In Conversation with Rosemary Feenan, QuadReal Property Group, 11 December 2020

Recognised, mechanised, globalised, organised, revitalised

In the second of the series of ‘In Conversation’ webinars, SPR Chair Lucy Greenwood spoke to Rosemary Feenan, Executive Vice President at QuadReal Property Group, and now fellow of the SPR, about her career in property research and how the field has changed for new researchers starting out in the business.

Rosemary’s enthusiasm for research shone through as she told the story of how her career has evolved from her interest in place (placemaking) from a young age which led her to becoming a planner, then working for Sainsbury’s and CACI before moving to research roles at Chesterton’s and JLL.  

She summarised the developments over her time in property research as ‘recognised, mechanised, globalised, organised and revitalised’.  For those starting out in the business, she stressed that the mechanisation aspect is becoming increasingly important, particularly given the advance of Proptech, which has been described by MIT academics as ‘the fracking of real estate’ –  ‘digging into the bedrock of real estate and opening up a multitude of new value chains,’ she proposed.

And as technology advances in real estate, researchers will need to stay focused on the way the data they use has been created. AI and machine learning will undoubtedly play a greater role in generating information, ‘but the whole thing about algorithms is that they have ultimately been created by human beings and will have biases built into them. It will therefore be crucial for researchers to be as objective as they can be in using such information,’ she said.

Asked about what she’d liked to have known when starting out in her own career, Rosemary stressed the importance of identifying those abilities that are unique to yourself, which are likely to make up only 10% of your overall skillset, and concentrate on them.  The remaining 90% of your capabilities will be shared by others.  Too many people spend their time ‘trying to do, not to be,’ she suggested, meaning that they would be likely to follow other people’s tune rather than being true to themselves and fulfilling their potential.

She sees one of the biggest challenges for today’s researchers as being the breadth of the industry, with its growing number of subsectors – many of which, like data centres – didn’t even exist a few years ago. This makes it difficult to ‘put your arms around what real estate is,’ but it’s important to keep looking for the connections between things so that you can give the best possible advice based on the most relevant data and foresight you can bring.

Tim Horsey