Montagu Evans might not have the largest managing agent team in the market, but they do have one of the most ambitious. The partnership, which celebrates 100 years in business in 2021, is committed to changing how properties are managed and how they can help change the property management landscape in the future. Here, Matthew Evans speaks to Neil Worrall, the firm’s new Partner and Head of Property Management, about his view of this area across retail, offices, and how the firm is going to achieve significant change.
Having spent many years at JLL (including King Sturge) how are you settling into Montagu Evans?
I’m having a blast! Monties was described to me as being a family and I, perhaps cynically, thought that was too good to be true, but it really does have that feeling. Everyone is interested in meeting you, understanding your vision and proactively sharing opportunities.
The fact it’s a partnership means that our clients get a very personal and dedicated service and internally we all have an interest in the wider success of the business.
It also helps that our new offices at 70 St Mary Axe are a great working environment with amazing views over London and workspaces focussed on collaborating across sectors, along with easy access to the rest of London and further afield to go out and meet clients and contacts.
Property management has long needed to evolve and change, and we are seeing a number of significant changes in the industry. How will Montagu Evans look to offer a different proposition to its clients?
I’m only a few months into the role but our proposition in property management centres on a technology and customer experience-led business, driven by a group of strategic and innovative experts – all built on a rock-solid foundation of fundamentals.
Partnerships are incredibly important to us externally as well as internally – whether that’s a large government body, major regional town centre asset, specialist landlord in Central London or something in between.
The firm’s approach as a whole is driven through its sector-led approach. Groups of specialists in certain areas – planning, development, agency, rating, as well as property management – who bring together expertise in a particular sector as well as having really strong technical skillsets individually. Our often longstanding and deep relationships mean that we can also access best in class and innovative experts whenever we need them.
The added value to any aspect of our property management strategy is that despite being a 160-person business, we can still change direction quickly, still be closely connected to our customers and also have a deep understanding of the sectors in which we operate. If a customer needs to pivot, we can help them do that seamlessly.
That ability to be truly, agile, and entrepreneurial means that, for example, we can rapidly target technology solutions to deliver both greater insight to our customers but also make our teams more efficient and effective. Long gone are the days when a standard property management system is the answer.
The team has grown significantly over the past two or three years, and we’ve won some great mandates but there are still more opportunities to harness. The reason I’m here is to build on the great work that’s gone before by the team and my predecessor John Tinley, who will soon be retiring, and push our service even further forward. The culture here means that this new thinking is always welcome and not hampered by excessive layers of governance.
We are also recruiting from different, or certainly less traditional, talent pools for a PM business. For us that means targeting people who really understand the needs of occupiers to help connect the dots between the delivery of traditional landlord services and the experiences and services that occupiers crave.
We have some exciting senior hires coming in both areas very soon to help drive those agendas and expect the team to grow further over the coming months and years.
How can managing agents improve the customer experience within offices and across retail portfolios?
No-one walks into an office, shopping centre or anywhere else and wonders what the rent collection statistics are or how well is the service charge run. As an accountant, I know that those elements are, and will continue to be of critical importance. However, for the users of space, what is important is how the building makes you feel. Do you feel welcome? Do you feel connected to the surrounding communities? Especially relevant now, is whether it’s a space that you will leave home for, to work or to play?
The role of the managing agent is to drive that connectivity: to attract customers; to help clients attract and retain talent for their business; to drive productivity, protect the environment and create more value for all stakeholders.
In a technology-led world, this is where delivering human interaction and experience is key. It has never been more important for property managers to physically be in buildings, to be available to occupiers and to be truly curious about the challenges they’re facing. From that base level of understanding, and depending on the asset, you can start to deliver experiences that are relevant – that could be a proactive Front of House team, building events, community engagement strategies (both vertically and horizontally) and much more, but often it’s as simple as regular and clear communication. In short, you’ll never go too far wrong if every now and then you just shut up and listen!
I understand Montagu Evans are looking to enhance how they use tech. What are the positives technology can bring to sector?
Of the top challenges that clients want resolved in property management today, a number have an explicit technology angle including optimising operating efficiency, providing exceptional data management, and having the flexibility to quickly adapt to changes in the markets.
With so many data points to capture, analyse and create value from, technology has a huge part to play in developing our understanding of what really makes a building tick.
Once we have that understanding, we then have the opportunity to use tech to deliver exceptional customer experience; to help attract and retain the best occupiers; and have a positive impact on environment, social and governance (ESG) strategies.
Importantly, technology and data is only as useful as what you do with the insight, and as always that comes back to human interaction, strong communication, listening to customers’ needs and helping solve their challenges.
What are the key challenges which you’re excited to overcome in the coming months?
Perhaps my most important challenge is a personal one. As an advocate of mental health and wellbeing, and in my excitement and enthusiasm to move the team and service offer forward, the challenge is to make sure that I take the time to look after my mental health and spend quality time with my family. Otherwise, I’m lucky to work in a strong business with talented people.
Will we do things differently ? Absolutely.
Will we challenge what property management looks and feels like? Highly likely.
Are any ideas, innovations, or customer solutions off the table? Not a chance!
I also get to keep being a part of the Monties family whilst adding some highly talented and passionate new family members into the fold. What’s not to be excited about?
Describe what you’d like the future of Montagu Evans’ property management team to be known for?
Simply to be known as a team that listens, cares, and delivers.
If we get that right, the sectors we operate in, technology we use, our approach to ESG, and which clients and customers we work, may change over time but how we work with people and the relationships we build, will last for much longer – that’s worth being known for.
What values are most important to you in the creation of an outstanding team?
At Monties we have a clear set of values: Be a Partnership, Be Creative, Be Honest and Be Yourself – values that I wholeheartedly agree with and are reflected in the agile, entrepreneurial, and family vibe that I’ve seen since joining.
The Property Management team is growing rapidly, and what I look for in candidates are people who are bold, who think differently, truly care about customers, live their values every day, love to share stories of what they or their teams have been up to, and just have that passion and dynamism to make a difference.
Property, real estate, the built environment – whatever you call it, it’s all around us and we have an enormous privilege and opportunity to make a positive difference to many, many lives by improving it – it’s an opportunity we all need to take hold of.