Jo Allen - Chief Executive of Frogmore

Posted on 27 November 2019

Susan Freeman
Hi, I’m Susan Freeman, welcome back to our Propertyshe Podcast series, brought to you by Mishcon de Reya in association with the London Real Estate Forum, where I get to interview some of the key influencers in the amazing world of real estate and the built environment.  

Today, I am delighted to welcome Jo Allen; Chief Executive of Frogmore, one of our leading real estate investment managers.  Frogmore was founded in 1961 and pursues an active, value creation strategy across all UK property sectors.  Jo is a Chartered Surveyor with 30 years of UK real estate experience.  She has been involved in the asset management and development activity for the majority of Frogmore’s transactions over the past 24 years.  Jo started her career with Richard Ellis, now CBRE in their London office where she specialised in asset management, landlord and tenant, rent reviews and lease renewals before moving to the industrial and office leasing teams.  Keen to promote diversity within the real estate industry, Jo works actively with Pathways to Property; an initiative lead by Reading Real Estate Foundation to engage the younger generation in the real estate sector.  Jo also supports Real Estate Balance and sits on the fundraising committee of Land Aid; a charity that harnesses the property industries expertise to support projects working to end youth homelessness in the UK.  So now we are going to hear from Jo Allen on how she has worked her way up through the ranks at Frogmore to become Chief Executive and her views on the UK real estate sector. Jo Allen, welcome to the studio.

Jo Allen
Thank you Susan.

Susan Freeman
First of all I have to ask you, it’s Jo but I think it’s short for Josephine, is that right?

Jo Allen
Yes that’s right but I am only called Josephine when I am in trouble.

Susan Freeman
Does anybody dare call you Josephine?

Jo Allen
Only my mum.

Susan Freeman
Okay.  Okay.  So Jo you’ve been in real estate for almost 30 years and you joined Frogmore from CBRE in I think 1994.  So what made you think about real estate as a career?

Jo Allen
Well I would like to say it was a plan and a dream all my life from a little girl to be a surveyor but that would not be the truth.  It was actually quite random Susan.  I liked school when I was you know, at school in Shropshire, I grew up in Shropshire.  I had come from a farming family, all my family had been farmers, in fact I come from a long line of award winning turnip growers if that’s of any interest to your listeners.

Susan Freeman
That’s very interesting.

Jo Allen
Yes, thank you.  But my father didn’t want to take on the farm, I liked school and when I came to doing my O levels as they were in those days, GCSE’s now, my grandfather who I adored asked me what I was going to do when I left school and I didn’t have an appropriate answer and I didn’t want to disappoint him so I told him I was going to stay at school and do A levels, that seemed to you know go down very well with him so halfway through A levels he then asked me again what I was going to do. I didn’t really have any idea so I asked him what he had done and he told me that at some point he had been a Quantity Surveyor and I thought well that sounds a bit dull, that’s probably counting bags of sand and bricks but I don’t want to disappoint him so I hot footed off to Market Drayton, a very small town in Shropshire as it was in those days – a bit bigger now – to the library, to the careers advice shelf which was all of about a metre and a half long and I flicked through quickly some dog eared books and I found Surveying and I found that there were courses at University of Reading etcetera so when I got home I told him I was going to apply to do a Surveying Degree which he thought was fantastic.  None of my family had ever been to University so everyone was a bit bemused by this but anyway through I think good fortune I ended up with a place at Bristol Polytechnic back in 1985 and I did a Degree in Valuation and Estate Management where I met some fantastic people who are now well known in the industry.  You know, Ilaria del Beato has been one of my best friends from college.  She is obviously now at Frasers.  Guy Grainger from Jones Lang LaSalle. Colin Wilson Cushman & Wakefield and many others; I apologise if I haven’t named them all but you know Mike Hussey was on our course too so I fell on my feet really and that was it, I got the bug.

Susan Freeman
And what do you think you would have done if you had been left to your own devices and hadn’t been prompted by your grandfather?

Jo Allen
Definitely something outdoors and probably something with cows.  I have an affinity with cows and I often think you know, when I retire I might do something with cows.

Susan Freeman
You have to be a bit careful with cows actually.  So as a matter of interest how many people were on that course and it couldn’t have been that many women at that time?

Jo Allen
Well that’s right.  I mean we were at  a… our campus was at Unity Street with is in the centre of Bristol, the main Polytechnic was our near Frenchay but we were near the University.  There were four courses in our faculty; Housing, Quantity Surveying and then two Surveying courses and of the Survey courses there must have been about 80 students and I only remember that there were 5 or 6 women.  So that wasn’t very many you know, to come out the other end.

Susan Freeman
Not many at all actually.  I have got no idea actually what the stats would be now but hopefully it would be a lot better.
 
Jo Allen
Well that would be interesting to find out wouldn’t it but I am often asked about you know, the number of senior women in property and if it was a numbers came there weren’t going in the chute at the top to end up at the bottom or up the other way round, a reverse chute if that makes sense.

Susan Freeman
Yeah I think, I think there are a lot, a lot more now.  So having been involved in the property industry over quite a few years.

Jo Allen
Thank you for keep mentioning that.

Susan Freeman
Yes… what are the, what are the biggest changes that you’ve seen and have some things remained exactly as they were when you, when you started?

Jo Allen
Oh gosh that’s such a big question because it is all about fashion and trends isn’t it.  I guess we have technology, is one thing.  You know we used to use the telephone a lot more.  We used to have meetings a lot more.  You know the speed of communication I started off at Richard Ellis actually in the Management Department doing rent reviews and we would write a letter, send it off and four/five days later you’d get a letter back wouldn’t you.  Now it would be instant like ‘no I am not settling a rent review, we are going to arbitration’ but that could happen over a long time so speed of communication.  Obviously the way that occupiers occupy their space now is very different.  We could talk about that in great detail and I think perhaps people’s expectations out of their career have changed as well. What people want, that sort of work life balance.  You know we were all very much not even 9.00 to 5.30, it was a lot longer than that.

Susan Freeman
Yes people put everything into their work in the hope that they progress and they get to the next stage.  But it is interesting what you said about telephone calls because I think there has been a bit of a reaction against the fact that you know, everybody just communicates by you know WhatsApp and Messages and people are losing the ability to communicate so I think perhaps we are going to see more conversations and more, you know more meetings even if it isn’t it the most efficient way of doing things.

Jo Allen
I hope so because property is very much, real estate is very much a people business isn’t it.  It very much hinges on networking and talking to each other.  I think that’s one of the things I guess that really attracted me to the industry was the ability to get out and about, you know I love being out measuring up buildings and gathering your comparable evidence when I was doing my rent reviews and then talking to tenants and obviously other professionals have meetings.  I still enjoy that now, it’s a massively valuable part of the industry, very fulfilling.

Susan Freeman
The Frogmore that you joined and was still a public company wasn’t it and then Paul White took it private in 2000 and then things changed again in 2005.

Jo Allen
Oh my, it is such a different… right so I will have been at Frogmore for 25 years in two days’ time.

Susan Freeman
Is there going to be a party?

Jo Allen
I guess so.  We are going to have a nice dinner, the directors and I in December but yes, 25 years soon and I think crikey I have done the same job for 25 years but actually it never has been.  So as you say, when I joined Frogmore they were one of my clients actually when I was at Richard Ellis.  They were a PLC.  Paul White joined about 6 months after me in 1995 and as you say he led a management buyout in 2000 and then 2000 to 2005 we were a private propco and since 2005 we’ve been exclusively a fund manager, private equity fund manager, Value Add Funds.  So my job changed from when I joined Frogmore I went in there as a Senior Lettings Manager they had a lot of empty space they wanted letting and at that point leasing office and industrial leasing was my speciality at Richard Ellis.  In 1999 I became Development Director so I started building space for tenants and then Director of Asset Management and Development thereafter when Eric Roseman announced his retirement.  He recruited me after 35 years at Frogmore he then decided it was time to spend a bit more time at home so I took on his role and then 2011 I became Chief Operating Officer and 2016 I became Chief Executive.  So I have sort of worked my way up.  Never been the same structure of the company and not really the same job.

Susan Freeman
I mean it is interesting as you say, you worked, you know you worked your way up to the top and a lot of the colleagues that you work with must be you know, the people that you worked with when you started as a relatively junior person.  Has that affected the relationships?

Jo Allen
Yes.  I mean it must do.  It is very difficult because at one point your colleagues are your friends and I have to say I work with some very talented people and some delightful people at Frogmore, you know it is very much a family feel and if we come on to talk about the ethos in the office, that’s what strikes me more than anything but you can’t run with the hare and hunt with the hounds so you go from being one of the team to being the team leader and suddenly the invitation to come down the pub with everyone else isn’t quite as frequently coming.  That’s not a criticism for any of my Frogmore colleagues – I’ll be getting all these invitations to the pub now saying ‘oh no we do miss you’ – but when you are the leader, people want to talk about you, not necessarily to you.  I know that because I was in that position once so it is hard to still be one of the gang but also be the leader.

Susan Freeman
And you mentioned the Frogmore ethos and I mean from the outside it has always seemed to me to be very sort of entrepreneurial and it does have, it seems to have a family feel to it because people stay for quite a long time and I am not sure, I think I heard you say in the past that the R word doesn’t exist, I mean people tend not to talk about retirement.  Is that right?

Jo Allen
Exactly.  I mean there are about 40 of us in the Frogmore team and they range in age from 21 to 80 plus years old.  So you’ve got sort of the whole spectrum of a family if you like.  On average people have worked at Frogmore – this is across the board – for 10 years.  There are 6 of us on the Investment Committee, we’ve worked together on average for 17 years.  As I said you know, Paul and I have worked together for nearly 25, Patrick Smith our Acquisition Director not much further behind us.  So you’ve got this back bone of a steady Management Team but what we like to do is you know we sort of bring home to the office, we are no different at home than we are in the office.  We treat everyone with respect, we look after people when they are in trouble and as a result everyone works really hard for us but we cut some slack when we need to and I think that’s what secures a lot of loyalty.  You know if people ever leave us, it is usually for a relocation reason or a personal reason.  As you say, we never talk about retirement you know, people can adjust their working arrangements according to suit their life and if some people want to spend a bit more time at home we try and accommodate that and that has created this I suppose stability in the platform and this reliance on each other and you know maybe individually we are not all superstars but we can certainly play together as a team because we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

Susan Freeman
No that must help, I mean you get to know people, you know how they work and you can almost predict what they are going to say I suppose in some cases.

Jo Allen
Well you have to be careful of that because you are like ‘I know what you are going to say’ and think oh.

Susan Freeman
Finish the sentence.

Jo Allen
Yes. Sometimes I try to think of things provocative so they definitely don’t know what I am going to say but it doesn’t always ring true.

Susan Freeman
So as one of the few but increasing number of women CEO’s in real estate, do you feel that you get treated any differently or are you just treated exactly the same as everybody else?

Jo Allen
Oh that is such a hard question isn’t it because it is the one I am asked all the time and particularly in the last few years.  I suppose one of the things that I have always been is very resilient and I haven’t actually noticed that people treated me differently because I was female.  I just carried on, you know if I came across a bad attitude from a man or a woman I would just assume that they weren’t particularly nice and ploughed my own furrow.  Now everybody wants to talk to me because I am one of the few and I don’t think of it like that and I actually try to move the conversation now away from gender to widen it up to more, and we over use the word diversity, but across the spectrum.  You know, we need a variety of thought in the industry, we provide real estate, we contribute to the built environment and that’s for everybody, that’s for society so what we are doing needs to reflect what society wants otherwise there is going to be no taker for your product if you like. If you think about it in pure investment terms if you can’t rent your space or if your retail tenant goes bust because it is not selling the right thing, or you haven’t got the right size of accommodation for residential or the right price point, it isn’t where people want to be then you are not going to be successful and the people who can tell you that are obviously the ones who are there using it and I therefore think that we do need to have more of a push on creating a general diversity, whether that’s by race or by religion, or by background or by nationality, it doesn’t matter, we need to be more representative of society as a whole as an industry for us to be able to be creative going forward.  And I will give you a specific example of that which I use quite a bit; we own a shopping centre and one of my colleagues came to me to sign off a lease because the rent was certainly quite sizeable and the tenant was selling ice cream and I said ‘oh my goodness, you know, how much ice cream are they going to sell to get hundreds of thousands of pounds a year to be able to afford this rent?’ and we are in the UK right so it isn’t kind of the warmest place for ice cream and I was told ‘well you know you don’t understand, the young people in this particular catchment don’t go to the pub, it’s not what they do but they will go down the ice cream parlour and spend £15 an evening on a knickerbocker glory or whatever’ and then I thought do you know what, I am out of touch here and what I really need is someone who lives in that area who can tell me what this shopping centre needs and that is just one example of what I am talking about.

Susan Freeman
And do you think as an industry we are actually making any inroads into attracting people from different backgrounds, you know who think differently rather than just having people come in from the usual colleges and Universities?

Jo Allen
Well I would like to think so.  I don’t see a lot of it I have to say so you know whether it is being measured but there are some excellent initiatives and two that I’ve been supporting, but that’s only because they are two that I know about were the Pathways to Property initiative which is the University of Reading sort of goes round schools and promotes careers in real estate and runs a summer school and I know a lot of industry people join in in the summer school to judge what the pupils have done.  The other one that recently we got involved in was Urban Plan initiative which is ULI.  Again a similar thing, going out into schools that possibly you know families wouldn’t know about careers in real estate and they are so vast aren’t they, whether it’s being a lawyer like you or being a banker or laying bricks or property management, anything and I don’t think people realise what an exciting career it can be.

Susan Freeman
No I think you are right, it never ceases to amaze me how little people outside the real estate sector actually understand about what goes on and you know it’s not just kids looking for careers.  I think the recent British Property Federation Perception Survey you know showed that people that aren’t in the industry really don’t quite understand what the industry does.

Jo Allen
Yeah that was a bit shocking.  I was I think there at that BPF annual conference when they announced the results and I think we should all take individually, personal responsibility to just you know, if all of us just sort of adopted in the widest sense of the word, one kid and took them on board to mentor them, what a difference that would make.

Susan Freeman
No I think that’s right.  And also you know maybe we don’t tell our stories well enough and I think you know people going round London will see The Shard, they’ll see Kings Cross but if you ask somebody who created it they might think they might know about the architect, they might assume there is a building contractor but they probably don’t understand that you need a developer to bring all that together so I think there is some great stories, it’s a question of how you tell them.
 
Jo Allen
Yeah how do you communicate that?  It must be getting out in schools, giving some careers talks, joining in the programmes that I’ve mentioned to get people excited.

Susan Freeman
Yeah.

Jo Allen
Because everyone is interested, if they could plan their own town or plan their own street, I can’t believe anybody wouldn’t be interested in doing that and that’s what we are doing isn’t it?

Susan Freeman
Yeah exactly.  I am with you.  Getting back to Frogmore and you are now raising money for the fourth fund I believe?

Jo Allen
Yes, I have to be careful what I say when we are in a marketing mode but we since 2005, we’ve been a Fund Manager, we take investments from around the world.  A lot of our investors are from North America, Canada but we have some Asian Investors, some family offices and so on but they are generally pension funds and we invest only in the UK.  We have a sort of three years in which to invest any one fund and then we do what I call heavy listing asset management.  So we might buy a tired old building, Mishcon de Reya occupier Western House, it was before we bought it coming to the end of sort of that cycle of its life and we got vacant possession of the upper floors, breathed some new life into it, new reception, new lifts, showers, the roof terraces you know, brought it back to 21st century life and…

Susan Freeman
I can vouch for the fact that it is a great building to occupy so you did a very good job.

Jo Allen
Thank you, thank you.  Then Mishcon de Reya took 60% of it and then we sold it on so it is a buy, fix, sell strategy.  We are now on our fourth fund.  We did close in October, £123 million so the show is on the road and I will be spending the next year with Paul, travelling around the world, flying the flag for the UK and for the UK economy and for the UK real estate industry and of course for Frogmore. 

Susan Freeman
With all the uncertainty that we have at the moment, are you finding that that’s affecting investor sentiments or do they take a longer term view?

Jo Allen
Well I think the uncertainty you are referring to some of them would call it volatility and I am talking to people who are investing globally and that’s a global uncertainty.  You know the world is such a crazy place at the moment, you know where is it safe for anyone to put their money or where can they get returns you know, we are in a low return environment.  There is a big hunt for yield and a lot of the investors I talk to they sort of, their strategy, they don’t know what to do, you know bond yields are low, if they are going to invest in, in real estate, off shore looking at the risk, they want a bigger return.  We are finding as you will have seen some of the statistics from the last couple of years since the Referendum there has been an enormous amount of money pouring into the UK from International investors which is slightly counter intuitive when you think the Referendum result everyone might have thought oh we mustn’t invest in the UK but I think the fall in the value of the pound and the fact that we are a safe haven status has attracted some Middle Eastern and maybe Asian capital and particularly with what is happening in Hong Kong you know there is Asian capital looking for a home and London has always been first or second global city according to some of these surveys that people like A Fire do has been the number one global destination in the world for people to put their capital and I think on a relative basis compared to some of the European cities now it still represents good value.

Susan Freeman
As you, I mean you are travelling as you say and you are meeting American investors and Asian and Middle Eastern, you must encounter cultural differences and I just wondered if you had any words of advice for our listeners on going out to these you know, different jurisdictions for the first time, you know, what you need to be aware of?

Jo Allen
Well if it wasn’t really naughty I could probably write a soap opera about our experiences around the world particularly, like us we only every usually deal in the UK and when you are talking to somebody who speaks English you assume that you are talking the same language but there have been a lot of instances where somebody says ‘that’s a great idea Jo, I’ll get back to you’.  That means please leave we are never going to hear from you again so yes and I’ve learnt to speak a bit of America, you know if I spend a bit of time in America I will be talking about ‘shall we get the elevator and can I put this in the trunk’, it just comes naturally you know, I talk about ‘cell phones’ and so on.  So yes there is a cultural difference and I think I would put it this way that perhaps – generalising – if you are going over to America that’s all about the deal you know, what’s the deal whereas if you travelled over to Asia it would be about the relationship, you know how well do I know you, gaining trust before you can start to talk about the deal.  That would just be the opposite end of the spectrum, the high level observation I would make.

Susan Freeman
And in terms of where you are going to be looking to invest the new fund, Frogmore are multi sector, are you thinking in terms of sectors that you are going to be focussing on more and sectors that you are going to be focussing on less or have you not quite got to that stage yet?

Jo Allen
That’s really naughty because you are not going to give the family secrets away Susan.

Susan Freeman
Okay.

Jo Allen
But let me tell you this, we are multi sector as you say so if you look at our last fund which is FREP III we raised it in 2015 and then of course the referendum decision a year later.  What did we do?  We created a very diverse portfolio so we spread the risk across the sector.  We were able to use that multi sector versatility so we had Western House we talked about which was office refurbishment, I would almost certainly say there will be office refurbishment in the new fund because there is a supply crunch coming in some of the towns and cities in the UK for grade A office space and the wellness agenda and what corporate occupiers want, maybe energy efficiency etcetera etcetera will mean that some obsolete space needs our sort of treatment.  We invested in Notting Hill Gate so that’s retail and offices.  Big Box Logistics in Corby where we took advantage of the demand from really driven by retail and online retailing with lettings, big lettings, nearly a million square feet to Eddie Stobart, the same to Bosch Siemans, half a million square feet to Europa Worldwide, all forward funded.  We invested in hotels so pre-lets and space to Whitbread near Southwark and forward funded it with a UK pension fund.  Up in Manchester area we have Salford Quays, a site up there where we have just submitted planning consent for a very high density residential development, one of the last remaining to be developed, second generation plots near Salford Quays and we have an out of town retail park up there in Eccles and then most recently we have invested in the retirement sector.  So down in Southampton we are building build to sell appropriately sized units for older people and they can then purchase services as they travel through life’s journey be it cleaning and gardening all the way through to acute personal care with extra care which we are working with a specialist partner, Oak Retirement and then we invested in four properties in very prime central London.  So one in Chelsea, one in Abbey Road, St John’s Wood, another in Kensington and the other just north of Hyde Park so Notting Hill, Bayswater with Innovative Age Care for dementia care.  We are building a portfolio of 110 dementia care beds.  So we will adjust our approach in response to market circumstances. Are we likely to invest in retail?  Everyone says they won’t invest in retail these days but in this fund we bought the Stratford Shopping Centre.  Why?  Because it is a highly successful centre with 26 million people passing through it every year and it has some redevelopment opportunities on the side of it so we can keep the successful centre.  We are able to let units and drive rents but this regeneration story was very strong out there because obviously the Olympic legacy so we don’t look at an asset as to what it is, it’s what can we do with it.

Susan Freeman
You mentioned adapting to the market and actually the story I really like is South Place which…

Jo Allen
South Place Hotel.

Susan Freeman
South Place Hotel.

Jo Allen
Yes my plan B strategy. 

Susan Freeman
Because that was not, I mean that started off life as offices didn’t it?

Jo Allen
Yes well it was empty offices actually.  I think Norton Rose used to occupy 3 and 4 South Place – do you remember them?  I think that’s where they were.  Empty office building, we got planning consent to knock it down and create a nice sparkly new office building and the global financial crisis was approaching or something felt bad anyway, we didn’t know what it was at the time and we thought if we do this speculative office development we are going to have to let it at rents that are slightly eye watering and it looks like the occupational market is falling off a cliff, we had better take it back in house and decide an alternative strategy.  So we sat – I joke about it – with a damp edition of Developer’s Weekly on our head.  It was slightly more scientific than that and we thought well where would there be known demand and hotel was the obvious option so we drew up a scheme for a hotel and went to the market with the assistance of Gerrard Nolan & Partners and then we pre-let it to D&D.  So usually known for restaurants but Des Gunewardena and his partners wanted to get into the hotel sector and so we designed, specifically designed with the assistance of Conran & Partners, a hotel for them which has a lot of food and beverage and we put it on a long lease and eventually we built it, trades brilliantly.  We are very proud of it  and we then sold it to an Asian investor.  

Susan Freeman
It is a great hotel.  You were probably…

Jo Allen
Do you like it?

Susan Freeman
Well I went to the launch party, I thought this is pretty amazing.

Jo Allen
Yeah.

Susan Freeman
You were probably there as well.

Jo Allen
Yes, yes.

Susan Freeman
So it shows you just really have to adapt pretty quickly at some point.

Jo Allen
I think one of the things about being a relatively small team in this multi sector is that we can, and we have, the capital we have is a blind pool of discretionary capital. So within perimeters maybe side of what we can commit to any one asset or the amount of ground up development, something like that but within perimeters as long as it is UK we can invest.  So we can turn quite quickly, almost turn on a postage stamp in decision making and that might be where your suggestion that we are entrepreneurial comes from because we don’t have to go to fifty five committees.  Obviously that makes us very responsible individually but the six of us on the Investment Committee all have very different skills so whether that’s leasing and asset management to investment acumen, our group treasurer we raise all our debt in house and obviously our Finance Director so we are each there to support each other but we can be quite nimble.  We are a very nimble investor and if something is not going right then like South Place Hotel we can switch the business plan quite quickly.

Susan Freeman
Having spent you know your career working in what is still quite a male dominated industry, do you think that you have any particular characteristics that you know meant that you were destined for the top or how do you think it’s worked out?

Jo Allen
Oh right okay.  Well I think I am extremely resilient so I know that people use that word a lot but if something comes along that isn’t quite right or knocks me sideways I can pick myself back up again quite quickly.  I am able to switch from negative thinking to positive thinking quite quickly.  That’s just a general characteristic.  I think that’s very important.  I think also taking responsibility.  You don’t have to wait until it is given to you, you know, volunteer for things, take the lead, you don’t have to have the title, people soon…  a natural leader will filter to the top anyway and I am just very determined.  I always have been.  You know as a small girl my mother, you know poor woman, she had to manage me but I just remember being about 3 wanting to carry a bucket of pebbles back to the car from the beach up a hill and my mum said ‘if you want those stones Jo, you’ll have to carry them yourself’, so I did and that’s just how I’ve always been.  So I will find a way to get something done and what I say to everybody is ‘have a can do’ attitude, it’s how are you going to do it?  You will, you want to, you can.  Have a can do attitude, be positive, don’t be afraid to ask questions either.  That’s one thing I notice, if you don’t understand something put your hand up and say ‘excuse me could you explain’ because I bet you if you tried this, nine out of ten people in the room can’t explain it either but they don’t want to say.  And when I talk to women, younger women, I am quite surprised they do lack confidence so Ilaria, my friend that I mentioned earlier, she once said ‘you know if there is five attributes in a job description, a woman will look at this and say well I can do four of those but I can’t do the fifth one so I am not going to apply’ whereas a man might say ‘I can do two of those, I’m perfect for the job’.  I am generalising, I know that women need to be you know, just have a little bit more confidence in their abilities and just push themselves a little bit more.  Be hurt.

Susan Freeman
And do you think one can teach that because I do, I do hear that and you know people say oh well we need to you know, give our women more confidence but I am not sure if you can teach it and it is strange isn’t it that you know, it sounds like a generalisation but I mean obviously people like you prove that all women lack confidence but I am not sure what we can do to actually encourage some of the you know, women coming up through the business to be more confident.

Jo Allen
Well it is a conundrum because most women now, like we talk about my course and there were only five bothered to apply to get on to my course, five or six and I bet it is 50% not through Bristol necessarily pushing for more females but more women go to college and they expect more out of life so why aren’t they more confident and more pushy because they know what they want.  One of the things when I was little I didn’t know what I wanted so if you don’t know where you are going any road will take you there really.

Susan Freeman
Well you knew you wanted to take the bucket of stones up the hill.

Jo Allen
I wanted to take the bucket of stones and I knew that I wanted to you know, make my family proud really and I wanted to be happy and what makes you happy is being able to sleep at night knowing that you’ve been a good person, having enough money to pay the bills, some kind of security in that sense so the love of a good family, good friends, good colleague and having enough money to pay the bills, that’s probably all you really need so just work out how you are going to get there and I think some of the young women I talk to have very big expectations you know, they want it all, they want to look glamourous, they want to wear the gear, they want to be the best you know partner in life, the best mother, the best colleague – just wondering if that’s entirely possible.  So pick two or three things you want to do and do them well.

Susan Freeman
And Jo when you are not working, how do you spend your time?  What are the sort of things that you would do at a weekend?

Jo Allen
What do I do?  Well I am always busy so I never sit still.  I don’t have any children but I often borrow nieces and nephews or nieces and nephews are thrust upon me so I might be found doing something with either little people or shopping with the older ones but actually what I usually do, I have a home in Norfolk, I am married to Justin.  Justin is in property as well and we have this home in Norfolk and the thing I like best and it comes back probably it’s in the genes, is putting my wellies and I have a small allotment at home and I like digging and my initials are actually JCB – my married name is Jo Brand, JCB so they all call me digger and I like being out there in the mud Susan.

Susan Freeman
And are there any turnips in your allotment?

Jo Allen
There are no turnips but there are carrots and spuds and I make jam and I grow beetroot and that’s just quite fulfilling, getting back to nature. One of my big hobbies is scuba diving.  I like to be out with nature.

Susan Freeman
Scuba diving.  Not much of that in Norfolk I imagine?

Jo Allen
No but I have just come down Carnaby Street and I felt like I was under the sea, they have got some fantastic decorations down there for Christmas.

Susan Freeman
So final question. So over… looking ahead just the next five years what you know, what are the important things to you in terms of the business?  What would you like to see happen?

Jo Allen
Well I need to raise this fund so that will hopefully happen over the next year and then need to think about some of my younger colleagues and bringing them up as well. You know I don’t intend to go anywhere but I am 52 so I need to think about my succession plan.  When Paul White was 58 he thought that he ought to have somebody in place when he was in his 60’s and I guess I need to turn my attention to that so I would like to spend some more time doing the things that I’ve talked about, promoting the industry, bringing in some young people, mentoring them and getting them to be the best they can be which will be good for Frogmore because then we can invest in perhaps some areas you know, open up some new avenues.

Susan Freeman
Well that sounds like a fantastic plan and a good place to finish, so Jo thank you very much.

Jo Allen
Thank you, I have enjoyed it.

Susan Freeman
Well that was fascinating to hear from Jo Allen with her take on the UK real estate sector and what it really takes for a woman to make it to the top of our male dominated industry.    So that’s it for now, I really hope you enjoyed today’s conversation.  Please join us for the next Propertyshe podcast interview coming your way very shortly.  

The Propertyshe podcast is brought to you by Mishcon de Reya in association with the London Real Estate Forum and can be found at mishcon.com/Propertyshe along with all our interviews and programme notes.  The podcasts are also available to download on your Apple podcast app, the purple button on your iPhone and on Spotify and whatever podcast app you use.  And please do continue to let us have your feedback and comments and most importantly, suggestions for future guests and, of course, you can also follow me on Twitter @Propertyshe for a very regular commentary on all things real estate, PropTech and the built environment.

A Chartered Surveyor, Jo has 30 years of UK real estate experience. Jo is Chief Executive of Frogmore having joined the firm in 1994. She has been involved in the asset management and development activity for the majority of Frogmore’s transactions over the past 24 years.

Jo started her career with Richard Ellis (now CBRE) in their London office where she specialised in asset management; landlord and tenant matters; negotiating rent reviews and lease renewals, before moving to the industrial and office leasing teams.

Keen to promote diversity within the real estate industry, Jo works actively with Pathways to Property, and supports Real Estate Balance. Jo sits on the Fundraising Committee of Land-Aid, a charity that harnesses the property industry’s expertise to support projects working to end youth homelessness in the UK.

How can we help you?

How can we help you?

Subscribe: I'd like to keep in touch

If your enquiry is urgent please call +44 20 3321 7000

I'm a client

Please enter your first name
Please enter your last name
Please enter your enquiry
Please enter a value

I'm looking for advice

Please enter your first name
Please enter your last name
Please enter your enquiry
Please select a department
Please select a contact method

Something else

Please enter your first name
Please enter your last name
Please enter your enquiry
Please select your contact method of choice