of forward-thinkers and disruptors.
Principal policy planner, London Borough of Waltham Forest
What do you do? We are working on a new local plan, which will be the planning strategy for the borough for the next 15 years. I lead on housing.
Career highlight: Setting up Women in Planning in 2012 with Alison Mackay. There are now eight branches across the country, with more coming forward, all run by incredible women who are the future leaders of the property, planning and built environment industries. The London branch held an event at City Hall on housing, ‘From application to occupation’, which had more than 100 attendees.
Mantra: Be the change. But my mum has always instilled in me: “Start by starting.”
Paul and David Munday
What do you do? Paul – I look after product and partnerships. We work with letting agents, landlords and renters’ groups. David – I develop RentProfile’s unique landlord and tenant checking technology.
Career highlight: David – When we first produced a comprehensive tenant check report for one of our letting agents in under 10 minutes, they were amazed! Paul – Our work being recognised on GOV.UK and BBC One.
Mantra: Be part of the world’s first trusted rental network.
Build-to-rent consultancy director, LIV Consult
What do you do? I advise leading build-to-rent developers, investors and like-minded consultant teams to deliver efficient, best-in-class BTR schemes in the UK and Ireland. From a blank sheet of paper to an open building, we provide consultancy advice to help create successful places.
Career highlight: Joining LIV to lead the London office and, of course, this Trailblazers nomination.
Mantra: If you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together.
Senior operations manager, Grainger
What do you do? I head the onboarding and operations department at Grainger for all the new build-to-rent assets, current and upcoming, nationwide. I drive my team forward to ensure all buildings are designed with the customer in mind and to ensure return on investment is achieved in line with key performance indicators.
Career highlight: Delivering a baby in a bike store.
Mantra: You will never have this day again, so make it count.
Chief executive, Respublica
What do you do? As CEO of a young company, my role is varied and includes everything from setting out and communicating our vision and strategy to land acquisition and investor relations. As we scale up the team, this will become more focused on company culture and empowering our people.
Career highlights: I am extremely proud of a number of the developments we brought to the market under the Elysian Homes banner. Selling the digital trading platform my brother and I started straight out of university was an equally massive achievement. The biggest highlight of all, though, is right now, working on some incredible mixed-use, co-living-led developments that we believe will set new benchmarks in customer experience and placemaking.
Mantra: A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
Capital markets, CBRE
What you do in your role: I advise investors and developers on the funding and investment of ‘alternatives’ in the north of England. I specialise in build-to-rent, hotel and mixed-use schemes.
Career highlight: Advising Legal & General’s BTR fund on the acquisition of the UK’s tallest build-to-rent development, the 46-storey West Tower at Deansgate Square, Manchester.
Mantra: As a rugby player, I was always told to “aim for the gaps” – the UK alternatives sector now presents unparalleled opportunity in asset classes that have previously been overlooked. These ‘gaps’ have big potential.
Founder and managing director, Placefirst
What do you do? Provide inspiration to a great team of financiers, constructors, customer service and lettings staff so that we can build the best residential developer and landlord business, providing great-quality homes to hard-working families across the UK.
Career highlight: Pre-letting an entire housing development in four hours in Toxteth, Liverpool. This was an area abandoned and left to ruin and we transformed hundreds of empty homes to create aspirational and brilliantly managed family homes for working people.
Mantra: If you have a business where the customers are your sales force, then profit will look after itself.
Founder and head of strategy, Conductor
What do you do? I am directly involved with all our clients. My job is to set up projects so that they deliver outcomes aligned with our clients’ goals. I ensure the integrity and quality of our ideas and work and challenge our clients to think differently about their strategies.
Career highlights: Seeing the gap and need for a business such as Conductor and taking the plunge to go it alone and set up the business in 2014. Since then, there have been so many highlights, from project wins to hiring and working with fantastic talent, to, most recently, securing investment into the business to help realise our growth plans.
Mantra: If the intention is good, it’s all good.
What do you do? Day to day I’m working with our product and engineering team to deliver new features and solve problems our customers and the industry at large are facing.
Career highlight: Raising Yorlet’s first round of financing from a number of angel investors.
Mantra: Give more than you take.
Mayor, West Midlands
What do you do? The mayor’s primary function is to chair the West Midlands Combined Authority and that brings with it significant power over transport, housing, skills and jobs.
Career highlight: Being elected as the first mayor of the West Midlands on 4 May 2017. In June 2015, I was awarded the CBE for services to the national economy.
General manager, investment strategy, Homes England
What do you do? I am general manager, investment strategy, at Homes England.
Career highlights: Building The Petchey Academy with Jack Petchey’s Foundation and the Department for Education & Skills is a special one for me – a brand new secondary school for Hackney and a development which is creating a great legacy. More recently, launching the £1bn Housing Delivery Fund is a big one for 2018; we’re working in partnership with Barclays to accelerate the delivery of new homes.
Mantra: Always have a plan and don’t be afraid to change it.
Senior lettings manager, The Acorn Group
What do you do? I oversee the group’s build-to-rent leasing team, ensuring that each development is leased within agreed timescales and key performance indicators are met. Maintaining occupancy levels and reducing void periods is a key focus for the team. I also consult on values and strategies, both before and after acquisitions, for a range of clients.
Career highlight: I’m proud to be part of a team that has been at the forefront of BTR since 2012 and has grown to be the number-one BTR managing agent. Speaking at the UK Apartment Association annual dinner in 2017 was a major highlight, as it was recognition of my standing in the sector.
Mantra: Customer, customer, customer.
Head of PRS, infrastructure and complex projects, Homes England
What do you do? I work in the investment department, responsible for deploying government funds for housing delivery. I am also the agency lead for build-to-rent. I have a great team made up of bankers, chartered surveyors and construction specialists. We are at the ‘front end’, structuring and contracting loans.
Career highlight: Winning the PRS Deal at the RESI Awards in 2017 for the Dandara loan we structured with HSBC. To have all our hard work recognised was fantastic. We won the Funder of the Year and PRS Deal of the Year at this year’s RESI Awards, so the success has continued.
Mantra: Just because it’s difficult doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.
Co-founder and chief executive, Public Practice
What do you do? I lead a new social enterprise that is building the public sector’s capacity for proactive planning by placing outstanding built environment experts in progressive local authorities.
Career highlight: Hearing our first cohort of 17 associates stand up and talk about their motivations for joining Public Practice and their belief in the future of public planning.
Mantra: Everyday places can be extraordinary.