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Propertyshe podcast: Ilaria del Beato CEO of Frasers Property UK

Posted on 23 November 2021

“When Frasers came knocking on the door and they said, ‘look Ilaria, we’re, you know, we’re listed in, in Singapore, we’ve got all the governance and transparency that you would want, we’ve got this start-up business in the UK’ - I mean they’ve actually been in the UK for 10-15 years doing residential development and had started to invest in commercial property – ‘said we need somebody to come and lead that business and really grow it’, I just thought it was a fabulous opportunity to come and do something really growthy again and uh, and, and grow a business.” 

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 world of real estate and the built environment.  Today I am delighted to welcome Ilaria del Beato.  A CEO of Frasers Property UK, a fully integrated developer, investor and asset manager of UK residential and commercial property and a subsidiary of Frasers Property, the multi-national real estate company, Ilaria drives a strategic plan for the commercial and residential business for the UK.  Ilaria started her 30 year career in real estate advisory prior to moving to becoming a principle in predominantly transactional roles in the UK and across Europe.  Prior to her role at Frasers Property UK, Ilaria spent 15 years at GE Capital leading both the UK real estate business and GE Capital Bank.  Ilaria’s significant experience and expertise have helped drive forward Frasers Property UK’s growth and continued success.  Frasers Property UK has recently unveiled its net zero road map with the commitment to achieve net zero carbon across its whole portfolio by 2050.  Ilaria is also Non-Exec Director of the Unite Group Plc, the student housing owner.

So now we are going to hear from Ilaria about her illustrious career to date and her exciting plans for Frasers Property UK.  Ilaria welcome to the virtual studio, it’s great to be talking to you today. 

Ilaria del Beato

Hi Susan, great to be here.  Thank you for the invitation.

Susan Freeman

So Ilaria, tell me how, how you got into real estate, did you always want to be a real estate professional or did something happen along the way that made you think that this was a good career move?

Ilaria del Beato

So um, I started in advisory actually at Richard Ellis’s as it was, was then and jumped client side relatively early and then I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to work for a couple of different businesses in the UK, a listed property company and then a sort of European fund management business and then I uh joined GE, the real estate business which was in, within GE Capital in early 2000 and I spent 15 years at GE um and had the chance to do a lot of different jobs um, the way that they um supported people in the business was really about giving them opportunities to do lots of lateral moves so sort of creating, um developing your breadth of expertise as well as your depth of expertise if I can describe it like that and, and also giving you the, hopefully the um, the tools to manage and lead teams and businesses.  So then I took over running GE’s real estate business in 2008 um at a fairly critical time um and I did that role for five years and then I moved across to run GE’s Bank in the UK which was a corporate lending bank, a commercial lending bank regulated by the PRA and the SCA and actually leant on multiples of assets but not property so that was a real, really different experience for me and actually one that I uh, I really loved and then I joined Frasers where I am now in um January 2018.  So I spent 15 years as I said at GE.

Susan Freeman

It must have been a pretty amazing experience to join GE at that time and was Jack Welch still an influence on the way the company worked and, and the fact that you were given the opportunity to move sort of outside and into different departments?

Ilaria del Beato

Yeah very much, I mean that was, that was very much about Jack and his theories of, of how you built capabilities.  Actually in Jeff Immelt’s ten year and I think now um with Lawrence Culper as the Chairman and CEO, they, they very much move more to, to recognising that the main expertise, so the depth piece is as is important as the, as the breadth piece and I think the mantra used to be that you moved jobs once every two to three years.  Now I think it’s… there’s more sort of, they are looking for people to actually stay in their roles a lot longer which I think is a, is a better thing um you know actually you find that you know, you, you work out what you need to do in the first year, you start doing it in the second year, you consolidate it in the third year and so if you are moving in the third year, it’s almost too, too early.

Susan Freeman

When you, when you took up the real estate role um in 2008, it must have been sort of quite a difficult, a difficult time because everything was in complete sort of meltdown in a lot of places?

Ilaria del Beato

Yeah I mean huge flux, I mean I took on the role in August 2008 um, Lehman’s obviously went down in the September, GE’s share price went from 35 dollars to 6 dollars by the end of 2008, it was you know, it was I mean extraordinary times and we all have battle scars I think.  I’ve got a few grey hairs from that, from that period but I had this sort of fabulous team of people around me um and we, you know we worked very closely together and you know, I am very pleased to say we didn’t… we were lucky enough not to make anybody redundant, we just moved people around within the business so that they were focussed on the areas that needed them and with that fabulous team around me, we managed to sort of come through those um, those times and actually got lending again um within um, within a couple of years.

Susan Freeman

It sounds as if it was um a relatively good experience…

Ilaria del Beato

Yes.

Susan Freeman

…despite the battle scars but um so, so in terms of timing you, you took on the role in August 2008 and September Lehman’s went down in September so just, just after so yeah, so not a, not a great way to start.  And so when you moved in to, you moved into the um finance role, you were CEO of GE Capital Bank from uh 2013.  I mean had you, I suppose in your previous role there was quite a lot of finance uh anyway…

Ilaria del Beato

Yeah.

Susan Freeman

…and you were dealing with the sort of lending part of the business.

Ilaria del Beato

Yes, yes.  So in the real estate role um, we were you know initially principally equity investors and then we uh moved to being both equity investors and lenders so in my real estate role I’d sort of learnt the principles of lending and risk and credit and then I you know, clearly took those principles and learnt the other products in the bank.  So the other forms of lending that we were, that we were doing but you know actually what you, you know, what you took into the… a different business is your experience of managing and leading businesses and, and extraordinary actually how transportable those skills are you know, you could move from a real estate business to a bank and assuming that you had a good team of people around you, again that, you know, that’s always obviously what you need and within that team you had the expertise, then you know, you could be successful which we were.  It was a, it was a great journey um, the Bank needed some investment, it needed um some fixing, there was some legacy issues which you know was… is consistent with a lot of banking businesses um that we needed to address and we did address and you know, it was a, it was a very good run.

Susan Freeman

So really, I mean this business of managing teams, I always sort of feel is not necessarily something that you learn as you know, if you are in real estate and uh you know, you’ve been through sort of real estate uh you know, degree.  It doesn’t necessarily prepare you for the challenges of actually managing a team of people so where, where do you learn those skills?

Ilaria del Beato

No you are right, you, you don’t.  I mean obviously a lot of them, like everybody else, you learn a lot of it on the job don’t you from experiences, making some mistakes and then hopefully learning from those mistakes and doing it better next time round uh, I mean not to hark on about it but at my time at GE there was a, a management programme and during that management programme they gave you lots of experiences of managing uh different businesses so it culminated in being sent to Panama for three weeks um to work with GE’s Healthcare business across central America where we were given a particular problem to solve for the Healthcare business and as an independent you were meant to address that problem and find a way of resolving it for them um and it was a fascinating experience.  I mean it was fascinating learning another business and obviously in that geography it was also fascinating but you, you know, you really got to understand that you had transferable skills and a lot of the common… you know, a lot, it just takes a lot of common sense.  You work through the data, you talk to people and, and you can build answers to problems that businesses have.

Susan Freeman

It’s interesting isn’t it.  I suppose you, I mean some people, some people can do it, some people just aren’t particularly good at managing and, and now we are having to learn a whole new skill set in managing people remotely which wasn’t previously part of the job specification?

Ilaria del Beato

You are absolutely right.  I mean it really is a new, is a really new skillset, I mean now we’re taking some additional floor space in that, in our offices for Frasers Property here in, in London and we’re um, we are fitting out that space and it’s a very different space to the space that we currently have.  It’s… we, we are designing it so that there are lots of collaborative spaces both in meeting rooms and in open areas and that it’s got technology that supports all of that collaboration.  Supporting the collaboration if people are in the office but also if they are you know, at home or, or indeed in Singapore where our headquarters are or the other geographies where the business is currently present so that we are creating an environment where, well firstly it attracts people to come back into the office you know, there sort of needs to be a bit of a pull doesn’t there to get people back into the office but then when they are there it gives them all the tools they need to do their job properly um, so it’s um really timed really well actually and it’s really exciting what we are going to be able to do.

Susan Freeman

So before we um move on to talk about your role at Frasers, just finishing off on GE, um the property business was actually, was actually sold so you know, for our listeners who don’t know GE, it um, I mean the property business was, was sold off I think in, in 2015?

Ilaria del Beato

Yeah that’s right.  So for people that don’t know, the story of GE was that um, GE Capital um became regulated by the Federal Reserve it was deemed as being um, too big to fail um and uh as a result of that regulation, GE decided it needed to rethink what it wanted in its portfolio and obviously that’s now culminated in a recent announcement that they are sort of breaking the business right up and going right back to the sort of individual businesses rather than being this generalist conglomerate which is what it had become but as a result of that decision, um the business was broken up and we very successfully sold the various businesses to different new owners so the real estate business was sold on to Blackstone and Wells Fargo, the equity piece went to Blackstone and the debt piece went to Wells Fargo um and the Bank in the UK similarly was broken up and sold to different banks and institutions across the UK.

Susan Freeman

So you were with, you were with GE until 2017 and you started with, with Frasers in 2018, so was there, was there some time for reflection?

Ilaria del Beato

Oh yes Susan.  Yes Susan, yes.  Yes I managed to squeeze in a sabbatical which I have to say was um, um was just a great decision um, my oldest daughter was taking her A levels so it was fabulous to be at home and to give her some support although that support was, was normally just you know, preparing food for her to eat and tidying her bedroom up around her as she was sort of studying away but it was really nice to be at home and, and able to support her.  And then I just… we, we did some fun stuff, we went uh we went to South America as a family over the summer for a, a, an extended trip which was lovely and then I did some skiing, I drove some old cars around Italy, I went to see family in the UK and Italy and you know, so it was just, it was lovely, it was great, really nice.

Susan Freeman

And despite all that time for reflection, you, you wanted to stay, clearly you wanted to stay in real estate because um, since 2018 you’ve been CEO of Frasers Property UK which um, is part of a Singapore listed company and I want to hear all about Frasers because it’s not a company that, I mean obviously its huge but it’s been quite low profile in the UK?

Ilaria del Beato

Yeah,  yeah.  So um, I think while I was doing my sabbatical I thought I’d make some sort of big decisions about all the things that I you know, I wanted to do in the future.  Actually what I found was that I made a lot of decisions about what I didn’t want to do and what I didn’t want to do was go and work for another big corporate sort of having felt that I had done that um for long enough so when Frasers came knocking on the door and they said, look Ilaria we’re you know, we’re listed in, in, in Singapore, we’ve got all the governance and transparency that you would want, we’ve got this start-up business in the UK – I mean they’ve actually been in the UK for 10-15 years doing residential development and had started to invest in commercial property – said we need somebody to come and lead that business and really grow it, I just thought it was a fabulous opportunity to come and do something really growth again and uh and grow a business and over the, the last three years you know, we’ve quadrupled our assets under management in the UK, we’ve quadrupled our people in the UK so it’s been a very significant um growth journey and you’re right, we’ve been sort of relatively low key Susan in that, in the UK and part of that has been about you know, making sure that we got ourselves sorted and we had something to say and to shout about when we started talking about Frasers Property more regularly and we developed our track records and you know, we really have over the last um three years developed that track record.

Susan Freeman

So I know you and I were, were joking about the fact that because the company isn’t that well, well known or hasn’t been that well known in the UK um, people might think that you are talking about um Mike Ashley’s…

Ilaria del Beato

Mike Ashley.

Susan Freeman

…House of Fraser empire so you must have had a lot of people saying, congratulations Ilaria, you know, you’re now working for Mike Ashley.

Ilaria del Beato

Yes.  No, no that is not the case so um, Frasers Group is um, is Mike Ashley’s business and Frasers Property is um listed in Singapore um uh and actually has been around for a very long time so yeah.

Susan Freeman

And um, just what is the, what is the size of the, of the global company just to put it into context?

Ilaria del Beato

So we have um uh a financial year end is the end of September so actually last Friday was the announcement of our year end results and analyst presentations so I was on a call at 2.00 o’clock in the morning um presenting to analysts which was um, um not sure I looked my best but anyway job done um so the, the assets under management are now 40 billion sing um and we describe ourselves as multi-national, we don’t consider ourselves a global company, we are in um some core geography so Singapore, Thailand, Australia, Vietnam, China, Continental Europe and the UK are our sort of main geographies and I don’t think we really plan to expand beyond that, that footprint.  40 billion sing is about um, 25 billion pounds um so as you say, it’s a significant business.  At its heart a developed, so in… each, each of the geographies have slightly different focuses but in Australia, Singapore and Thailand, very significant residential development businesses.  In Australia and Thailand, Continental Europe significant industrial development businesses.  Uh a growing industrial development business and residential development business in Vietnam and China and in the UK and then investment in retail in Singapore, in hospitality across all of those geographies um and then commercial or offices as we might call it, again in all of those geographies.

Susan Freeman

So when you came in in 2018 um you had virtually a sort of blank sheet of paper in, in terms of how the commercial portfolio was go to develop and what, what is the… I was reading that you have um the largest business park portfolio under a single ownership in the UK, it’s one part of the portfolio but uh but I know it uh, it also extends to um, you know to offices, industrial and um other sectors so can you, I mean how… what’s your vision for the, for the company and, and what are you buying and how are you developing it?

Ilaria del Beato

So we’ve, we have invested in a um, in a collection of business parks across the UK which we consider to be um, best in class for their asset type.  The key for us in those investments is other than the sort of normal of you know, location and everything else, the key is single ownership and scale because once we get to a place where we have single ownership and we have scale then it means that we can control those business parks, it means that we can create the amenity and the environment which we feel is required to attract and retain occupiers, employees, help our occupiers, our corporates in our buildings attract and retain their talent to the business park.  So for instance, we own Winnersh Triangle which is just outside of Reading, over the last two years we’ve put in place a 6 million pound investment programme to invest in the amenities at Winnersh Triangle and that’s included a new sports facility, a football pitch, a walking track, outside pods to meet, um a new café, um what we call The Exchange which is a sort of collaborative space adjoining the café so all sorts of amenities that are over and above what people might have in their office space and obviously we don’t get any rent for those per se but we feel that we get it back because of the attractiveness of that environment to our, to our customers.  And the final piece of that actually is happening at the moment where we are working in collaboration with a local council on improving the um Park and Ride facilities there so there’s a… Winnersh Triangle has a train station, it’s a Park and Ride into um central Reading um we’re currently going through the process of upgrading that, extending that um and then that will then flow into the whole entrance arrival to the business park so a really significant programme of improvement.

Susan Freeman

It sounds, it sounds pretty amazing and, and when you sort of go about planning you know, these sort of improvements and your amenities and everything, are you drawing on experience from other parts of the world that Frasers are operating in or is it sort of very much um, you know looking at what’s going on sort of elsewhere uh in the um, in the UK?

Ilaria del Beato

A bit of both um, I’ll give you um an example of either way.  Um so on the sustainability side um we have started our sustainability journey relatively recently um, sort of a, as a, a newer business um but we’ve accelerated very quickly and we’ve done that by leveraging off the group centre of excellence around sustainability um and that um head… that team is headquartered in Australia.  They’ve got loads of technical expertise and we’ve been able to utilise that to sort of get us to jump start our sustainability programme and really understand what it is that we need to be doing to make some progress.  We um subscribe to GRESB as a group um, we’ve just got back our second set of GRESB results um and I am very pleased to say we’ve managed to achieve a GRESB 4* um and have ranked first in our peer group.  So we’ve gone from a 2* in our first submission, now to a 4* so we, we’ve used the group to help us make that jump and then obviously um lots of good things have happened here on the ground to enable that to happen.

Susan Freeman

And is, is the 4* the highest credit?

Ilaria del Beato

No, 5* is the highest so we’ve got, we’ve got more to do but I think as you know with these things, what will happen is the thresholds will just get harder and harder to reach and for us what we’ve got to really now do is to lean into the scope 3 emissions so that’s working with our tenants, helping our tenants meet their sustainability objectives um and then we have also got to work towards some side space target so there’s a lot more to do and it will be harder and harder to get to that 4* and 5* as we go forward and that’s, and that’s right, that’s as it should be.  So that’s working sort of with the group and then more locally I think you know what the team have been able to identify and we have a asset management structure where our asset managers are located at the asset so we are very customer facing, we are on the business parks around the UK, as close as we can be to our customers and through that we’ve been able to hopefully align ourselves as various sort of growth sectors in the UK so obviously um technology, we’ve um, we have had about 50% of our tenants are in that sector um, pharma, we’ve got a very significant proportion of our tenants in that sector and then we’ve just signed um creative arts, Susan, that’s a new sort of… we recognise it as a growth sector in the UK so we are just about to make an announcement on um, um some space we’ve let to a company called Stage 50 who are operator of TV and film production studios, again at Winnersh Triangle um so very exciting to align ourselves to another growth sector in the UK.

Susan Freeman

And presumably the work that you’ve been doing at Winnersh and putting in the um you know, the additional amenities and everything is attracting those sort of um, those sort of tenants which is um, which is really exciting.

Ilaria del Beato

Exactly.  They turn up at Winnersh and say, oh great you know, you’ve got all of these amenities that we can, we can lean in to, a café, and a collaborative space, the sports pitch and stuff, they just see that as being um a great environment for them.

Susan Freeman

And I’ve read that you have recently became the first company in the world to achieve a 3* Fitwel accreditation um and I don’t know if it is the first company in the world to achieve that accreditation for a business park or whether it’s the first company in the world but um, it sounded like quite um, quite an achievement and Fitwel isn’t an accreditation that I’ve come across before?

Ilaria del Beato

No and as part of our journey on a sustainability side we are you know, obviously looking to sort of benchmark ourselves as, as best as we can and um, Fitwel um was an opportunity for us to benchmark ourselves in the wellbeing space and, and see how we were doing and um, we’ve worked closely with them and actually what we have managed to achieve is that our business park outside of Farnborough, Farnborough business park has, has got their um 3* rating and 4 is their highest but with certifying Farnborough, Winnersh and our business park outside of Basingstoke, Chineham Park, we now have the largest area um certified under the Fitwel accreditation.

Susan Freeman

And what, what do you have to do to um achieve those accreditations and, and certifications?

Ilaria del Beato

Well um, Fitwel is about um assessing sort of holistic health so what they want to do is they want to see that you have pedestrian connectivity to open spaces, that you have um outdoor and indoor fitness opportunities, that you have connections to the local community.  So it is all about showing them within the business parks and this obviously comes right back to what I was saying at the beginning, once you have scale in single ownership, you can, you can do all of those things um and you can create those environments and those opportunities so that’s what they are interested in seeing.

Susan Freeman

And are you, are you buying at the moment?  Are you looking, are um if so, what sort of assets are you, are you looking for?

Ilaria del Beato

Yep, so we um, we managed to uh buy uh, acquire in the middle of lockdown which um was a fairly significant achievement when you think about the headquarters team being in Singapore um Blythe Valley Business Park um and Connexion.  So Blythe Valley is a um an office business park outside of Birmingham and Connexion was um a logistics development adjacent to the business park.  So effectively when you arrive there you would think they were all one, it’s sort of all one um, all in one estate.  And that was about 176 million acquisition um, we bought it from IM Properties who we continue to work in partnership with uh so there was some… we acquired some additional land there as well and we are working with IM now to develop out another 120,000 square feet of logistics on that site, Connexion 2.

Susan Freeman

So buying in lockdown must have been uh must have been challenging. 

Ilaria del Beato

I mean this is where the technology really helps, we um, we did it fairly uh low key, we bought a selfie stick.  We arrived on…  in Birmingham on a rainy day I am sad to say with our selfie stick and our phones uh Zoomed in the team in Singapore um and handed the stick over to our advisor um from CBRE and then proceeded to walk round the state and uh get to know it all and the team in Singapore also got to know it all.  So it was amazing what you can do.

Susan Freeman

It’s amazing what you can do with a selfie stick.  That’s absolutely right.   And um, tell me about The Rowe um, because I’ve been looking at the you know, at the pictures and it looks like quite an intriguing development, it’s um, I think it’s in Whitechapel and uh it’s a retrofit of um, is it a 60’s building?

Ilaria del Beato

Yeah that’s right so, The Rowe used to be called Central House and people might know it better as Central House but it was the old Sir John Cass School of Architecture – Art, Architecture and Design.  Um, it’s opposite Whitechapel Gallery uh, the building was completed in 1965 um and so it has a lot of um links back to the local area and to art generally at that time, Whitechapel Gallery was a big leader in the art movement in central London so we acquired the site in um January 2017, so before, just before I joined the business.  We then got vacant possession and um working uh our architects, AHMM, who have been fantastic, we have developed a scheme and got planning permission for a scheme which saw us retain the original building and then – which is six storeys – and then effectively replicate that with another six storeys on top um and the um, the um, the idea behind it, the sort of inspiration behind it was… do you remember when Rachel Whiteread took responsibility for the Fourth Plinth in um Piccadilly Circus and she took a mould of the plinth and then flipped it on top with a sort of acrylic see-through, it looked exactly the same as the bottom half but obviously the bottom half was a stone plinth and the top half was this acrylic see-through replication of it.  Well that’s effectively what we have done with the building, the bottom half is the concrete original building and the top half will be a black steel replication of the bottom half of the building so um, it’s quite a neat design. We are on site at the moment um uh PC is scheduled for early September next year uh 162,000 square feet of modern office building.

Susan Freeman

It sounds um, sounds pretty, it sounds stunning and why, why is it called The Rowe?

Ilaria del Beato

Well um, we took inspiration from Whitechapel High Street actually which used to have and still does have rows of market stalls so the idea of The Rowe was that the inspiration as I say, was these market stalls and then the E was added on the end to… because it’s East London so um, that’s the idea behind it.  But we wanted to continue um with the art story in the building as well so we have been lucky enough to secure um a, a chap called Yinka Ilori who um is an up and coming artist um, he actually studied at the building so he has real resonance with the building because he was, he was at the Sir John Cass School and he has developed an artwork for us for the soffit on the sixth floor which if you ever see the SGI’s of the building you will know what I talk about, but it’s been really exciting working with Yinka, we’re really excited about what he is going to bring to the building and um and being able to continue that sort of journey of art in the building is, is a great opportunity as well.  AHMM have been a big supporter of that and um Frasers Property as well are big supporters of that so that is sort of quite exciting.

Susan Freeman

And in terms of the sustainability credentials of the building, I think you are planning to run on 100% renewable um electricity and um sort of reduced carbon emissions so have you got that very much sort of in mind as you, as you develop the building?

Ilaria del Beato

Yeah absolutely and we are aiming for a BREEAM excellent, we will hope for a, even from a sort of technology side of things we, we are going for um a Platinum Smart score or wide score and, and a Wel Gold certification as well on the healthcare side of things.

Susan Freeman

So are you on target for, for next year for completion?

Ilaria del Beato

Yeah we are, yep all on, all on, all on target which is um, our contractors are BAM um, they are doing a great job in, in trying to sort of look round, look ahead, look round corners um, address the supply chain issues, various different supply chains issues early so at the moment fingers crossed, touch wood we are on track.

Susan Freeman

And are you, are you having problems with supply chain because you know, we are hearing a lot about you know, difficulties of actually for various reasons getting um construction supplies through?

Ilaria del Beato

Not at the moment, uh but that is because we’ve done some forward planning um and working with BAM to identify areas of risk and accelerate orders in those areas so at the moment we are fine.  What we are seeing um as I am sure everybody else is seeing, the start of some cost acceleration on new projects um so we need to you know, work with that quite carefully.

Susan Freeman

And um are, are there any lettings yet or have you any thoughts at the type of um, you know type of occupiers that you hope to see in this building?

Ilaria del Beato

No we were early on our marketing journey so um, we recently launched the building, we’re in that stage of getting lots of people round, lots of interest in it so… but nothing to announce yet there.

Susan Freeman

Okay, well we’ll watch this uh, we’ll watch this uh space.

Ilaria del Beato

Yep me too.

Susan Freeman

So having worked for a big American corporate and now working for um a Singaporean company, are there cultural differences that uh you have noted?

Ilaria del Beato

Very much, very much so.  I mean the Americans are great fun to work with but it is often about uh, a debate is often about an argument um and that’s absolutely fine and you will always know where you stand and you, you know, you get a decision out of things but it can be quite a combative process to get to that decision.  The Singaporean’s um are sort of completely the opposite.  The way to get to a decision is much more um respectful, uh much more about listening and understanding um, both of those processes get to the same place but you just get there in very, very different ways and so it has taken a while, you know, you learn to sort of adapt your style uh to what it is is the style of, of the culture.

Susan Freeman

Yes and just, I mean talking about you know style and management style, how would you describe your management style and have you, have you adapted it as you’ve moved into a new organisation?

Ilaria del Beato

I think, I mean I think you, I think you flex your style fairly regularly.  You might have sort of you know, favourites that you go back to but you are in different situations, you are, you are a different version of your management style.  I am not saying that you are never authentic because you have always got to be authentic but you might be showing different aspects of your style in different situations.  I think, I mean hopefully my style is, is authentic.  I am relatively informal so hopefully authentic, informal, I am non-hierarchical, I feel that we are always sort of in things together and I just you know, want to have a good debate and hopefully make the right decision so that, that’s a certain amount of enthusiasm for what I do so I, you know there’s always bringing some energy, I love my job you know, so I love having the people around me and everything else so hopefully I am always bringing that to, to what it is that I do.

Susan Freeman

And having spent your career in a sector which is known to be quite male orientated, I mean do you think that you sort of run your business as a woman differently from the way a man would run the business or does it just not even occur to you there’s a difference?

Ilaria del Beato

Yeah I don’t even think about it.  I really don’t think about it.  Interestingly, our business, my business is 40% men, 60% women so there might be something around having a senior woman that, that means that you, that you pull through um more women in the organisation.  I mean openly we still have problems at the very senior levels that we don’t have that balance, it is more men than women at the most senior levels but as you sort of go down to the next senior level and then down through the organisation we are much more, we are much more balanced.  So I, I don’t know whether there’s something in that that having a senior women enables you to create better balance.

Susan Freeman

And through

Ilaria del Beato

Yeah I don’t even think about it.  I really don’t think about it.  Interestingly, our business, my business is 40% men, 60% women so there might be something around having a senior woman that, that means that you, that you pull through um more women in the organisation.  I mean openly we still have problems at the very senior levels that we don’t have that balance, it is more men than women at the most senior levels but as you sort of go down to the next senior level and then down through the organisation we are much more, we are much more balanced.  So I, I don’t know whether there’s something in that that having a senior women enables you to create better balance.

Susan Freeman

And through

Ilaria del Beato

Yeah I don’t even think about it.  I really don’t think about it.  Interestingly, our business, my business is 40% men, 60% women so there might be something around having a senior woman that, that means that you, that you pull through um more women in the organisation.  I mean openly we still have problems at the very senior levels that we don’t have that balance, it is more men than women at the most senior levels but as you sort of go down to the next senior level and then down through the organisation we are much more, we are much more balanced.  So I, I don’t know whether there’s something in that that having a senior women enables you to create better balance.

Susan Freeman

And through

Ilaria del Beato

Yeah I don’t even think about it.  I really don’t think about it.  Interestingly, our business, my business is 40% men, 60% women so there might be something around having a senior woman that, that means that you, that you pull through um more women in the organisation.  I mean openly we still have problems at the very senior levels that we don’t have that balance, it is more men than women at the most senior levels but as you sort of go down to the next senior level and then down through the organisation we are much more, we are much more balanced.  So I, I don’t know whether there’s something in that that having a senior women enables you to create better balance.

Susan Freeman

And through your career, I mean has anybody been a role model or, or inspiration to you?

Ilaria del Beato

I would say there hasn’t been sort of one guiding light, one inspiration sort of consistently through my career but I think at different points in my career I have looked to colleagues and found them inspirational in different ways and learnt a lot from them in different ways.

Susan Freeman

No I think that’s, I think that’s um, that’s a good answer isn’t it, it’s the ability to pick up positives from people that you meet along, along the way.

Ilaria del Beato

Along the way yeah.

Susan Freeman

And in five years’ time when your sort of looking, looking at um what you’ve achieved at Frasers, how, how will you judge the success of the company?  What, uh what… is there anything in your mind that would be a sort of key indicator?

Ilaria del Beato

Well after fifteen years of GE, I can’t get away from numbers and so you know, my first, my first thought is have we delivered our numbers?  Have we been profitable, have we made our return on capital.  So I can’t, I can’t… that has to be part of my success criteria.  There has to be um you have to have delivered your numbers. You have to do what you said you were going to do.  But then the other piece of it is, is the people side of things.  I think looking back and thinking that we created a place where people grew their careers and learnt things and developed their understanding even if they decided that actually they wanted to move on from the business and go elsewhere, that’s a really good, positive thing as well so I think my two measures of success will be, delivering numbers and then looking back and thinking that you, that Frasers Property had been a good place for people to work.

Susan Freeman

That’s um, that’s a great answer.  So um, I wish you well Ilaria, it’s so great to actually hear about um about the company, it sounds as if we are going to be hearing um a lot more about it going forward.  So thank you, thank you very much.

Ilaria del Beato

It’s been a pleasure, thank you.

Susan Freeman

Thank you Ilaria for talking to us about your extensive experience of running property and banking businesses and your vision for Frasers Property UK which we won’t now confuse with House of Fraser.

So, that’s it for now.  I hope you enjoyed today’s conversation.  Please join us for the next PropertyShe podcast interview coming very soon. 

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 subscribe to on your Apple podcast app, and on Spotify and whatever podcast app you use.  Do continue to subscribe and let us have your feedback and comments and most importantly suggestions for future guests and of course you can continue to follow me on Twitter @Propertyshe and on LinkedIn for a very regular commentary on all things real estate, Prop Tech and the built environment.

As Chief Executive Officer for Frasers Property UK, a fully integrated developer, investor and asset manager of residential and commercial property in the UK and a subsidiary of Frasers Property, the multinational real estate company, Ilaria drives the strategic plan for the commercial and residential business for the UK. Ilaria started her 30-year career in real estate advisory, prior to moving to become a principal in predominantly transactional roles in the UK and across Europe.

Prior to her role at Frasers Property UK, Ilaria spent 15 years at GE Capital leading both the UK real estate business and GE Capital Bank, a regulated bank and corporate lender. Ilaria’s significant experience and expertise have helped drive forward Frasers Property UK’s growth and continued success: recent highlights include the company’s acquisition of Blythe Valley Business Park and launch of The Rowe, a 162,000 sq. ft office development in Whitechapel in London.

Frasers Property UK has also recently unveiled its net zero roadmap with the commitment to achieve net zero carbon across its whole portfolio by 2050, which aligns with Frasers Property Group’s sustainability objective. Ilaria is also a Non-Executive Director of The Unite Group PLC, the student housing owner operator.

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