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A year like no other: a message from Navana’s CEO

We set out to be different, to disrupt and shake up the old ways of doing property management, and in 2020 we put plans into action.

My reflections on 2020 – where to start?  It has certainly been one of my more unusual and challenging years in business.  The past nine months saw our lives altered beyond recognition, as the nation grappled with the economic, social and health impacts of the pandemic.

Times have been tough but I am positive about the outlook for property – while dramatic change brings turbulence, it also offers opportunities for business that are ready to adapt and open to new thinking.

That has always been core to our ethos at Navana Property Group.  We set out to be different, to disrupt and shake up the old ways of doing property management, and in 2020 we put plans into action.

We have established and continued to grow our asset and property management portfolio, supporting some of the most prestigious developers and housebuilders operating in the UK.   From our original three founders, our team now numbers  20 diverse, talented people. we brought in talented people from all backgrounds who are driving the next stage of our growth.  Our door will always remain open for skilled, interesting people looking to take on their next career challenge, regardless of what’s going on out there in the market

Our specialist practices launched in build to rent, reflecting the evolution of the residential sector, and in customer experience – something we believe is a cornerstone of helping our clients to unlock more value from their estates.  We have also invested in our app technology as we seek to usher in a digital revolution across the property industry.

There is more work to do – not least as we think about the ways the pandemic has changed how people want to live, work, shop and socialise.  Our focus on digital innovation and on understanding people, not just buildings and assets, stand us in good stead to navigate the shifts brought about by Covid-19.

The future of mixed-use estates looks very different from 12 months ago.  Investors and developers will be wrestling with the effects of new ways of working – for their own teams and for office portfolios.  Office space is by no means doomed but it will need to move with the times, able to support more agile working.  In many ways it is a case of playing catch up with trends which were in evidence before the pandemic but were accelerated by its effects.

Residential designs will have to reflect buyer and tenants’ new priorities.  Some form of outdoor space and room for a work-from-home desk could now become standard requirements.  This will perhaps prove most challenging in London, with land values so high, although I believe the market here will remain buoyant as UK and overseas buyers continue to be attracted by the unparalleled lifestyle it offers.

Meanwhile, rising e-commerce and the collapse of high street giants raises questions about the outlook for retail and hospitality.  Reform is needed and I hope to see a move away from the fixed leasing model toward the variable rent approach used on the continent to allow more breathing space for occupiers, who play such a vital role in the way estates are activated and brought to life.

Proactive management of mixed-use assets will be vital next year.  If it was ever tenable, then the arm’s length approach to managing real estate investment just won’t work in 2021 if asset owners want to maximise value.  We’ll be on the front line helping our clients to interrogate what residents, occupiers and visitors want, shaping places that fit their new expectations.  It might be a bumpy ride, but we’re ready for it.

Harry Fenner, CEO