Start building as a Property Director

With the London Olympics six years away, now is the time to join the property sector.
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Canny graduates with an eye on the City always need to be on the lookout for pastures new. Like any good sell, it pays to find a market with high demand and low supply, all the more important when what you are trading in is your future.

Most graduates will already be painfully aware of the dizzying property boom of the last decade, but away from the wheeler dealing of estate agents, a quiet revolution has been going on in the world of corporate property that should be of interest to any graduate with an eye for a new careers market.

After wages, property is a business's biggest spend. Yet corporate real estate has been seen as a dim younger sibling to finance and accountancy. But with starting salaries approaching £30,000 and top dogs earning hundreds of thousands you will not miss out on a City salary. And as London prepares for the 2012 Olympics with huge investment in bricks and mortar, big business has never been more interested and anyone interested in business should take a look at property.

Property directors show companies how to ride the strange beast that is the property market, from the financial nuts and bolts of tax breaks and prices to the high level strategic questions of marrying the business and the property it runs, which requires you to know as much about business as property.

A career in corporate property used to be the preserve of the less brilliant progeny of the Home Counties. "Historically there have been some good people in the real estate sector but also many who have not been so academic," says Tim Latham, director of recruitment consultancy Director Resourcing. Now that is changing. "There's been a shift over the last few years. The property market is crying out for people who are analytically strong."

With tax often the reason for property transactions, the sector is keen on graduates with maths A-level and strong academic degrees which, says Latham, can mean anything from accountancy to history. As businesses have woken up to the importance of their investment in property, says Latham, a generation of property directors is emerging, with the analytical intelligence to exploit the laws, taxes and economics of corporate property and the ambition to look beyond property to running the show down the line.

Celia Bryant, 23, is one of those bright young things reinvigorating corporate property. "The business interest came first," she says. Her fascination with property came later, at Cambridge, where she studied land economy, a mixture of law, economics, and property. "I wanted a career that was interesting, challenging and involved in the way a business works," she says. "And I wanted to deal with something tangible: real assets which you can see and get your hands on."

Bryant graduated last summer and joined professional services firm Deloitte as an associate in its real estate consultancy team. She now helps advise occupiers, funds, and investors on a range of property issues. She is part of a team restructuring the corporate real estate arm of a global financial services firm, working out how to manage a portfolio worth billions of dollars across the globe.

"We're business advisers not property advisers," she says. And it is this strategic-level engagement with business that she says is most exciting. "You're dealing with how a business works and can make a big impact. Property makes a huge difference to a business, both in terms of cost, but also helping the business to be more efficient. It's interesting being able to make that difference."

Many property directors start in consultancies and move on to work in-house for companies. After university and an MPhil in land economy at Cambridge, Matthew Wright, 35, joined a consultancy. A few years ago he moved in-house and is now head of property at media giant Emap.

"There's a difference between talking about property as an adviser and owning the issues of property as an in-house," he says. "You get greater continuity and a chance to shape a portfolio over the longer term, and a chance to align property to the business."

Working in-house also gives you a chance to get more exposure to life beyond property. "You appre-ciate the workings of a non-property company," says Wright. "It's a good experience of different disciplines. You need to be able to converse with those people in their language. If you have a narrow, property background you can stay conversing in that language."

It was property that got Wright hooked in the first place, but now he says it is as much about the business. "There's so much unrealised resource sitting in companies in the world," he says. "There's so much stock, much of it untapped, more and more companies are beginning to understand that it's important. It's exciting."

Comments