As a 'guardian' of spaces who views asset management as an art more than a science, Stephen shares what it is about his role in property management that makes him tick.
Stephen Bruce has recently been appointed as Head of Real Estate Management Services for Colliers International in Singapore, where he is responsible for leading and driving the Real Estate Management Services business which offers Asset Management, Strata Management, Lease Tenancy and Facilities Management Services.
At point of writing, Stephen is serving his Stay-Home-Notice (SHN) period, when he took this as an opportunity to reflect on both his new role and experience.
Q: How long have you been in the real estate industry, and how did you come to join Colliers International?
I started my career on the landlord side in asset management, working for two multinational developers. My consultancy experience started more than 8 years ago where I worked for, and on behalf of, institutional investors, developers, funds as well as high net-worth families on commercial and retail assets in Hong Kong.
I recently moved to Singapore to take on the role at Colliers. The dynamism, excitement and buzz surrounding both the company and Singapore was the huge draw that pulled both me and my family over.
Q: Tell us a bit more about your role and what do you find most fulfilling about it?
I am the new Head of Real Estate Management Services (commonly known as REMS) for Colliers in Singapore. We look after and improve assets held by landlords and Councils in Singapore to provide a fully comprehensive management service. This involves everything – from simple cleaning and maintenance of buildings, right through to tenant retention programmes, leasing and asset enhancement strategies.
"I never forget that my responsibility to the industry is to be a guardian and facilitator of space – these places are where people live, work, play and grow, and we must never lose sight of that... You must treat [the assets] as if they are your own."
The most fulfilling part of my job is to be able to watch how a building actually functions – from the ground up; there are myriad of things that happen in any given moment. I find watching all the elements coming together very satisfying and inspiring: From ground operations and key stakeholders, technology implementation to utilisation of building space.
Q: Based on your experience as an asset manager, what are some tips to maximise a real estate asset?
Asset management is very much an art more than a science. Property technology (or PropTech) is rapidly gaining ground in building management, and the smart building of the future will be an undeniable force of change for the industry.
These new platforms will continue to reshape how a building is run and it is crucial that owners and managers are embracing these changes as much as possible.
The basics of asset management typically focus around areas such as preventative maintenance, cleaning, security, engineering and the like. Whilst a new and shiny asset always looks nice, it is typically the people that manage and run the asset that makes it into something special. The soft services are what provides tenants, owners and visitors a real connection to a place.
I never forget that my responsibility to the industry is to be a guardian and facilitator of space – these places are where people live, work, play and grow, and we must never lose sight of that. We are custodians of the assets and you must treat them as if they are your own. The strategies and programmes put in place will shape it for a decade or more.
Q: What are some lessons you have learned from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic?
Tough times mean that everyone needs to adjust and make small but meaningful changes to how we live.
COVD-19 has taught us all a lesson in humility, humanity and hubris. We are not immune to the impact of this disease, and acceptance of that has been a huge step.
My experience of being 'quarantined' and being in isolation has been a rapid and important learning curve for me. It is crucial that structure is self-enforced – the danger of complacency is very real. The blurring of lines between work and ‘life’ is more apparent when you’re forced to remain between 4 walls for 24 hours a day.
A simple 1-hour or 2-hour block structure allows us to compartmentalise work tasks and personal tasks. Ensuring you take regular breaks is important. To walk around (even just standing and stretching), taking a solid hour for lunch and making sure you switch off from emails and work in the evening.
The delicate balance of ensuring efficiency and being all-consumed in work is tough. But it can be made much easier with proper scheduling. The importance of taking time to do some simple exercise – whether its skipping, burpees, yoga or any other form of movement – is so important, as is drinking water!
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