Future Proofing the Property Industry – API National Congress

The following article is an excerpt from the API Journal. 

Property professionals from around Australia gathered on the Gold Coast in November to attend the API’s National Property Conference.

Topics discussed included technological disruption, market trends, sustainability, climate change, careers, and future-proofing property professionals.

Moderator Shaun Weston-Cole, National Manager – Professional Development & Education at the API, moderated the latter session with speakers Dr Judith Callanan, Associate Dean – Property & Valuation, RMIT University; Peter Hutchins, Managing Director Charter Keck Cramer; and Matthew Singleton, Head of Residential JLL.

The discussion centred around the rapid pace of change caused by technology in the property and other industries, what property professionals can do now to prepare, what students will need to know to work in the industry in the future, and how evolving disruptors like artificial intelligence (AI) offer great opportunities for future-proofing the industry

Dr. Callanan said the property industry and universities must work together to ensure the future property professional have the right skills needed to work in a changing profession.

“Work integrated learning is very important. Our students have work experience components in our degrees, and the industry has a lot of input into our course content,” she said.

“The relationship between higher education and the industry is important. It is pointless us going off on what we believe if the industry is separate. It’s a partnership and it needs to be even more so.

“The biggest challenge to the profession is how rapidly it is changing, and we don’t know what those changes are, and we have to keep ahead of it. Unis don’t move rapidly. So it’s a two-way relationship. We need industry input to stay ahead.”

Mr. Hutchins then discussed industry, technology, and leadership.

“The property industry is big and growing at speed. It accounts for $200 billion a year in revenue, employs one in four people, contributes 13 percent to our GDP, and the current value of residential property in Australia is around $7 trillion,” he said.

“We are lucky to work in this industry and we are the custodians of its future.”

He said the future successful property professionals will need to have six key attributes:

  1. Fast moving, with an anywhere anytime work attitude;
  2. Specialist but adaptable;
  3. Multilingual;
  4. Globally connected;
  5. Highly intelligent and innovative; and
  6. Passionate

“The future property professional will be weaponised, an elite creator of value, knowledge rich, multidisciplinary, and operate without borders,” Mr. Hutchins said.

“So don’t put a speed limit on the development of young people. We support the development journey of our young recruits through super specialisation and diversification.

“In our business we are creating the next generation leaders, and in doing so we are creating a next generation company. But you have to stay true to your purpose. If you do that, you will attract like-minded people, who will innovate.

“AI is the future for all humankind, and it comes with colossal opportunity. Technology is enabling smart people to run smart companies, smart cities, and smart economies.

“The next generation of property professionals expect connectivity, work life balance, remote capabilities, and a truly mobile work kit. We need to be aware of the future. It is plausible the valuation model of the future will include an AI transported to site, using 3D modelling to asses the value of the asset, with the report securitised via blockchain.

“Moving forward, you will need a competitive advantage and a richness of talent. Don’t be afraid to seek advice, and listen to your clients. We recently did this, and one of the five priorities we identified was strengthening the profile of the next tier of business leaders within the business.

He also recommended embracing the statistics, including that 91 per cent of millennials believe they’ll only be in the same job for less than three years, so building this into your business plan.

“The most important skill leaders need to have is decision making. The next 25 years is going to be far more exciting than the last 25, as people push the boundaries of what is possible, and as urbanisation creates wealth and stretches sustainability,” he said.

Mr. Singleton said valuers are not victims to technology and are in control of their own destinies.

“The fourth industrial revolution is here. Disruptive technologies like the internet of everything, AI, robotics, 3D printing are here, and the change of pace will be exponential and it will affect every economy,” he said.

“This means we need to create change with new services and products and change our deliverables, because customers will demand this. This is how the industry maintains relevance and creates value.

“It will challenge what we do. The future might look like an AI hub with data flowing in and out creating AVMs, predictive risk analysis, future valuation insights, with Chabot interfaces, all connected with machine learning. In the future, it is what we do with the data that will differentiate us.

“We have done this at JLL. Our vision has changed to become a technology company with a focus on real estate. This means we want to blend art and intelligence with science.”

He said while the future is technology, the valuer will still be critical to the process, provided valuers embrace the changes.

“AI won’t replace the valuer, it will take property intelligence to a far higher level and offer a higher value proposition,” Mr. Singleton said.

“However, one of the biggest threats we face is the property professional taking on a victim mentality and a resistance to change, which means we are not in control of our own destiny.

“With any change, there are great opportunities available. Technology needs to be a strategic partner; we can’t ignore it, or see it as a threat. Change is constant and we all have to accept it.

“Therefore, innovation has to be relentless. In the future, valuers will be providing insights into the future, blending intelligence with data scientist to transform the marketplace and customer experience, provide real intelligence to solutions to create value and industry credibility.

“Data is like gold dust at the moment. The future will need to include the sharing of data, collaboration, and using it together to create an advantage.

“And for firms continuing the compete on fees, it will be a race to the bottom, we need to be price makers, not price takers.

“People are also going to be key. We need to educate, up skill and mould the future property professional. Success will depend on talent, rather than on capital.

“Moving forward, create disruptive business models, challenge what we process, transform and deliver to our clients. We are in control of our industry and destinies, so embrace change and drive relevance with innovative products and services. This will future proof our industry. We shouldn’t be afraid of the future, but we should be afraid to keep doing the same thing.”

The Journal will detail more conference sessions in its March 2019 edition.