Facilities Management Middle East
THE RIGHT ASSET
Divisional CEO of iREC Holdings Naser Barhoum gives a candid interview about his roles and responsibilities at iREC
YOU’VE BEEN QUITE PROMINENT OVER THE LAST COUPLE OF YEARS. TELL US MORE ABOUT YOURSELF.
I’m originally from Jordan and have a degree in mechanical engineering, but have worked in the UAE for more than 17 years for some of the biggest developers and operators in the country. While I started my career in facilities management, I’ve also held senior roles across community management and customer service.
I’m married to my wife Linda and have 3 children and my preferred hobbies are mainly traveling and reading.
I joined Eltizam Group in November 2020, originally to be the executive vice president – Real Estate and was promoted to be divisional CEO for iREC Holdings in 2021. My time leading iREC has been fast-paced with the acquisitions of both Kingfield Owners Association and Inspire Properties as well as the establishment of SimmiTEK. Most recently, I led the establishment of Three60 Communities in Egypt as part of the geographic expansion of
YOU’RE NOW THE DIVISIONAL CEO OF iREC HOLDINGS, THIS ISN’T A NAME WE’RE FAMILIAR WITH IN THE MARKET. IS IT A NEW ENTITY?
Not exactly. Whilst iREC Holdings is a recently established holding company, it’s the result of acquisitions and a restructure of some well-known brands. iREC is a subsidiary holding company of Eltizam Asset Management Group which is ultimately owned by ADQ and IHC. iREC is then the parent company of Three60 Communities, Kingfield Owners Association,
SimmiTEK, Omnious Estates and Inspire Properties.
The acquisition of Kingfield and Inspire Properties during 2021 led to a requirement to restructure our portfolio of brands operating in the Property Management, Owners Association Management and Technical Facilities Management and Energy Audit sectors under one holding company. So the brand, iREC may be unfamiliar to the market but the work we do and the brands that we own are well known.
HOW DO YOU SEE iREC’S INFLUENCE ON THE FACILITIES MANAGEMENT INDUSTRY?
With the companies we have within iREC Holdings, we’re managing about 100,000 units, across 100+ different towers and communities. In each of these, one of our responsibilities is to manage the facilities management services and therefore our teams need to be experts in the spectrum of FM service delivery - from a cost, quality and scope perspective. We are currently managing over 180 FM related contracts as well as a supplier spend of over AED600m annually.
When I saw the vision of the Eltizam Group from both the community and facilities management side, I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of and that would really impact the FM landscape in the MENA region.
Through our Inspire Properties entity, we are servicing both the property and facilities management requirements of ICD Brookfield Place. As the most iconic commercial building in the region and only LEAD accredited building in the region, we are helping to set the standard in FM for the ultra-high- end commercial real estate sector.
YOU’VE BEEN A PROMINENT FIGURE ACROSS THE REAL ESTATE MARKET FOR MANY YEARS, HOW HAVE YOU SEEN THE FM MARKET CHANGING?
As I mentioned, I’ve been fortunate to have been working in the UAE for over 17 years, which has included roles on the client side with the biggest developers in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, as well as the service providers side.
In our communities, we have relooked at the FM operations across every service line. In Dubai, linked to the RERA regulations, we generally do not appoint TFM suppliers, meaning that we have a greater input into a number of the traditional “specialist” contractors – assessing their interdependencies with other services and variances in scope options. This has led our teams to a more detailed understanding of the market and challenge the service providers on a more micro level.
One of the big changes I’ve seen is the effectiveness in technology use. Technology has always been a part of the FM industry, although I don’t believe it has advanced at the incredible rate that the generic tech space has. We’ve now had the time to assess the true impact of the early technologies and have honest reflection on whether it was implemented and utilised correctly. The answer is often that it has not been the case.
However, the market has matured in both the technology available, the scale at which it is adopted and, lately, being a prerequisite for certain clients. This has also been helped by the building technology of newer assets – demanding the FM companies
TECHNOLOGY HAS ALWAYS BEEN A PART OF THE FM INDUSTRY, ALTHOUGH I DON’T BELIEVE IT HAS ADVANCED AT THE INCREDIBLE RATE THAT THE GENERIC TECH SPACE HAS.
increase their capability to benefit from this.
I have also witnessed increasing awareness and requirements from customers related to Environmental and Sustainability across our portfolio. With energy costs being a key component of building costs, we are focused on providing innovative solutions to our customers that will assist them to reduce both energy consumption and costs.
WHAT CHANGES WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE IN THE MARKET AND HOW ARE iREC HOLDINGS HELPING TO IMPLEMENT THIS?
We would like to see greater clarity and longer-term contracts. The greater clarity is around the transparency of service providers’ reporting. We know that most CAFM systems and other technology solutions have the capability for live client visibility. We also know that most FM companies assure clients that they will receive this access. However, it is often not the case. This is not always an attempt to hide information but can be due to lack of training, or training not being given to the actual operators carrying out the work.
Longer term contracts relate to the industry benefit of creating true partnerships with FM companies. We want clients to enter contracts where they work together with the FM providers, so that the FM providers can invest in the contract to provide a superior service at a lower cost but aren’t having to refrain due to unnecessary risks or limited payback periods. We know that longer term contracts produce the best results in mature facilities and markets, but there is still a resistance in the standard residential and commercial markets at the moment. We’re hopefully helping to change this.
IS iREC PLANNING TO OPERATE OUTSIDE OF THE UAE MARKET?
iREC has been operating in Oman for 5 years through its subsidiary Three60 Communities, and we have recently also established Three60 Communities in Egypt. We are currently in the process of expanding into KSA and with the support of our shareholders we have the capability to rapidly expand into markets where we believe we can add value. So it’s a very busy time for us.