Tim Green speaks to Paul Coates, Head of Debt Advisory and Structured Finance (EMEA) at CBRE.
Paul Coates has been with CBRE for just under two years, having joined to build out the company’s debt advisory platform across EMEA. He previously spent more than 25 years in the real estate ﬁnance world, being part of some major UK corporate ﬁnance and development projects. From 2008 for ten years he led RBS’s real estate lending teams across the UK and Europe, which he describes as an interesting, challenging and rewarding role to take in the wake of the global ﬁnancial crisis.
Paul is currently chairing the Property Industry Alliance initiative to create an industry wide loan database to promote greater transparency in the UK real estate lending markets. Following the Vision for Real Estate Lending report in 2014 the initiative seeks to provide accurate, timely and relevant information about the ﬂow of credit into the UK Real Estate market and trends within the market to seek to promote more informed decision making and risk taking.
Coates lives in Richmond, south-west London, where he enjoys the space around Richmond Park and the River Thames as well as being close to Twickenham, where he is a member and avid follower of the Harlequins rugby team.
What was your ﬁrst job, and what is the worst job you’ve ever done?
My ﬁrst job was working at B&Q, from selling carpets to designing kitchens. Worst job… I think delivering 380 free papers every week for less than £2 a week. In business I think a lot of the enjoyment (or not) is shaped by the leaders and the environment they create – I’ve had the fortune to work for some great bosses and mentors.
Was ﬁnance your ﬁrst career choice and what were you doing before?
I turned down British Airways pilot training to go into the ﬁnancial world. Who know where that alternative route could have taken me – literally…
Why did you choose a career in the commercial real estate sector?
In a way it just happened: as banks started to specialise in sectors, I had a number of clients in the property sector – including George Wimpey, long before its current guise – so it was a natural progression.
Why do you enjoy the sector?
I love the real estate sector – I have been lucky enough to be involved with many amazing clients and projects over the years, from ﬁnancing the buyout of Canary Wharf Group to leading the ﬁnancing for the new Arsenal stadium.
What’s a typical day like?
There isn’t one really, and I enjoy that diversity. Client meetings and calls, planning and strategy, spending time with the team – and, as we are in growth mode, lots of recruitment discussions, and trains, planes and automobiles.
Who or what has had the biggest impact on your career?
When I was recruited into RBS I met Roy Harris and I knew within minutes I wanted to join them; by the time I got home from the interview the oﬀer was sitting in my inbox. I admire that agility and decisiveness. Also my father – he passed away suddenly in his ﬁfties when I was partway through a two-day assessment process for a senior role. It was the belief he would want me to carry on and give it my best shot that took me through that tough 48 hours.
What advice would you give to people at diﬀerent levels on developing their careers?
The advice to your younger self question! Be curious and get some breadth in your experiences early in your career. You will never know until you look back the various experiences you will draw upon. Learn to be comfortable in ambiguity.
Who inspires you and why?
Sarah Sparks, an executive coach I had the privilege to work with – one of those people in life who energises those who meet her. Her life story is inspirational and led her to her mission to ‘strive to thrive’ and tackle the issues of executive stress and mental illness in business. And, importantly, my daughter – she’s just 21 and in the last six months has suddenly suﬀered from some life-shaping and -changing conditions. She is having to change her previously held ambitions and expected direction in life and forge a new future. Her resilience and positivity are incredible to see and make me very proud and humble.
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Better for others to answer this one… I suppose I have been told I have the ability to make the complex simple, which might have helped me navigate through building the teams and businesses I’ve worked with. I’m pretty determined too, but perhaps I can be a little too much of a perfectionist sometimes, which can be a strength and a weakness.
What do you think are the common qualities that the best leaders have?