Much has changed here over the past twelve months, but there is a lot to be excited about in 2022, as Danny explains:
When you took on the role of regional managing partner, what did you want to achieve in the Gatwick region?
My initial ambition was quite simple – to ensure our regional team continued to feel supported by Vail Williams following the initial shocks of the pandemic.
I was fortunate that my predecessor, along with the wider management team, had navigated us and our clients through the first phase of lockdown. I am proud of the resilience shown by the business and our people throughout this time, thanks to our continued focus on our values and purpose.
By this time last year, it was clear that the pandemic was far from over, with further economic and social shocks in the pipeline. Our response was suitably robust, not only to meet the immediate challenges but with one eye on the future.
We were clear that supporting and strengthening our teams had to be our primary focus and, looking back, I am glad that we did, as we needed each other and our clients need us, more than ever.
As I look to the future, I will continue to build on our regional reputation, expanding our services and recruiting and retaining talent to allow us to continue to provide multi-disciplinary advice founded on the excellence of service that our clients have come to expect of Vail Williams.
Our business is people, and I will continue to build on our fantastic culture and ensure our people have the support to learn and the opportunity to grow, for the benefit of our clients.
As a wider industry, we need to continue to improve and enhance how we communicate with the market and not assume that businesses will always understand what advice they need and where to find it. Property is a complex matter, and it is down to us to provide clarity, education and good advice, without the jargon.
How has the property market evolved over your first 12 months as Regional Managing Partner and how has the firm responded to this?
The pandemic has been one of the single largest shocks the economy has had to endure. Hopefully, one day, we will be able to stop talking about Covid and the huge ripple effect it has had on our clients.
During the early stages of lockdown, the transactional market came to a halt and, as a result, some businesses held off making longer-term strategic decisions when it came to property.
Our clients focused, rightly, on the health and wellbeing of their people and how they could operate safely, whilst considering their exposure to property occupation and its associated costs.
As a business, we focused on being there to support and help where we could. This meant that our teams, particularly in professional advisory, were incredibly busy during those initial weeks and months. For instance, our Lease Advisory team were on hand to advise on rental discussions and our Business Rates experts were able to help clients reduce their rating liabilities, sometimes to nil.
Throughout this time, it was heartening to see how quickly businesses adapted and rebounded.
By late summer 2020, the transactional market picked back up as industrial / distribution demand hit new highs. Together with an historic lack of industrial supply, this drove industrial rents up across the region.
Demand for land for industrial development and its associated land values increased exponentially, changing the landscape for last mile logistics and, in some cases, resulting in the demolition of office buildings for industrial / trade counter redevelopment.
Unsurprisingly, the office market was hit badly by the pandemic, as businesses took longer to return to the office. When they did, many required smaller, more flexible spaces. This market has been slower to recover, but employers recognise the importance of the office for both their businesses and their people.
It is too soon to fully understand the longer-term implications of the pandemic on the office market and there has been much deliberation over the future of the office. On the ground, we have seen a move towards more regional hubs, and a flight to quality as occupiers demand well-fitted, amenity-rich space.
As we all know, the investment market is driven by confidence and Covid destroyed that in 2020. Like a rush to gold, many investors sought the relative safety of long-term income with both UK and overseas money pouring into this area.
Less certain income became persona non gratia with the exception of industrial which continued to grow from strength to strength.
Over the last 12 months the market fared better than expected and Vail Williams was pleased to have conclude numerous transactions, six of them industrial, the latest being a £32.3m warehouse in Spennymore.
Despite the last-minute surge, offices, retail and hospitality continued to struggle although we forecast that 2022 will be a stronger year for all investment sectors.