AP: Can you provide a brief overview of your career journey to date, including your current position with Henley Investments?
HC-P: I joined GVA (now Avison Young) as a graduate general practice surveyor. I knew I wanted to work in development, and once I qualified, I joined the development consultancy team, offering strategic development advice to the London Boroughs and other public bodies. After a couple of years at GVA, I moved to M3 Consulting, a development management consultancy, to gain delivery experience, working on feasibility studies and planning applications for a variety of landowners. In 2020, I joined Henley Investments, a private equity real estate firm, to help expand the development and asset management team and work in an entrepreneurial and fast-paced, client-side environment.
AP: Does Henley Investments focus on any particular sectors within real estate?
HC-P: Henley is sector agnostic. We focus on opportunities rather than specific asset types. I would describe Henley Investments as an enabling-developer, focused on unlocking the true potential value of sites and real estate assets. For example, we have a project in Fulham, where we have combined two adjacent sites from two separate landholdings. The combined sites have a safeguarded wharf designation in the London Plan, and we are working with the Port of London Authority to create a mixed-use scheme, combining the operational wharf with a residential element to improve land-use utility, unlocking the potential for a higher quality development.
AP: What are some of the key focus areas and challenges for the asset management and development team today?
HC-P: Our key area of focus, and also a challenge that we are facing, are delivering on Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) initiatives and communicating these efforts to investors in a detailed and comprehensive way. Investors are becoming increasingly focused on these factors and are keen to understand how the high-level objectives are translated and monitored on a day-to-day, operational level.
From a development and asset management perspective this means taking a step back, reviewing each individual step in our process, evaluating how we can add value under each ESG headline, establishing measurable targets, and reporting against this back to investors. We can’t manage what we don’t measure, so this process involves quite a bit of data gathering and analysis to better understand what we can measure and report on accurately. In terms of ESG generally, the key barrier to successful ESG management is the ability to obtain good quality, accurate data in the first place.
AP: The ESG conversation is gaining headway in all areas of real estate. From a business insights perspective, which is my focus area at Clockwise, data accuracy and management around ESG initiatives has come front and center for our business as recently as the last 12 months. The reality is that many of the systems and processes in place today within our industry do not provide efficient support for this rapidly-growing area of interest. That said, many are getting on board, and we are already seeing some progress, but there will definitely be a learning curve.
AP: Where do you see the link between value and financial viability?
HC-P: I believe that the view needs to be expanded from just building construction to operations, supply chain management, understanding where resources for our buildings originate from, and what impact that has on the local economies where those resources are being pulled from. We need to move to a life-cycle approach to building management and the supervision of the interdependent communities and economies around it.
AP: What drove you to join CREW, and what can you tell us about your experience so far?
HC-P: I wanted to expand my network and to meet other like-minded professions within my industry in a more casual and unpressured environment. The whole purpose of the organisation is to learn from peers, support one another, and champion one another, which is just such a powerful message. Thus far, I have had a really positive experience with the mentorship scheme. One of the things I have found particularly helpful is getting an outside perspective the challenges that I face from someone who has probably been in my shoes at some point. For example, when I was switching roles a year ago, having someone to talk to and support me throughout my transition helped to boost my confidence. It was like having my own cheerleader!
AP: Can you share a particular piece of professional advice that you have received?
HC-P: Visibility and take opportunities to build a network inside and outside your organisation. Being a part of an organisation where you can express your views and learn from others allows you to build authentic and strong relationships, and that’s how people remember you. It also helps personal and professional development and driving new opportunities.
AP: This is personally one of my biggest takeaways from the CREW mentorship programme. Just being able to speak to various industry professionals and leaders through the Member Spotlight Programme has given me access to incredible people!
AP: What do you think the key to greater diversity and inclusion (D&I) is in 2022?
HC-P: Acknowledgement and openness. The first step is a collective acknowledgement of the fact that there is a problem. The second is understanding the root cause and discussing this openly and candidly before putting in place policies or taking actions. Setting targets, ratios, and KPI measures alone does not help as this is not an issue that can be solved with this type of approach.
AP: Are there any instances that have stood out to you as being particularly effective?
HC-P: In my experience, M3 is a great example of having a diverse and equal opportunity hiring process across the graduate level. Because the company prefers to promote from within, junior colleagues have an equal opportunity to develop and grow within the firm. I think hiring a diverse and talented foundation at the junior levels of a company, position it well from day one, rather than having to hire specific types of people in the future at more intermediate and senior levels to make a quota.
AP: Hattie, in our initial correspondence, you mentioned that 2021 was a very challenging year for you personally. Can you share a little bit about the reasons why and your journey to date?
HC-P: In January, I returned to work after being diagnosed with breast cancer in April last year. My original CREW mentors have been incredibly supportive, checking-in with me throughout the treatment period, which was a very difficult time for me. This illness has dominated my life for 9 months, so I feel it is a big part of who I am today, and it’s important for me to be able to speak about it candidly. Coming back to work has been a challenge in many ways, but Henley have also been supportive and very understanding.
AP: Can you expand on the difficulties surrounding your return to work?
HC-P: After taking so much time off, it was intimidating to return to a professional environment, especially because I was uncertain of how others perceived me now. It takes a long time to recover from chemotherapy, which means that I fatigue quite easily, and I am not as fit as I used to be. It may take longer to complete certain tasks or to compute information, and I can become frustrated with myself because it’s not what I am used to. It’s hard to accept that I am still not 100% back to where I was. Unfortunately, the experience caused me to lose trust in my body and my ability to believe that everything will be okay. That said, this is where I truly felt the full support of CREW Network. I had a group of cheerleaders and a support system to lean on and guide me through these difficult moments. My mentors were in touch with me regularly, checking-in and making sure I was alright. They also supported me in my transition back to the office.
AP: What did you learn from all of this?
HC-P: Most importantly, I learned to be kinder to myself and to never take anything for granted.
AP: Wow Hattie, what an incredible story. I really appreciate you sharing this with CREW and our readers, who I hope will find insight and strength from your journey!
AP: Finally, outside of work, do you have a hobby or passion project you are working on?
HC-P: Barney is both my project and my hobby. He is a 5-year old dressage horse, that I share with my mum. We bought him back in 2020 along with another horse, in the hopes of training them up and competing in various events. Barney is still very young and has a lot of potential, so I’m excited to continue my training with him!
AP: I did a bit of riding myself when I was younger, and I’ve been looking at getting back into it, but it’s tough to find the time. Needless to say, I’m very jealous!
AP: Hattie, thank you so much for your time and for sharing some amazing material with our readers! Very much looking forward to meeting you in person soon.