The commercial service model
CBRE, the world’s largest commercial real estate services and investment firm, has seen exceptional growth both globally and through its Australian division over the last five years. Since 2011, the Pacific business has doubled with an impressive shift in
Joining CBRE Pacific in the middle of this massive growth is Amanda Steele, Senior Managing Director of the firm’s Asset Services business. With an extensive background in sustainability and roles with government and the not-forprofit sector, she has brought considerable strength over the last three years in creating integrated solutions across the environmental, social and economic spectrums.
“I’ve loved the role – more than I ever thought I would to be honest,” says Amanda. “I’ve really enjoyed the challenge of running a big business and I’ve really enjoyed the challenge of working with such a great team and with world leading clients.
“I’ve worked for the not-forprofit, government, and the corporate world, and have found all three fascinating and challenging in their own regard. They all bring a unique perspective and skillset that gives you a more complete approach to the next role. It’s given me a great platform to help drive CBRE now.”
Amanda talks passionately about approaching business with a wellrounded attitude. Her experience in politics and public policies focussed on community development, which is how she was introduced to sustainability. Her approach to the work came from “the social side whereas many others approached it from the environmental side”.
“I always run a very holistic approach to sustainability around social economic environment challenges and how to overcome them in different organisations.”
While CBRE’s growth has been exceptional in recent years, Amanda is also quick to highlight that the broader industry is expanding and developing sophistication, heavily supported by technology and staff diversity.
“The property management sector in particular has moved from manual to automatic – which increases things like building efficiency. If you think back not long ago, we used to have this guy with the jingly keys tied to his back pocket, however the technology peak means that we can automate some of that work and direct the staff efforts into other areas. Now we have fantastic concierge staff that are waiting at the front to greet the workers to the building and really set them up a great day at work. It provides value to owners and occupants.”
In doing so, CBRE now hires a more diverse group of people. As Amanda notes, the majority of staff for a property management business was traditionally linked to mechanical engineers; however the scope now includes the likes of sustainability professionals, executive chefs and wide-ranging concierge staff.
“I think it’s allowed us to consult in a really great way,” says Amanda. “That integrated service at CBRE is really adding that value to our clients. They’re not just getting the leasing agents anymore; they’re also getting the evaluation team, and the asset management and access to our research. That’s providing a lot of value to our clients.”
One such technological development is Pulse; CBRE’s property management system. The Pulse system includes all of the data that anyone would possibly need to understand their property portfolio, such as lease renewals, accounts, stacking plans and more. It is then translated throughout its business intelligence to provide bespoke information to make the clients’ lives easier.
“I think it really improves areas of risk and opportunity across the portfolio and provides really clear insight,” says Amanda. “It gives you the time and the tools to allow you to focus on your investment strategy. The intent of the Pulse system is to take away the noise of property management, and provide the client with that high level investment focus portfolio. It gives you back your time, which everyone is short on.”
Adding to the Pulse system is Aspire, which acts as a business intelligence platform that sits across the top to provide realtime reports that integrate with a range of different systems. It pulls together every point of data in a building or a portfolio to provide access in an easy actionable way. For example, it can be used to measure foot traffic in a shopping centre and present it in a format that is easily digestible.
“We invest millions of dollars globally in technology every year, and we anticipate that we’ll be releasing new updates either to those platforms or to different platforms, every six months, within our business line,” says Amanda. “We have to remain valid in the current market place and technology enables that in a meaningful way.”
While the technology provides great benefits to the client, Amanda is quick to highlight that customer service needs to be a focus in order to truly support their needs. It is an area of focus that she has invested a significant amount of time and energy.
“Commercial real estate didn’t traditionally put enough effort into customer service, when it really should be at the top of the industry. I think it’s really key to my leadership at CBRE, and what I’ve really instilled in our staff, is that we’re actually in the business of customer service. Property management is what we do, but we’re in the business of customer service and the better the customer service delivery, the more satisfied our clients are and the better our business flows.”
In order to meet that level of service, CBRE puts its staff through training with MCA, whose clients include the likes of Disney. In addition to the specific skills in property management, there is a direct focus on delivering excellent customer service.
“People are coming into the workplace now and wanting more than just a nice shiny office,” Amanda says. “They want people who can anticipate their needs and deliver them in a really inspiring way. That’s what our property management teams do and needs to be a continual focus.”
Naturally, this combination of technology and customer service works best when there is genuine staff engagement, and Amanda has put a lot of work into creating an inclusive culture where people want to come to work.
It is an attitude that clearly reflects Amanda’s holistic approach – and one that she believes not just creates a more enjoyable workplace, but also a more successful organisation.
“I really want to change the industry,” she says. “I know that can come across as arrogant, but it’s what we should all strive to do. I want CBRE to be so good th at the rest of the property services companies are trying to catch up to us. I think there is a lot more head room on what we can deliver yet.”
With such a complete and considered approach it would appear to be well on its way.