Ilyas Aslam, chief operating officer at Quadrum Global, on how he got started in property, his top TV and book recommendations, the celebrity he’d most like to meet and how he would spend a million pounds.
How did you join the industry?
Like many others, I fell into property by chance. A law graduate and a finance professional by training, my first real estate position was with a central London high-end residential developer.
I now have 22 years’ experience working within the private equity and real estate investment world.
What does your job entail?
My role as COO covers everything you would expect, including activity related to significant investments and developments in the UK and the US. I have a key focus on London, where we are currently delivering our largest office scheme – the redevelopment of 11 Belgrave Road into a new, highly sustainable workplace.
What do you like most about the property industry?
I like that we have the opportunity to create and regenerate. As an example, when I first saw the building at 11 Belgrave Road, it was clearly the sore thumb of the neighbourhood. By the end of 2023, it is going to be a beautiful, 150,000 sq ft workplace with a key focus on wellbeing and sustainability – the first in the UK to achieve an ‘Excellent’ 5.5-star NABERS UK design-reviewed target rating for building efficiency, one of six to pre-certify for WELL ‘Platinum’ and in the top 1% of BREEAM-assessed buildings.
And what do you dislike most about it?
Two things: the lack of diversity and the inconsistency – particularly in the approach of different boroughs in the UK – to planning matters generally and sustainable development including offsetting, demolition and embodied carbon, sometimes even within a borough.
What would you change about the property industry?
We need a clear, government-led sustainability mandate and guidelines, especially when it comes to offsetting. It needs to be consistent and equitable across each borough so that developers and investors can devise a strategy accordingly and fulfil their responsibility to do at least what is regulated, or more.
What barriers or challenges have you overcome?
The various roles in my career have involved working across different sectors in different countries and continents. The challenge is always to keep on top of these sectors and remain abreast of trends, changing markets and the breadth of protagonists.
What are you most proud of in your career?
My proudest career moment will be in Q4 2023, when we see four years of planning, design and build come to fruition in the completion of 11 Belgrave Road. I will have contributed to the transformation of an ugly building on an unwanted central London site into a truly beautiful one, which knits into the listed buildings surrounding it and sets new standards in London and the UK for sustainability and wellbeing. It is a building you will want to spend time in.
What advice would you give someone starting a career in the property industry?
I would encourage them to enter the real estate world and tell them not to be afraid of starting at the bottom and working their way up, and avoid getting too comfortable in their first, second and third jobs. Move around, explore and do what inspires and motivates you.