The changing role of… asset managers

Allsop’s Matt Smith reflects on the pace of technological change in the residential sector in recent years. From the tech he relies on daily to his wish list for the future, his insights offer a glimpse into a rapidly evolving industry.

Matt is director of asset management at Allsop Letting and Management.

How would you describe the progress of tech in your sector in the past three years?

Technology uptake within the residential property sector has traditionally been slow. By its very nature it’s a risk averse sector, and change has often been seen as risk. With that in mind the last three years have presented somewhat of a technological revolution, and the pace of change is only going to accelerate as we embrace the changing nature of our world.

Investors are becoming more sophisticated in their desire for more information, analytics and insight to optimise the performance of their existing assets and returns on the next acquisition.

Is there tech that you and your clients rely on daily?

As our clients’ appointed consultant and operator, we assist with the design, procurement, mobilisation, and operation of build to rent (BTR) assets. The tech we have in place for our resident portal (Building Link) enables us to monitor and understand how our customers use our buildings and amenities, and how these amenities perform. Building Link also enables residents to report repairs, receive parcel notifications and interact with neighbours, while operators can see what residents use the app for which helps us gain further insights into their needs.

We’re currently working with Guru Systems whose hardware and analytics will enable us to monitor and optimise the usage of water across the schemes and individual apartments we look after and ultimately secure lower utility bills for the end user and reduce the environmental footprint of the developments we manage.

How has tech already impacted your role?

Over the last few years our systems have moved from server based to cloud-based software. During that time our clients have also become multinational as the UK BTR market has attracted foreign investment. Naturally, investors want to know what is happening with their assets in real time, so we now operate on platforms that can be accessed by respective parties who wish to look at the data. This real-time approach increases efficiencies for everyone and ensures we’re able to challenge and be challenged as we develop operational and investment strategies for each asset.

Have your expectations about the future benefits of tech changed?

While the tech has been around for a little while I think our customers’ appetite for smart tech has certainly increased in recent years. Five years ago, the idea of smart tech in single-family homes was unusual, but now Allsop is equipping entire housing estates on behalf of clients with leak detectors, PV panels, smart thermostats, high-speed broadband and smart locks, enabling remote viewings and remote maintenance, meaning efficiencies for our clients and a better customer experience.

What is on your wish list for tech? Is there a problem you wish tech could solve?

The real estate industry must take its share of responsibility for the environmental challenges the planet is currently facing. My hope is that in future we will be able to leverage any new or existing tech to ensure our buildings become as close to carbon neutral as possible. We are already seeing BTR assets take advantage of district systems – Allsop operates schemes in Liverpool and Nine Elms on this basis. Indeed, in Liverpool we are moving from gas to water source, and other clients are moving away from gas boilers to air source heat pumps. Long may that trend of innovation continue.

How does your organisation approach innovation and find new tech solutions?

While Allsop is an active member of the UKAA and BPF and has in-depth expertise in BTR, we don’t have all the answers. I believe innovation is often driven by being a good listener and observer. We welcome feedback from our residents and are continually trying to find the marginal gains that will result in a better service for our clients and customers.

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