Q+A: Charlie Wade, VTS

FUTURE: PropTech discussed the latest developments with Charlie Wade, managing director for the UK at leasing platform VTS.

So, a lot of the readers will know who you are, but just in case, in two sentences, what do you do?

VTS is the leading leasing and asset management platform for the commercial real estate industry. VTS transforms modern landlords’ leasing and asset management processes and unlocks real time insights from their data – enabling them to convert leads to leases faster and strategically optimise portfolio performance. More than 10bn sq ft is managed on the platform by landlords globally across office, industrial and retail space.

The theme of this year’s Future:Proptech is Open Collaboration. What does open collaboration mean to you?

Collaboration is made up of two key elements: mindset and action.

In the first instance it is about being open minded to opportunities, from having meaningful conversations to creating new partnerships. Without having the right mental approach, collaboration becomes yet another buzzword in the proptech ecosystem.

Secondly, and most importantly, the right mindset must be combined with action, taking the ideas out of conversation and into the tangible.

When these two combine, companies can build partnerships which deliver powerful results. Without actively working together to create real and impactful outputs, collaboration has little meaning.

What trends and developments in the industry do you think will be discussed the most this year?

The conversation surrounding data will certainly continue this year, becoming even more front and centre as data continues to have a massively transformational impact. It will certainly be the hot topic and quite rightly so, as it becomes an integral facet of business success.

Not only does data provide a competitive advantage, it also enables businesses to make better decisions faster, increase transparency and enhance organisational efficiency. Data has the ability to impact culture as much as it does the bottom line, creating a catalyst not just for business transformation but elevation.

In the past, the real estate industry was hesitant to embrace “non-traditional” data, perhaps out of scepticism or a lack of tools to properly engage with, analyse and understand it. However, the landscape has changed making data a powerful instrument, stitched over the entire fabric of the real estate industry and readily available to access with the right digital strategy. As data moves higher up the agenda, and as technology continues to evolve, it will become increasingly more central to the conversation.

Another important trend that will be more widely discussed in the coming year will be the continued shift to a tenant centric model. It will form the heart of the conversation. The real estate industry is adapting, realising that the focus has to be on the customer. The industry has to pull together to implement a better service, by truly understanding the customer journey. Only then can real change be implemented.

This has a knock-on effect to tech providers. We have found that the shift in tenants’ requirements is shaping a lot of the demands for collaboration that we build into the VTS platform. Real estate companies essentially need solutions that can get them to the heart of what their tenants want, which is something we have been lucky enough to work with them on.

What are the biggest challenges that the industry is facing at the moment?

The industry is facing a myriad of challenges. Against a backdrop of uncertainty, real estate companies are under pressure from the changing investor landscape. Businesses are altering how they transact and interact. Any period of change or flux can present a direct knock on effect, impacting liquidity or budgets assigned for new technology, or any potential investment into a digital strategy.

Another key challenge comes from the grass roots. With a plethora of tech solutions entering the market it can be difficult to see the wood for the trees. It can be a demanding task to try and comprehend which platforms are capable of providing relevant and useful solutions, which should be partnered with and ultimately which are scalable. Making the wrong decisions can lead to negative impacts, especially as the real estate industry is undergoing a period of transformation, meaning businesses must successfully adapt to survive.

What are you personally looking forward to the most at this year’s FUTURE PropTech?

We’re particularly looking forward to how Future:Proptech has evolved and what doors the shifting agenda can open. There is a heightened level of engagement from occupiers, landlords and agents which will provide an opportunity to hear what they have to say and understand what their businesses are doing as the industry evolves. Proptech has, for some time, operated in its own bubble often with proptech companies talking directly to other proptech companies. Whilst networking and forming a community are an important part of the tech industry’s growth, it is only when the links between tech and real estate companies are formed that we can cultivate an environment that supports collaboration.

We had previously identified that it should be our end-users and their customers who should ultimately be talking about their experiences, so we’re looking forward to seeing that in action.

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