Real Assets. Real Expertise. Episode 2
Stephanie Workman, Senior Manager, Real Estate Services, talks to Bridget Wilkins, Director of Community Engagement at Built-ID.
Stephanie was first introduced to Bridget following her appearance on the webinar panel for Bisnow discussing how technology will create the Real Estate winners of the future. A surveyor by background, Bridget has been with technology business Build-ID for just over 18 months now. In today's chat, Bridget shares valuable insights into how Real Estate technology can drive and create social value.
You can listen to the full podcast by clicking on the listen button below or going to Spotify.
Narrator: Welcome to real assets, real expertise. A podcast brought to you by Crestbridge. It's the place where we explore the world of real estate. Introducing your host Stephanie Workman. You’re listening to real assets, real expertise.
Stephanie Workman: Today I'm joined by Bridget Wilkins from Built-ID. I was introduced to Bridget earlier this year following her appearance on the webinar panel for Vis-Now about how technology will create the real estate winners of the future. Bridget is a surveyor by background and has been with technology business, Built-ID, for a number of years so I thought she'd be an excellent guest to talk about how real estate technology can drive and create social value. I hope that you enjoy the episode. So Bridget, thank you so much for joining us this morning, and your evening, it would be great to just have a very brief intro to yourself, your background and to Built-ID.
Bridget Wilkins: Absolutely and thank you so much for having me on the podcast, it’s great to join you today. I have quite an interesting background in real estate and experience both professionally and personally. I actually grew up in real estate since day dot. My parents have been in it for forty plus years, so if you can imagine I grew up vowing to never to work in it no matter what and yet here we are many years later, working professionally for the last twelve years in a variety of roles across valuation and advisory, a couple transaction, development and advisory management and most recently including in a proc-tech world, working in community engagement and strategic advisory around how to best engage with the community, using, a really innovative platform called ‘Give My View’ which is run through Built-ID, which is the company I work for, and it’s really exciting because when we’re twelve months out of the market and its got very market leading developers and public bodies working with us across London in the U. K. and it really kind of neat to see how we can we can push the platform forward to empower and educate communities along the way.
S.W: It would be good to hear a little bit about Give My View and what it does and how it works for your developments and your investors and society.
B.W: Fundamentally, Give My View is a white label publication platform that’s run by either public or private developers, initially in the real estate sector but we’re working now in infrastructure and other emerging areas as well and what we do is run a digital consultation, in most situations alongside those more traditional approaches which would be a letterbox drop and attending a local council or community event. The challenge in our society today and the problem we’re solving with our platform is connecting to those groups or people in the community who would not normally participate in those traditional methods and if we can combine that with those traditional methods then we have a approach which we can capture a much broader and more diverse set of the community which not only adds value in terms of informing what is the centre in the markets, the frameworks in the community and how we use the intrinsic value of people around us to actually form a codesign and cocreate place and ultimately the risks and elements of development on and along the way, so Give My View platform was launched in March last year in West London in the west end and we're seeing a fantastic amount of growth across market, working with the likes of Barclay Home and Transport to London and in many more market leading developers who are really committed to driving social value through using quite an effective and efficient piece of technology. I think it's important to recognize that our platform will not be the silver bullet for all developers and, in fact, it should not even replace those traditional methods, where it works really well it will add real value by working alongside the face to face consultation to engage a broader audience bringing that back and looking at what Guarder and by what we generated along the complication in that process.
S.W. It sounds like something that would need to be monitored and regularly updated, it sounds like quite a live kind of app. I know that Built-ID work on a number of different technologies and applications and, you know, you've been there for a while now, and given your background in property, how have you seen real estate tech evolve since the beginning of your career? Have you observed any trends? B.W: That’s a great question, and I'm sure other people you ask are going to have some really interesting answers as well. I think the fundamental changes that we’ve viewed to a market and an environment where information is available at the touch of a button, looking back at how we've made investments and real estate decisions 10 or 12 years ago, it was based on loads of historic evidence because that’s all we had available. Speaking on my personal experience, my first job was as a valuer, so I’d go to an auction, in person, and then I’d drive back to the office and then I input the data into our records and spreadsheet and analyse the sale and sale price, I’d then call the council to get the development information and then I’d have analysis to use as evidence in an evaluation. I don’t think that’s done that way anymore in Australia in any other markets and then there’s elements that are and you look at that process and we have that virtual connection, we have data collection, we have huge machines that are collating everything that are spitting out outputs for us to then analyse at a much more strategic level so I think technology has impacted so many different elements of different parts of the real estate sector. What excites me, is what that means for the wider piece around who we’re working with, who we’re working for and the continuation in relation to the count we see in real estate, so I think there's now expectation that most companies, most real estate companies need to be competitive in the work force, need to have a very strong technology strategy, almost a digital first approach in how they use technology themselves, how they’re meeting with their client and how you deal with their staff and employees, if they're not doing that I think that they will be losing talent so it's about how we bring those two factors together given we’re now in an environment where we are much more engaged and informed workforce and also sector as well. S.W: With that in mind, when developing new real estate technology what would you say needs to be prioritized?
B.W: I think there’s a few key elements when developing new products in the real estate market and I think they are applicable to most sectors but we can apply to this sector first. The first thing that I'm sure that we really identify the problems we're trying to solve and the idea for a product that we have actually going to solve it but the way we can do that is by speaking to the market and engaging with our community. As an example with Give My View, our team spent about 18 months before launch researching, investigating and consulting to make sure that when that product was launched it was fit for purpose, market ready and I think that’s a key thing with a lot of people coming into real estate from outside the world and think, well I’ve got to check background, I’ve got to run background checks, which is great, we need more diversity but unless they really understand the key problem or a lot of developers and fund managers it's often hard to find the real time value add solutions that technology can provide. The next thing to really understand where the true value lies is in using this piece of technology and I think you know we discussed this last time but around when moving away I hope from an explicit idea that a piece of technology then requires an explicit return on investment I think we're now recognizing that there are a lot of wider benefits we need in technology, but it still needs to pay for itself just like everything else in the business and where that needs to happen is where developers and entrepreneurs and start ups and real estate services need to invest in their brewing up their own technology in order to understand where is the financial gaining in using it, for us its around how we can help de-risk some of those assumptions that occur in the development cycle and ultimately take a portion of the speculative nature of real estate out of real estate development and depending on some processes and locations and sectors it could be between 2%, 5%, 20%, its all relative but that's where it gets really exciting to understand where the value is and treat it with the business problem we’re trying to sell. The last thing that we really need to know in a real estate context is the ESG principles that we now all need to adhere to and rise up and not try and fight the tide that is coming toward us and actually ride the wave, if we can use that analogy, because it’s only going to become ever present particularly looking at the environmental impact climate change but also the F and the G elements as well and with that we can have a mindset of building a piece of technology inside or outside the business that'll give us a social license to operate with our community and with our client in a way that actually adds value in a number of ways, you know, with financial and risk but also in the social value as well.
S.W: Can you give us any live examples of how real estate tech can engage communities and add social value?
B.W: There’s so much debate around what is social value, how do we define it and how we measure it and that’s really fine because it pushes the industry further into that discourse. For us, at Built-ID, it’s around recognising what are the traditional aspects of community consultation and how can we enhance that for those that would not normally participate. To give you an example, traditionally, if we're looking at normal numbers of people who attended consultation events, this is before COVID, I’m sure it's a lot less now, if we were to run our platform alongside those traditional in-person events we’re achieving on average around 1900% high level of engagement in the community, because of the additional channel. I think, you know, it when I joined the company I thought that was a made up number because it was so high, but trust me its not, we check every day, it’s because people use technology and we have used technology to gauge community engagement and yet that’s where all the people are, so if we combine the people and the technology then ultimately we will get a higher level of engagement and alongside the face to face, we get some really interesting analysis, you know that's the first thing, engaging a much higher and more diverse sector of people in the community but thats around how we're actually engaging them, for us its about making sure that our platform is not there to tick box on a planning application, you know or in fact and in-person application it's around ensuring that we’re allowing people to codesign and cocreate in the way that they want to work and ultimately drive that level of social value into the community. The third element of how we’re driving social value is, quite a tangible example, is every time someone goes to our web apps which is comes up as an ad on social media, and vote as a member of the community, they’re given gold coins which you gain to find the experience for them, its like an online game and its designed to be done in less than ninety seconds. When they get to the end of answering questions in the polling journey, they can then allocate those coins to a hyper local charity and there will be three there, making them put those coins to one of those and it is a really exciting way to give back to the community that we’re working with and in the end drive that instant gratification around delivering social value because some of these projects we’re working on are only 10, 15, 20 years of delivery and some people who we are consulting with now may not be visionaries at the end but that mechanism is a really effective way to drive engagement to a high audience, to incentivize people now to participate and to give back to the community that we're working with.
S.W: How can Built-ID help developers and investors engage with their community from the outset of their project? So, what you were saying earlier, it sounds like you kind of front load the interaction with your community and you kind of saving time further down the line but it would be interesting to hear the impact to society, to the developer, and to the investor.
B.W: Big question, I’ll try and summarise it for you. I mean, how Built-ID can help, I mean obviously it depends on who the developer is and what the project is. At a very high level, it comes back to working with developers and clients who have stopped speaking about the community, as a vocal minority, as the nosey neighbour next door who is going to object to a development and actually recognize that the community is a group of people that are very informed and very educated and actually could be very valuable to delivering and designing that project and the reason I say that is, to answer the question, I think it is because of how the market works today with what we’re trying to change through our platform, is we can only really engage with the community through the planning process, and if we take a step back and thats one of six stages in the development project, its one of six, so where we’re really excited to push our platform is bringing that community along the journey for all those stages and using it to inform the design, the delivery, the viability, to do market testing, need analysis and ultimately the end goal which obviously is occupation and I think with that comes recognition that the community could also be part of that energy from day zero and by using technology we can connect with that market I think very early on today. Take an element of the assumptions and the risks of the development, you know, we're bringing in the market and bringing the people to the property rather than taking the property to the people.
S.W: What are your thoughts or predictions for the future on how real estate technology will impact communities? B.W: I think it goes back to my earlier point, around using technology to really engage the market between the developers, the delivery partners and the community. I think we can all agree there is a perception, unfortunately, in the community, is that developers are big, bad, scary, and in fact, because of that, I mean, we have a lot of fear, a lot of uncertainty and we have a lot of distrust and when COVID comes forward, we have opposition and actually in reality there are some brilliant, passionate, very socially aware people in development, some of the nicest people I know work in this sector so we’re trying to break those perceptions down by bringing them together and then giving developers and partners more of a profile, more of a human approach to working with communities. The people realize that we are ultimately the same, we have a common ground, we have a common aspirations to make out the societies, our cities and our towns more sustainable, more safe and inclusive and we can do that by working together rather than by working apart. So, I think using technology to bring those groups together is important and I think that will continue with our platform and others and then I think from that, the outward drive is who you’re actually engaging with, what are the demographics and how with that form a wider delivery or design as well. So to give some examples, we can ask questions like, would you prefer playground space or a workspace or it can be a retail space, to be able to ask that question to people who are going to use the space we’re taking out an element of risk and helping inform design and the scope which I think can only be a benefit to some of the developers and partners in the market, given how much of that uncertainty is happening in the round up.
S.W: I just have an additional question that my boss, who is is a Chartered Surveyor, gave me. So, we were speaking earlier about how real estate and property is an imperfect market, just given the lag in market information. How can real estate technology help to combat that?
B.W: Ooh impressive, it’s so relevant I think, okay, how can real estate be you used to combat the imperfect market that is real estate? It comes back to what we were talking before around using technology to inform decision making in whatever context that might be and the benefit we have now in 2020 and beyond is we have access to so much more information at the touch of a button, then we had three years ago, five years ago, ten years ago and that’s in every context, from when someone applies for a job you can see their entire history and networking connection to more analysing valuation data, we can look at leasing deals that help our profiles, literally at the touch of a button, to even analysing our own social media market strategy and our data output. In every aspect we now have a lot more information that we have access to and through our understanding that each individual team and firm, what problem are they trying to solve, both for themselves and their clients and what piece of technology they can use to help with that. Saying that though, and this might be a bit controversial, is that technology isn't going to solve one problem, we can’t just buy a product, click go and hope for the best. Where it worked that is when it run by people who care, who build it, who manage it and it becomes a much more user approved process. Theres a great analogy that technologies a bit like a pet, you buy it and then you’ve got to maintain it. It is quite exhausting, but it’s true and I don't think people realize that and I certainly didn’t when I left the corporate real estate side and started to work at a technology firm, it needs to be a lot more innovative process and we that an appetite for more application and more learning and more risk taking and then with that an acceptance that there are now different types of risks on one of the developers that aren't just market risks but actual risks around how they remain relevant and competitive and how they retain staff and how much time their spending analysing information. I think, it is still too, you know, the firms don’t know what the problem is and their looking at technology to help solve that which really comes down to using information as best as possible to inform decisions that need to be made given we are in an imperfect market where it's a long term horizon for a lot of people.
S.W: Very exciting points covered this morning. You did great, I mean, that one was a tough one, so I was really intrigued to hear you with your surveyor hat and your tech hat interchangeably put on and off.
B.W: It does come down to, like everything, evaluation is all about attack rate, at the end of the day it’s all about what kind of hat you’re putting on and our perception of risk, and the challenge is you’re looking at historically leaf, a hisrtrical company that no longer have a job in business profile because it’s 2020, so what is going to happen is everyone is gonna write a book with about two to five basic points and just wait and see if you have a value or traffic that is more that is more productive and more flexible maybe in some cases we're going to just hold on and try and ride it through and wait for recovery in some cases. It comes down risk, ultimately I think the big change is that – it really is about different perceptions of risk, you know, you look at the Google’s of the world and you think they spend two billion dollars a year on crazy ideas and the number one mantra is ‘lets fail first’, ‘as soon as we fail, we can fail better’ and it is the opposite when your building a five hundred million pound commercial asset. It’s how we come together with those different perceptions of risk, both from valuing a company but also how we deliver it and when we really push the boundaries of what we want to test but with a mindset that we’re testing it and we want to build something and yes its blank concrete but we can still change it every couple months, we can still do renovations, if we accept that and that profile. We work in a business where it takes twelve months to get a business plan to look at the new location or market and we’re missing out on opportunities because our risk profile is to match you with the right capital and occupy activity. I think as a market, as a sector, with my valuation hat on, we have to think about where our real risk is and how we can use that advice to be competitive rather than the risk of ultimately being afraid of it.
S.W: I think that was fantastic, sometimes it good to have an ad hoc question in there. You’ve got the experience now of living in both worlds so, you know, it's just good to hear your experience of it, so thank you. Well thank you so so much for finding the time this morning to catch up with us, it was really good to hear your experiences and thoughts on how real estate tech can drive social value. Thanks a lot and speak to you soon!
Narrator: You've been listening to real assets, real expertise. A podcast from Crestbridge, presented by Stephanie Workman. To find more episodes of our podcast go to our website Crestbridge.com, or the way you usually download your podcasts. For more information on how Crestbridge could provide a range of services to support your real estate structures visit our website www.realassetsrealexpertise.com