Reinhard Kutscher is Chairman of the Management Board at Union Investment Real Estate GmbH.
Union Investment/Adele Marschner

Taking the all-round view

Reinhard Kutscher on the staffing challenges facing international real estate managers

Being proactive is the key to our success – in every field of endeavour. Still, no other decision has more ramifications than choosing the right staff. Only people can make a strategy successful, promote an idea, and surpass themselves – or not. In-depth technical knowledge about the real estate capital market and quantitative and analytical skills no doubt provide a solid basis for real estate asset and real estate investment managers. Good communication skills and mastery of ideally several languages are also needed. But the real estate business is changing rapidly, so the question is no longer “what can an applicant or employee do?” but rather “what will he or she be able to do?” And there’s a reverse side to this coin: “What must a company be like if it is to recruit and retain employees of this kind in the future?” It is clear that the competition for talent has only just begun.

Real estate asset and real estate investment managers must be able to adapt to disruptive technologies that are radically changing old markets, creating new markets, or destroying existing markets. This may cause a tenant’s perfect credit rating to go up in smoke overnight. Changing competitive situations as a result of urban infill must be correctly assessed, along with ground-breaking innovations like 3D printing. Other fields of tension are the hotel industry and Airbnb or brick-and-mortar retailing and online shopping. Real estate managers must keep a weather eye on these in today’s digital world, along with the effects on their tenants and properties.

However, the notion that the profession will be fundamentally changed by disruptive technologies can safely be regarded as a myth. Building construction is still capital-intensive, and the supply side is inelastic. The real estate market is subject to cycles and sensitive to shocks from external events. Real estate managers continue to act within those limits, creating added value for owners and users. Using new digital capabilities to do this is a normal development of the profession – and business models will necessarily change as a result. 

Independent thinking and life-long learning

Companies will be successful if they are able to achieve synergy by combining the “skill sets” of younger employees with the longer life experience – preferably over several market cycles – and professional expertise of older employees, who have often been promoted to the executive level. A new approach will be needed for young talents who are members of Generation Y and grew up in a completely different environment with the internet, tablets, and smartphones. In-house presentations, idea workshops, and job shadowing support the exchange of expertise and experiential knowledge. Interdisciplinary knowledge and leadership skills must also be promoted. Professional management and integrated processes are particularly important since we cover the entire value chain of the real estate business. Employees who take an all-round view – who master the increasing complexity of the global real estate business – will take the lead. Quantitative and digital skills will be in demand, along with the need to critically scrutinise fundamental data and facts.

Independent thinking and life-long learning about real estate are critical factors for success in this industry. This can start during university studies, for example with degree programmes that combine technical and business skills, which we as a company systematically foster and promote. And it continues with professional support, for example the company’s academy, which is run internally by specialist employees specifically chosen and upskilled to train junior staff.

Our position as a market leader among German providers of open-ended retail real estate funds, our reliability as a business partner, and our firepower in more than two dozen national markets all over the world are viewed favourably on the labour market. We should consider ourselves fortunate to be in such a solid position at every level. But we should not rest on our laurels. Our course for growth must be enhanced by competent, open-minded, motivated employees, and we’re all doing our very best to work towards this goal.


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