Anna Clare Harper, chief executive of SPI Capital, on how she got started in property, her proudest career moment and what she wants to change about the industry. She also shares her cultural recommendations.
What do you value in people?
Honesty. Trust is so important, both professionally and personally. A ‘growth mindset’ is also really valuable; it is not about being perfect first time, but about stretching yourself and sticking with things even when they are not going well.
What do you like most about yourself?
I am most proud of my energy, enthusiasm and resilience.
What does your job entail?
SPI Capital creates and manages hands-free residential portfolios for high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs) who want to diversify investments but lack the time or knowledge to invest independently. Day-to-day, I build relationships with investors and partners, and strategically direct our efforts as a business.
How did you join the property industry?
I studied land economy at Cambridge but after an internship at Knight Frank, I was not sure I wanted to be a surveyor. So, I became a strategy consultant at Deloitte, working with major global banks and private equity firms, investing in property on the side. The problem was, I did not have enough money so I worked out how to analyse deals before going out in the evenings and at weekends to find deals. I hustled a lot and it was not glamorous but I learned a huge amount. I eventually left the corporate world to work on this full time.
What do you like most about the property industry?
The people. There are so many smart, fun people whom it is a pleasure to work with.
And what do you dislike most about it?
As an industry, we are not great at diversity and inclusion, especially at the top. It can be hard for people who do not fit the ‘male, pale, stale’ stereotype to identify role models or feel like they ‘fit in’.
What barriers or challenges have you overcome?
Running a business is about dealing with challenges. The biggest challenge is timing of deals and money, both equity and debt. The way we work is to focus on investors first, before sourcing opportunities suited to their needs.
What are you most proud of in your career?
Prior to SPI Capital, I developed the strategy and built the seed portfolio for an HNWI-backed fund targeting a £100m-plus housing portfolio. I am also proud of my first book, Strategic Property Investing, which became a bestseller in the first lockdown, and my TEDx talk on socially responsible property investing.
What advice would you give someone starting a career in the property industry?
Be enthusiastic and positive and enjoy being paid to learn. I would really recommend Carol Dweck’s book The Growth Mindset, which highlights the value of continually pushing yourself.
What do you want to change about the property industry?
We need to catch up with the times around sustainability. This includes environmental improvements to bricks-and-mortar assets, social value through more consumer-friendly management, and diversity and inclusion issues.