Alan Ryall, joint managing director at advisory firm Watling Real Estate, on how he got started in property, his top book and podcast picks, how he’d spend one million pounds and his number-one travel destination.
How did you join the property industry?
Having done a business studies degree and then moving to the US when I was 22, it is safe to say getting a ‘proper’ job was not high on my agenda. I was introduced by chance to someone who was on a graduate training scheme at a surveying firm. They sold it as a route to a professional qualification with a social life. When I returned home, I managed to do some work experience at King Sturge and subsequently secured a place on its graduate training scheme as a non-cognate.
What does your job entail?
I work alongside the national team advising on property-related restructuring matters on behalf of clients including corporates, lenders, accountants, private equity houses and public sector bodies.
My workflow includes implementing strategic and operational property restructurings in both proactive and reactive scenarios.
What do you like most about the property industry?
At a personal level, the variety of work a single day can provide; and in our market, the ability to interact across a complete spectrum of stakeholders.
And what do you dislike most about it?
Endless internal meetings, boards for boards’ sake and strategy days.
What would you change about the property industry?
A delicate response may be required here on what is an extremely live topic. The RICS has clearly had a challenging 18 months. I hope the changes that are needed provide us with a professional body that is effective and that we are proud to be members of.
What barriers or challenges have you overcome?
Entry points into property have changed dramatically even in the last few years and very much for the better. In the mid-2000s, trying to enter the industry as a graduate having not done a property-related degree was pretty challenging.
What are you most proud of in your career?
We have just completed a management buyout of Avison Young’s national restructuring solutions team to form Watling Real Estate. Lifting a national team of 20 out of a global real estate practice is not a regular occurrence in the industry. I am proud of the team and what has been achieved even in just the first month.
What do you value in people?
Integrity, honesty, commerciality, the ability to continually push the boundaries and be three-dimensional – and a sense of humour.
What advice would you give someone starting a career in the property industry?
Work hard, take every opportunity that is put in front of you and don’t take anything for granted. Treat people how you would expect to be treated – the property market is a very small place.
Something to read:
Watling Real Estate is backed by Paul Bassi and Bassi Capital, so Paul’s memoir Brick by Brick: Success in Business and Life is definitely the right answer to the question of which book I like. I have a copy and will be reading it.
Something to listen to:
I spend a fair bit of time on the train in and out of London, so I listen to quite a few podcasts. It is difficult to pick a favourite, but I would probably say The Rest Is Politics. Although politics is not something I have a day-to-day interest in, the fact that I have listened to most of the episodes tells its own story. It gives a pretty honest and at times amusing view into the workings of politics and political life.
If I had a million pounds:
If I had one million pounds, I would go into the residential marketplace as a cash buyer, via the auctions. There continues to be a scarcity of rental properties in certain locations, with rents at eye-watering levels. I would look at desirable areas and follow the ‘worst house on the best street’ playbook.
Top travel destination:
My number-one travel destination is Cornwall. It is the one place where I can completely switch off from the moment we arrive, which may also have something to do with its lack of phone signal. I have two young daughters and the beach gives them complete freedom. We do a week there every year with the extended family. It is a pretty basic formula when we are there, but given how busy both work and life in general are with a young family, the simplicity of the holiday is what makes it so enjoyable.