Tell us more about the retail landscape.
Asset owners or landlords are now asking what the future shopping centre is going to look like. Quite simply, it will become more than just a shopping centre. The mixed-use and diversification opportunities could see residential, healthcare, lifestyle, aged-care and other amenities added to the mix – as well as the typical retail plus food and beverage offering. What are all the things that the community needs in that location to thrive? That’s what the shopping centre will look like.
I often question why it has taken so long. Well it’s probably because the pricing of pure retail has been so high that it was always the highest and best use.
That equation is definitely changing now and you’re going to see some really interesting things developing in retail assets.
Are you making that change already or is it in the future?
We are already re-positioning some of the shopping centres we manage and master planning across our entire retail portfolio. For some centres, such as Karrinyup in Western Australia, the transformation is well under way with residential apartments being added around the centre. We also have concept approval to build four mixed-use towers on Macquarie Centre [a shopping centre in Sydney’s second largest business district]. That will take us some time – we will do that over 10 to 15 years.
In the meantime, we continue to believe that shopping centres in highly sought-after locations will deliver the best investment outcomes for our clients, supported by an active management approach that retains and builds customers and engages with the community.
What else are you excited about?
Quay Quarter being built here in Sydney. It is amazing. It’s not often you get told at parties they like your facade! Quay Quarter Tower is one of Australia’s premium office developments in one of Australia’s most globally recognised locations at Circular Quay. As well as AMP, I’m really excited to have Deloitte moving their Sydney head office in there – they are going to be a great partner because they’re pushing us to the boundaries on technology and collaboration.
I’m also really proud at what we’ve been able to achieve through this development from a sustainability perspective. I couldn’t be prouder of the team working on this once in a lifetime project which will see us play our part, again, in transforming the Quay.
Turning to sustainability, how are ESG factors driving your investment decisions?
We really are focused on ESG – it’s one of our key strategic priorities. We carry a big environmental and social responsibility and we recognise that what we do will have a major impact.
We recently launched our 2030 Real Estate Sustainability strategy which includes a commitment to buying a piece of land the size of our entire portfolio to create a bio-diversity conservation reserve. I look forward to seeing what we can deliver in this space in 2020 and beyond.
Having reached this position, there’s a role that I can play to influence more inclusion in the industry. The property industry was always very male dominated. It’s seen a massive change in the last 20 years.”
Who’s leading the push for sustainability in real estate – investors or tenants?
It’s a bit of both. In the office sector, the industry is rated annually through the Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB) survey. Pleasingly, we are very strongly rated. We can’t attract quality tenants unless we have certain sustainability and wellbeing ratings. The ability to achieve these ratings starts from the culture in your business – how you are pushing sustainability initiatives down to recycling within the assets you manage – which is business as usual for the real estate sector.
You’re also now Deputy Chancellor at your alma mater?
It’s a privilege. Western Sydney University has just under 50,000 students. I officiate at graduation ceremonies there. It is easy to forget how important these days are for these students. The range of different nationalities receiving their degrees – it is amazing to be a part of. For these families, going to university is such a leap forward in terms of their quality of life.
That focus on diversity is a big deal for you.
It’s a passion. Having reached this position, there’s a role that I can play to influence more inclusion in the industry. The property industry was always very male dominated. It’s seen a massive change in the last 20 years.
I’m chair of the Inclusion & Diversity Council for AMP Capital and a Special Advisor for the real estate industry for the Male Champions of Change [a high-profile group of CEOs and chairs driving gender equality in Australia]. I work with the other CEOs in the real estate industry to discuss how we can make change.
I also went to the United Nations in March last year for the Commission on the Status of Women. That was just 'blow your mind' stuff – 9,000 delegates from around the world connecting, collaborating and trying to come up with agreed principles and targets for the next year.
It actually made me realise we are in a really good position in Australia, although there’s a lot more work to be done. We need to play an active role as a leader for gender equality on the global stage.
And inclusion particularly matters in investing, right?
At AMP Capital, we understand inclusion is incredibly important. We need to be in a situation where people can bring their whole self to work and actually have the right debates and question each other in an environment of respect. Investment decisions are getting harder and harder to make – we cannot have people who think the same way all the time.
Training people to think like that and not be upset by the fact that you’re having a debate about something is not easy. But I think we’re definitely getting there, and as a result we will see sharper decision making which delivers better outcomes for our clients.