Working in Asset Management

15th August 2022
Retail assets have a range of stakeholders including owners, occupiers and local authorities. This article outlines how the team at Sovereign Centros (Sovereign) communicates with those stakeholders to ensure the best outcome for its shopping centres.

Senior Asset Manager Matt Elgey says that one of the key groups of the people the Firm works with are local authorities. “Many of the retail assets that we manage are right in the middle of urban centres, so it is vital that we work closely with senior figures from councils to ensure there is a joined-up approach to town centre management.”

“For example, the St. Enoch Centre in Glasgow is a 12-acre site right at the heart of the City, so it is vital that it performs well. Similarly Touchwood Shopping Centre in Solihull a dominant town centre scheme, where the local authority is the freeholder.”

He explains that the asset management team has regular meetings with councils, either on a monthly or quarterly basis. With three of the centres managed in the Sovereign portfolio – Washington Square, the Telford Centre and Corby – the Sovereign team sit on Town Deal Boards with a range of local stakeholders to discuss a wide range of issues relating to the future viability of the town centres and the distribution of Government funding.

“Thanks to the broad range of experience within the Sovereign team, we bring real value and insight. For example, at Touchwood we share footfall and car park occupancy data with Solihull Council. At Telford, we provide leasing and management updates to the council’s Senior Executive group on a quarterly basis.”

Matt Elgey goes on to say: “Given that shopping centres play such a central role within major conurbations, it transpires that whoever is managing these assets will need to take the lead in guiding the future direction of the town or city. We like to think that with our significant experience, not just in pure property but in many other related areas as well, we can make a real difference to the future viability of some of the key destinations in the UK.”

Fellow Asset Manager Tom Nuttall goes on to explain that although local authorities are one of the key stakeholders the Firm deals with on a day-to-day basis, the team also liaises regularly with a wide range of other people working in and around our shopping centres.

“One of our key strengths is working directly with retailers rather than relying solely upon leasing agents. Thanks to our vast knowledge base, combined with our expansive key retailer contacts we have a very good understanding of their business models. We can extract the necessary information we need. This assists in all regards with the management of the often complex centres.”

Another vital group of stakeholders are the owners. Whether they are financial institutions, institutional funds or private equity groups, reporting has become far more analytical and commercially focused. Matt Elgey says: “Ultimately everything comes back to the simple goal of making an asset more valuable in both the short, medium and long term. With all the shopping centres we asset manage, we work to a detailed business plan and it’s our job to make sure that by combining all the various relationships that we deliver that plan for our partners.

“Our role is to communicate regularly with the owners and to keep them appraised on all matters. We also need to communicate these strategies to people working within the shopping centres. For example, we have regular marketing team calls at Metrocentre so all involved work collectively for the benefit of this important asset. There are also regular meetings with both the property management and centre management teams. This helps to foster positive relationships, smoothing the pathway to successful outcomes such as planning applications or resolving challenging management issues within centres.”

Communication is something which crops up time and time again. As Tom Nuttall explains: “With so many audiences and people in such a wide variety of roles, we have to tailor the message specifically to each individual group. Whether we are dealing with marketing teams, talking about ESG, dealing with emotive subjects such as anti-social behaviour or providing feedback to move along key planning applications we have to be conversant with a wide range of issues.”

Fortunately, all asset managers working within Sovereign not only have a broad range of backgrounds, but they are also adept at working in a calm, professional manner with these diverse set of stakeholders.

Matt Elgey concludes: “The Sovereign Centros approach is one built around putting together a strong multi-layered business plan, forming excellent inter-personal relationships with all key stakeholders and being able to implement this plan efficiently in order to maximise returns for our partners.”