Space as a competitive advantage

CEO of CBRE Spain and Chairman of Capital Markets for Continental Europe CBRE EMEA

«The aim of our activity is to create competitive advantages, not just for our customers but also for other stakeholders: shareholders and employees»

Over the last eight years the Real Estate sector has experienced a lengthy period in the wilderness as a result of the global financial crisis. During this time, the market has had to readjust to a new reality, to learn the key lessons from events and to progress towards a new model.

Today the sector is on an upward trajectory in which Spain is playing a pivotal role. First, it was opportunistic funds that entered a market flagged up by the economic uncertainty. Then, as macro data improved, they were replaced by core and value-added funds with their eyes on prime assets in the major cities. The reality is that foreign capital – not just European but also American, Asian and Latin American – is shaping a new Real Estate sector in Spain. The market is becoming increasingly globalised and is demanding more complex and integrated services along with local knowledge that also embraces a global perspective.

With the aim of responding to this demand, in 2015 we started operating from a new Build on Advantage brand positioning, which represents a further step forward in our corporate strategy. We are already the undisputed leading player in our industry. And now we are striving to become one of the companies that make up the select group recognised as World Class, transcending what Real Estate consultancy has traditionally represented and leading the way in the field of professional space solutions. We have dedicated a great deal of time and effort to determining our true strengths and unique selling points, listening to our customers and asking them about their reasons for entrusting their spaces to us. The most common conclusion is that we create competitive advantages for our customers and transform Real Estate into a valuable commercial advantage with a strategic impact on their businesses.

Creating competitive edges

We also wanted to build on the fact that all our activity is aimed at created competitive advantages not just for our customers, for whom we generate value through the optimum and integrated management of their spaces in their different versions – commercial, industrial and residential – but also for other stakeholders: for shareholders we secure financial benefits and for employees, consumers and tenants we reinvent the space as something at the service of their needs, making life easier and more bearable. Real Estate has ceased to be “immobile” and the level of change and innovation is accelerating exponentially underpinned by technology and the development of management models focused on people’s basic needs – and Build on Advantage is the way in which we have adapted to this transformation. It is a new identity with which we are presenting ourselves to the world, an organising principle that supports our strategy and serves as inspiration in the daily endeavours of everyone who forms part of this company.

In 2015, CBRE carried out various projects informed by this philosophy that seeks to transform the integrated management of spaces into true competitive advantages. A prime example is our work on the Shanghai Tower, a 574,000-m2 skyscraper featuring offices, a hotel, entertainment facilities, a retail area and cultural spaces. It is also LEED® Gold pre-certified and has a China Green Building Three-Star rating Its developer was seeking a partner with international experience in the operation and management of such an iconic building. CBRE succeeded in creating a global team with knowledge of such complex assets that was able to advise the customer on best operational practices including marketing, rental contracts, operational procedures and protocols and staff training. Furthermore, CBRE advised on sustainability, the building’s mechanical systems and on technical and engineering issues so that the tower satisfies tenants’ expectations and retains its status as a class A building. During this process, CBRE created a Chinese Centre of Excellence, a virtual hub where the various professionals involved (from different time zones and geographical areas) could communicate easily and align their goals and duties.

But the Build on Advantage vision isn’t something that happens only in other countries. In fact, in Spain we are leading the way internationally in many best global practices and have notched up recent successes in integrated consulting with high value-added. A prime example is the acquisition of Testa, a subsidiary of Sacyr, by Merlin Properties for €1.793 billion. For this transaction, headed up by our Corporate Finance department, various financing options were proposed, the company’s balance sheet was analysed, its data room and asset portfolio were assessed and advice was provided to close the deal.

«Our activities focus on creating competitive advantages for our customers, shareholders and employees»

Disruptive Solutions

Another way of adding value on which we are working – beyond the integration of services – is the creation of disruptive solutions. That is to say, if the world is changing then we need to do so too. And if we are ahead of the game then so much the better. A prime example of such solutions are our Friendly Offices, our response to one of the main concerns of companies today: attracting and holding on to the best talent. With this goal in mind, companies must strive to satisfy the expectations and demands of their employees and this entails rather more than offering them a desk, a telephone and a computer. If the new generations are demanding greater interaction in the workplace, we design and roll out spaces that encourage cooperation between various members of the organisation. If employees are increasingly demanding a pleasant and healthy environment, we create sustainable offices with healthcare and wellbeing services. If they are requesting greater mobility, we equip the workspace with the necessary technology to ensure connectivity and flexibility.

In Spain we have recently been working on various initiatives that take into account the “persons + technology+ professional spaces” equation with a view to helping companies to better attract and retain talent. To this end, we are working closely with experts in the field of human resources and new technologies, a prime example being the Workspace Forum that we organised recently with the technology company Xerox and the talent specialist Facthum.

We have been able to leverage our know-how to lead the creation and development of pioneering headquarters such as that of PwC, which occupies 17 floors of the PwC Tower (formerly the Sacyr Tower). The project aimed to convey modernity, coordination and PwC’s corporate values and CBRE enhanced the sustainability of the facilities and worked towards LEED CI certification.

As we said, the world is in constant flux and we have an obligation to keep a close eye on trends with a view to creating valuable solutions. Let’s take the retail sector as an example. In recent years, consumption and purchasing decisions have changed, which means new marketing techniques are required linked to the generation of unique experiences and forging a direct relationship with the consumer. Here at CBRE we have pioneered the creation of a Specialty Leasing area, specialising in the management of spaces in Retail Centres for creative advertising or direct marketing initiatives.

These new forms of marketing also affect our sector. That is why CBRE is leading the way in the use of new technologies in the marketing of Real Estate. For example, for one of our most recent projects, the office rental process in the BBVA tower at Castellana 81, we used immersive virtual reality tools that enable the potential tenant to embark on a virtual tour of the building’s offices during its refurbishment process. This tool facilitates decision-making for companies seeking offices, for spaces under development or undergoing refurbishment, and enables them to view fitouts in existing spaces and options for optimisation.

But our determination to be more and to always remain ahead of the game is not restricted to the projects and transactions in which we are involved and also extends internally to our administration and management. In the case of Spain, in 2015 we opened our seventh office in Bilbao and created a specialist logistics team in Seville. With regard to services, we led the way in the sector in the creation of new areas such as Corporate Finance, Development Services, China Desk and Alternative Investments.

2015: Excellent Results

This unwavering and innovative approach, coupled with the work of our top teams, has enabled us to achieve the aim established in our 2014-2016 Strategic Plan of doubling the company’s turnover in Spain one year earlier than forecast . In addition, in the last two years we have tripled our headcount from 360 to over 1,000 employees, marrying impressive organic with business growth following our acquisition of Global Workplace Solutions (GWS), the facilities management division of Johnsons Controls, a purchase that will contribute to our Build on Advantage mission.

In 2016 we will continue to work on this approach, focusing in particular on collaboration between different areas with a view to optimising synergies and supporting our customers throughout the entire Real Estate cycle. To secure an advantage it is also necessary to think ahead and that is what we aiming to do with this publication: to make use of our market intelligence to identify the Real Estate trends that will shape the sector this year. And we must always bear in mind that the customers who entrust us with the management of their spaces do so in the expectation of securing a tangible advantage – through cost savings, an increase in yield or the solution of a problem – and also an intangible advantage, namely the security that comes from being advised by the very best professionals.

Before concluding, I would like to thank you because none of these advances would be feasible for CBRE without our principal asset, namely our customers. I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude for the trust placed in us throughout 2015 and my unwavering commitment to continuing to surprise you with the very best levels of service in 2016. You are personally invited to discover a new way of appreciating commercial Real Estate in our new “Finishing First” polysensory space, which will be inaugurated in January with a view to better satisfying all your needs. We look forward to working with you.

«The degree of innovation accelerates with the development of management models centred around people’s basic needs»

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CEO of CBRE Spain and Chairman of Capital Markets for Continental Europe CBRE EMEA