Head of Commercial Real Estate interviewed by Estates Gazette
Forsters’ Head of Commercial Real Estate, Andrew Crabbie, has been interviewed by Estates Gazette on his views of supporting clients through the pandemic, how clients needs have changed during it and what the team are focusing on in 2021.
1. When working with your clients in such challenging times, what would you say are the top three things that your team are focused on to support your clients?
"First, I would say that having the right IT software to support our clients has been crucial. Having robust software in place has ensured that there have been no dips in service and that transactions have closed on time. We already had HighQ, a cloud-based platform for document sharing, in place prior to the pandemic but it has really come into its own during the crisis and I think it will continue to do so, as we hopefully make our way out of it. We’ve obviously made use of both Microsoft Teams and Zoom and have found that being able to easily share screens has significantly reduced negotiation time. Being able to use digital signatures through DocuSign has also been massively helpful, although again, this was in place for us before the pandemic.
Secondly, I think showing empathy has been really important; the pandemic has been a humbling experience for us all.
Thirdly, and this has always been a focus of the team, putting ourselves in the shoes of our clients, understanding and anticipating issues for them to make their lives easier."
2. What are the lessons/trends that Forsters have taken from this crisis and how has your business changed as a result in the past 12 months?
"I think we’ve gone full circle since the first lockdown was announced and we are now looking forward to getting back to many things that we used to take for granted, such as being in the office, however frequently, seeing our colleagues, clients and friends face-to-face. A lesson, which is one I think we all knew anyway, is that there are no short cuts to building strong business relationships and meeting and collaborating in the real world play a huge part. Many of our best client relationships have developed over decades and been built on by successive lawyers and client teams; video calls do not really compare to being able to celebrate the closing of a transaction or other milestone in person or even just having a chat in the same room. I’ve certainly felt the difference in not being able to do those things and I think this goes to the heart of what makes the property market such a compelling sector; it is really the people and relationships you build up across the industry which, for me, make it so interesting and enjoyable and gives it vibrancy."
3. How have your clients’ needs changed and how has your team adapted?
"Our clients’ needs haven’t changed during the course of the pandemic but we have seen significant adjustments to the legalities that underpin the property sector, in particular in relation to landlord and tenant relationships. The team has had to stay ahead of these developments so that we can advise our clients of the changes which impact them and how such changes can be managed. Over the last 15 months or so, we’ve focussed on providing webinars, client briefings, digital content and podcasts to cover these new developments, as well, of course, as having regular chats with clients."
4. Is there anything that Forsters is focussing on in 2021 that you can share with our readers?
"For us, together with many across the industry, we are focussing on sustainability both for us as a business and also to enable us to keep our occupier, landlord, investor and financial services’ clients up-to-speed. Sustainability is such a hot topic at the moment and looks like it will continue to be for the foreseeable future but it’s also a very fast-moving area with ever-changing standards and rules, so our clients tell us it is an area in which they welcome our knowledge and assistance."
As a business, Forsters has had carbon neutral status since 2007. If you are interested and want to see our latest updates, as well as our own track record in sustainability, you can find these on our Sustainability Hub.
The move to further sustainability within Real Estate is increasingly driven by the increased connection between sustainability and financial viability.