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#MeetTheExpert - Simone Contasta | Head of Development, Italy


Simone Contasta, Head of Development at Colliers Italy, talks about his international experience in Real Estate and which will be the asset classes of the future.

How long have you been working in the real estate industry and how did you end up with Colliers?

I’ve been working in real estate for over 15 years. During my career, I've been lucky enough to have a number of strategic roles in sectors that are very different yet are also connected, such as planning, development, sales and marketing and real estate finance. All of these areas are – in their own way – vital to ensuring the success of an operation. In my eyes, it's that multitude of different needs, nuances and skills which makes real estate such a wonderful sector – one that is always changing and never stands still.
For some years, I’d been an interested observer of Colliers’ exponential growth, which was partly down to its global platform and group of highly qualified professionals. Then, in 2019, I had the opportunity to join that fantastic team. I hope to use my experience and dedication to contribute to the growth of the company in Italy while also increasing my exposure to new, exciting projects.

"At the same table, you have urban planners, technicians, transport engineers and other sector experts, but you also have figures like researchers and sociologists who play a role in predicting future trends"

You were the driving force between the partnership between Colliers and Sportium around the redevelopment and planning of new sport facilities. What's the secret to good teamwork and how important is collaboration in projects with a focus on urban regeneration and social cohesion?

Teamwork is essential in all types of business, every day. But it’s particularly true in real estate, where collaboration is required across a number of different sectors, skills and specialisms in order to achieve a common goal. The only way to achieve big things is through clarity, shared objectives, a well-structured plan, professional skills and a good level of understanding between team members. That’s how you take individual efforts and amplify them into an even big group achievement.

Urban redevelopment and regeneration projects – sometimes around sports stadiums or arenas – are a key driver of change in our cities. They form part of a process of social and urban transformation which is not just necessary but inevitable, transforming the urban landscape to make it more sustainable, more made to measure, but also more practical in the light of new ways of living and working. In projects of that scale, where there is inevitable a long period of time between planning and implementation, the level of complexity increases exponentially with the range of different expertise you need in the team. At the same table, you have urban planners, technicians, transport engineers and other sector experts, but you also have figures like researchers and sociologists who play a role in predicting future trends.

The key asset classes of the future are considered to be healthcare, technology and housing for young people and the elderly. Do you think these aspects will lead to profound changes to the concept and vision underpinning real estate in the coming decade?

The ongoing social, demographic and – above all – technological changes are altering the way we live and work at an increasingly fast pace, triggering a process of profound transformation which affects all asset classes. And this process has been greatly accelerated by the effects of the pandemic. Just to mention a couple, asset classes like logistics, from data centres through the growing interest in residential (across all forms of PRS, student accommodation and elderly housing, which were up until recently not seen with much interest in Italy), are beginning to occupy increasingly relevant positions in the real estate portfolios and development strategies of investors, confirming the growing strength of market growth in those directions. 

The effects of this increasingly fast-paced transformation mean that operators like ourselves, who are involved throughout the real estate technical services supply chain at various points, from Property Managers managing large real estate portfolios to Development and Project & Construction Managers overseeing new real estate initiatives, are being forced to constantly showcase an ability to identify and implement the right strategies to maximise the real estate value of assets over the long term. The only way to tackle the continuous, varied range of real estate challenges over the coming decade is to show resilience, innovation and flexibility within real estate projects.

"Italy has plenty of world leaders across a range of different fields and our expertise in terms of planning, construction, design and technology is widely known abroad"

What does the Italian real estate sector need to do to gain an edge in the medium and long term?

Italy has plenty of world leaders across a range of different fields and our expertise in terms of planning, construction, design and technology is widely known abroad. However, if I have to pick one area where Italy needs to improve in order to have a positive impact on the real estate supply chain in the medium and long term, that’s always going to be speeding up the slow bureaucratic process in the country and urgently reorganising its complex administrative procedures. This is an aspect which continues to discourage lots of local and international operators from undertaking projects – both large and small – in our country. This is a fundamental issue. The aim is not to achieve unbridled deregulation, which would end up being a negative in terms of the quality of interventions and for investor interests, but to establish clear, certain, agile procedures which are effective for all, both private and public. Their aim must be to facilitate the already complex process involved in real estate and reduce the high administrative risk perceived by investors. I think the “Genoa model” – i.e. the completion of a significant public project in record time – has shown that, with simplified procedures, our country has all the necessary technical and entrepreneurial expertise it takes to achieve big things and match the performance of other world-beating sectors.  I believe this is a key issue, one that we must find the courage to work as a team and tackle in the coming years, in order to ensure the growth of the Italian real estate sector.

You have a lot of international experienced, having worked in London, New York and the UAE. You've even worked with some of the biggest names in architecture, like Zaha Hadid. What skills did you learn during your time working abroad and what did you bring back with you when you returned to Italy?

During my career, I was lucky enough to work abroad for ten years, working in a range of different countries and in a number of different fields of real estate. It exposed by to a lot of different projects and situations. I learned an awful lot from the experience, most notably three specific skills which I think are vital when it comes to working in the complex real estate sector. First of all, you need to be able to analyse and interpret the high quantity of data and information available for each project, ensuring you keep things simple in order to maintain a strategic vision. This is important for small projects, but it’s absolutely essential when it comes to charting a course through more complex ones. Secondly, you need to maintain an open, curious, collaboration approach at all times, with a focus on understanding different viewpoints, problems and experiences. This is important if you are to make the best possible use of the contribution of all individuals with teams which are getting bigger and more diverse all the time. Finally, it’s vital that you show passion and tenacity and avoid mediocrity in every single thing you do, from the simplest to the most complex. That’s the only way to achieve big things and surpass client expectations.

And what about aspects of your approach to real estate that you took abroad with you?

The academic education you get in Italy has no equal, because it’s based on a very broad, comprehensive, generalist approach unlike other countries in Europe and around the world. Thanks to that education, I was able to build up a broad and varied skillset and I think that is the key to success in the diverse real estate sector.

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Simone Contasta

Head of Development


With over 15 years of experience in the real estate sector, both locally and internationally, Contasta has gained extensive experience in developing innovative world class real estate ventures. The vast arrays of asset types and roles covered by Contasta in his career has enabled him to successfully manage complex real estate projects and provide clients with design, construction and development insights, coupled with strong ļ¬nancial, sales and marketing indications.

Contasta has joined Colliers REMS in 2019 as Head of Development and is responsible to further growth of its service lines in the Italian market.

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