Back Meet The Speaker: Rachel Miller, Head of New Investment, Grosvenor
We spoke to FUTURE PropTech speaker, Rachel Miller, to share her insights of the industry beyond the current challenges of Coronavirus.
What are the biggest challenges that you, as an investor, are facing at the moment?
For me it’s about finding joint venture partners who fit with our values and our requirement for both compelling commercial returns and social benefit, and having those honest discussions about what social value in real estate really means.
There are many exciting opportunities out there, but returns could be hit by many different global and local issues, all the risks of delivery are high.
There’s very little public trust in the planning and development system. Grosvenor’s recent research found that only 2% of the public trust developers to be honest (and only 7% trust local authorities so that’s not much better). While there’s huge demand for development there’s also a huge challenge in understanding how we can work with communities.
What 3 solutions would you like to see in the marketplace?
The Retirement Living sector is growing fast and has huge potential. There are so many challenges around building for our aging population and proptech in all forms could be a Game-changer.
I’d like to see more solutions to engaging communities with the development process, particularly those who currently don’t have the knowledge, time or inclination to get involved. We are actively developing toolkits for engagement, particularly with young People.
Finally sustainability: there’s a lot of focus on new builds but the buildings that exist now will mostly still exist in the future. We need to retrofit sustainability into older buildings, and the solutions need to be affordable to ensure they are widely used. Physical changes need to be made and we should also be able to monitor performance better.
How do you think the industry will change in the next 5-10 years?
All sectors will have a much stronger connection to their ultimate occupiers as space is increasingly provided on shorter terms and with stronger management, whether that’s build-to-rent, co-working, retirement living or innovative retail concepts. Successful companies will be those that engage fully with the end users of their buildings. Connected to this, less focus on short-term profits and more on long-term and sustainable income.
Residential of all types will continue to grow and diversify – technology allows us to shop and work from anywhere, but we all need somewhere to sleep!
Even those companies which currently don’t give sustainability much thought will be forced to take it seriously. I regularly speak to developers who say other investors don’t question them on this aspect of their plans but I believe this will change quickly.
Volumetric modular construction will make a contribution to higher sustainability levels, and will be much more widely used.
I’d like to think that the real estate industry will also become more diverse and more reflective of the people we build for!
How is your company preparing for these changes?
We have a large Build to Rent scheme in Bermondsey which we plan to develop and manage long-term. We’ve also been investigating newer sectors including Retirement Living, Healthcare and Co-Living.
We have committed to achieving zero carbon operational emissions by 2030, eradicating waste from our buildings and we have a Supply Chain Charter to bring our partners with us.
We’ve also reviewed how we recruit and develop talent within our business, are focused on the potential of graduates rather than previous experience and have partnered with the Mayor’s Fund for London on social mobility.
The theme for this year’s FUTURE PropTech is “Re-Imagining Real Estate.” What does this mean to you?
Sustainable commercial success from developing and managing places which make people happy.
What are you most looking forward to at FUTURE PropTech?
If I have to choose then the discussion on residential, some inspirational new tech demonstrations, and I believe there’s some kind of after-party so I won’t be missing that!