Simon Montgomery, Collingwood's Property and Infrastructure Principal Consultant has been busy in the 6 months since he joined the team. He's been out and about across the UK meeting contacts old and new to find out more about them, their organisations and the challenges and opportunites they're facing in the uncertain times ahead. Here, Simon talks to John Ogden, CBRE Managing Director (North).
Simon: Please tell us a little about yourself and your career to date?
John: My name is John Ogden, I live in the Lake District, have 4 kids, 2 dogs and I’ve been working in Manchester for about 20 years. I’ve always enjoyed working in the North West. I’ve been at CBRE getting on for 11 years and I’m currently the MD for the Northern region, where we also have offices in Liverpool and Leeds. Prior to CBRE, I worked for Edwards & Co, a niche, predominantly agency based business, where I spent a very enjoyable 7/8 years, prior to that I was with Savills.
Simon: As the MD of CBRE (North), what is a major part of your role and what takes up most of your time?
John: It’s a pretty varied role and one that I really enjoy doing. The day-to-day management of teams and people is fairly time-consuming. Also, it’s incumbent on me to promote the business, promote the brand and liaise with clients, both old and new. I also make sure that all the service lines within the CBRE business are working together, pulling in the same direction and collaborating. Planning the strategy for the business for the next 3 to 5 years is also critical.
Simon: What is your vision for the CBRE North?
John: Well, we want to continue to grow and diversify. We’ve got some excellent core service lines here, all the ones that you’d expect; valuation, property management, all the agency functions, landlord and tenant, building consultancy, rating, planning and so on. We do see other opportunities as well as growing core business around; healthcare, student residential investment, PRS, development consultancy and also funding. The vision really is to ensure that we have best in class teams in all of those sectors and to offer a holistic solution for clients. We want to solve problems and offer our clients great solutions.
Simon: What are the biggest challenges you face as MD?
John: That’s a good question. I think constantly striving to innovate and improve, always trying to look ahead and keep one step ahead along with always trying to come up with new strategies. If you take that on your shoulders solely as the MD then you’re always going to really struggle but if you're able to embrace all the good people and the team that you have around you, and the team that we have here is incredibly good, then actually you don’t tend to run into too many problems at all.
Simon: What would your customers say are the key advantages of CBRE?
John: I would obviously always ask our customers what they think and we take criticism as well as praise, that way we can always get better. I would like to think that what we offer customers, and what they see is very, very good people, highly skilled, highly professional, great integrity, and good fun to work with right across all our service lines. What they also benefit from is a very personal touch. The people that we have here working in the North are very people focussed, they’re not all clones from a big corporate machine, we’ve got bright people and a great culture that embraces diversity. But equally, clients get the benefit of a global business with great working practices. We have very strong guidelines around what we want to achieve and how we can get the very best results for our clients. I think that’s borne out by the fact that we’ve got such a large global platform and we can take best in class examples from our colleagues around the world. Also, we can put our customers and our clients in touch with other members of our business that might not be based in the North but have a particular skillset that will be able to help them.
Simon: What do you see as the biggest opportunities and challenges affecting the property market in the next 5 years?
John: I think the biggest challenges, post-referendum, are still somewhat uncertain market conditions. Brexit is only just beginning – we are not out of the single market yet. Also, the potential instability in Europe in particular around the various elections that have happened/are happening this year. It’s more of a macro view of global politics, geopolitics and global economics just throwing up those uncertainties that ripple down to our markets here even in the North West. Those are the challenges that we face. These challenges bring with them opportunities and we’ve got to be on the front foot. We’ve got to be out in the market, reassuring people that the UK, and specifically for us the North West, is a very strong and solid place to invest in property, which it is – with great fundamentals and great demographics here. We see a myriad of opportunities still in this market and actually, our clients are seeing that as well. We are seeing European, Middle-Eastern, Far-Eastern, and of course U.S and Canadian money still wanting to invest in Manchester and the NW, as well as London. In Liverpool and Manchester, we’ve got fabulously dynamic cities and the strong brand of both cities certainly helps promote confidence to investors. One of the other challenges that we face in Manchester is a change in leadership. For a very long time, we have had a very stable, local government. Sir Howard Bernstein and Sir Richard Leese have been highly successful civic leaders, working very well with the private sector, resulting in a superb public/private sector dynamic. Developers, investors etc. knew what they were going get when they came to Manchester, they got face time with the people that make the decisions in the city and they were reassured and made comfortable very quickly. Obviously with Sir Howard moving on from his role and the new Chief Executive and Mayor taking up their positions things will change. However, I’m very encouraged by the fact there still seems to be that entrepreneurial spirit within the City Council and we have in Eamonn Boylan a very astute Chief Executive of Greater Manchester. There are a lot of great people that remain in the council which is reassuring. I’m sure we will see continued public and private collaboration and the success that brings to the market.
Simon: You’ve spoken about the importance your team play in CBRE’s success, so how do you retain your top talent, particularly in a marketplace which is very candidate driven at the moment?
John: It’s a mixture, you’ve got to pay top talent what they deserve but also you’ve got to give them good career paths. It’s about really understanding them, treating them individually. Everyone is different, everyone has slightly different goals, and everyone wants slightly different things out of their careers. We are seeing a big difference between young talent coming into the business, the graduates who are coming in through our graduate scheme, the millennials if you will, as opposed to the employees my age. We do see things differently, have slightly different ways of looking at life but it’s a very inclusive business and it’s good to get this varied perspectives. People get the opportunity to work with other teams and therefore learn new things. We’ve got a lot of different skillsets within the business here. From a personal growth point of view, it’s a great place to be and it's actually getting those people in the business to understand that and giving them the right opportunities. If we can develop our people, nurture talent and give our people a career path that accords with their ambitions then we can keep our best people happy and fulfilled.
Simon: That’s a great way of looking at things. Has that changed from when you first started?
John: I think it probably has changed. When I first started out it was very sector specific, we were all quite driven to look after ourselves. The way people work and what our young people expect from work has certainly changed over the last 20 years. Some for the better, some maybe not so in my opinion.
Simon: And where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?
John: Well bearing in mind early retirement is not an option I’d be very, very happy if I was still running the team here in the North - it’s a great team. Obviously, I don’t want to stand still I want to grow the business and there are always opportunities out there, so let’s see.