Real estate, alternative real assets and other diversions

An interview with Amanda Clack Tony Williams interviews Head of Strategic Consulting at CBRE

Face to Face

Amanda Clack has had more career peaks than the Atlas Mountains in a wonderfully blended working life spanning more than 30 years! This has included partnerships at two of the Big Four accounting firms and being President of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, or RICS, for 17 months in 2016 and Amanda was only the second female to hold this office, becoming the 135th President since 1868. She was also the longest serving in 123 years. “I applied for 10 jobs as a trainee when I was 18 and was offered all of them. And, I have been lucky in that I have never really applied for another one again”.

Since October 2017, in something of a perfect professional culmination, Amanda has become the Head of Strategic Consulting at CBRE; following “a conversation”. This awesome journey, too, has had a common denominator i.e. it is underpinned (sic) by a love for the built environment. “I have to pinch myself sometimes to see if I am really where I am. I am the luckiest girl in the World as I really love my job, and always have”.

It all started, though, much more prosaically. In fact, Amanda blames Lego and a Hornby train sets for an early interest in construction… “our family lived in Essex near the M25 when it was being built. We knew the Clerk of Works and he would drive me around the site in his Land Rover. It was incredibly exciting and I loved it; and I loved watching such a major project being developed and that’s really how I became interested in construction”.

Amanda went on to say “Very early on, too, I learned what I didn’t like and what I didn’t want to do. I knew I wanted to be out there making a difference”.

The latter is a common theme for Amanda; and, indeed, a common reality. “Yes, I could have gone straight to University full-time, but there was also the option of being able to be working and studying simultaneously; which I preferred – albeit much to the chagrin of my school. But this came full circle though as I later ended up as an Associate Governor of my old school, the Ursuline Convent High School in Brentwood.

“And, yes, maybe I missed out a bit on enjoying life whilst at University full time but I wouldn’t have changed things – then or now” Prior to this, however, Amanda had a brief flirtation with a musical career. “At 18, I was also studying for a teaching diploma at the Royal School of Music. I played the piano but very quickly realised that I was just not good enough for this ever to be a realistic career. Music, however, has remained a life-long passion”.

Amanda’s first employer was BDB and she worked four days a week as a trainee QS with one day day-release to University.

She then joined Hornagold & Hills as a Project Manager (PM) and stayed 14 years including eight as a partner. For the record – and well after Amanda’s departure – H&H was taken over by Mouchel Parkman in 2006 which, in turn, was taken over by Kier in 2015.

Some 10 years at PwC followed where Amanda was a Partner and led the consulting business across South East England with a focus on mid-market FTSE250 clients. She also established the ‘Programme Management Competency’ for PwC.

From there it was a shorter stint, as a Partner at EY (aka Ernst & Young) as Head of Infrastructure (Advisory) with a leading role across the public and private sectors and particularly transport, energy and assets, plus ‘the cities agenda’.

Amanda joined CBRE in October last year as Head of Strategic Consulting. “Why wouldn’t I do it… It is bread and butter for me. I am specialising in C-suite clients and I am able to join up our firm in bringing the full cadre of services CBRE does – by bringing the firm and the very best of CBRE to our clients”.

For the uninitiated, C-Suite or C-Level is a widely-used idiom to collectively refer to a corporation’s most important senior executives i.e. the top senior executive title all begin with the letter ‘C’ as in:

Chief Executive Officer (CEO); Chief Financial Officer (CFO); Chief Operating Officer (COO); and Chief Information and Investment Officer (CIO).

Essentially, she specialises in advising clients at Board level on their strategic real estate requirements – as investor, occupier or developer.

CBRE Group Inc. is the largest commercial real estate services and investment firm in the World. Headquartered in Los Angeles it operates more than 450 offices internationally and has clients in more than 100 countries. Its origins date back to 1906 and today it offers a wide range of skills including facilities management to occupiers of commercial real estate, property management, leasing plus capital markets, appraisal, and brokerage services to owners of commercial real estate.

The Head of Strategic Consulting, too, was a new position. CBRE supports Urbanity and Technology, which are two key areas for the Sector and the profession moving forward. “We also have two types of key clients within the cardre – investor and occupier – and we seek to bring the best of our knowledge to them at a practical level to enhance property value. This means helping them improve their investment and occupied portfolios and how they can deliver value through corporate real estate and, especially, in terms of workplace. We focus on property but also in the context of people’s interactions with it, and its location in terms of place”.

“CBRE’s Global Cities Report Looking at the top global cities and what place do they have. For example, Shanghai with a population of 24 million is the same size as Australia. Cities are literally taking on nations. And, we need to focus on urbanity how people occupy that space, the role of technology and especially the value green space. And how we optimise that to a place where people want to be. Ultimately, too, that ends up in a real estate value”.

“Property, People and Place is our focus” as Amanda says about CBRE. Providing “Intelligence, Insight and Information being what we bring” plus “leadership in technology and data. “I have been very impressed with the technological expertise of the CBRE team who are market leading in PropTech”.

“The whole firm is my team. Although I am very well known in the UK I am also working extensively internationally too. CBRE is transnational, and so am I”.

“Essentially, I am a problem solver. And I am delivering the benefits of my experience to our clients; coupled with the professional technical skill set of CBRE.”

“I have my own ‘reverse mentor’. This is a first in my career, but great fun and a great help, especially since I am relatively new here. Albeit this is not unusual at CBRE.”

“Yes, I have had, and still have conventional mentors in my career too; and I mentor people too, in return. One of my favourite mentors had a very different sort of background to me. He had been a speech writer for Margaret Thatcher. He was a masterful communicator and the doyen of nuance. He taught me a lot”.

But Amanda is also a complete learner with 44 letters and one word after her name on her business card, where the suffixes run to two lines:

MSc BSc PPRICS FRICS FICE FAPM FRSA CCMI FIC, CMC and AffilatelCEAW.

Okay, MSc and BSc are easy being a “Master of Science in X” plus a “Bachelor of Science in Y”.

Similarly, PPRICS and FRICS is straight forward, too, being “Past President of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors” and “Fellow of the RICS”.

The others:

FICE is Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers;
FAPM is Fellow of the Association for Project Managers;
FRSA is Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts;
CCMI is “Companion of the Chartered Management Institute”;
FIC is Fellow of the Institute of Consulting
CMC stands for “Certified Management Consultant”; and, finally, AffilateICEAW which is an “Affiliate of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales”.

“I actually took them off for many years but then put them back on when I was RICS President. I think it is important. The letters show accomplishment, standards, ability and they establish trust and credibility, especially overseas.”

Face to Face

About Tony Williams

Tony Williams

Tony Williams has enjoyed an international portfolio career in investment banking (including UBS and Morgan Stanley) and industry, and is also a serial non-executive director. Since 2002, he has led the business consultancy Building Value Ltd which specialises in real estate, construction and support services. Tony divides his time between London and Sweden. Born in New Zealand, he originally studied economics at the Universities of Otago and Manchester. He can be contacted at awilliams@buildingvalueltd.com.

Articles by Tony Williams

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