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We speak to Aidan Coleman, our Chief Technology Officer, about the Group’s innovation and technology initiatives and recent ranking by innovation consultants, Collective Campus, placing Charter Hall as one of the Top 20 Most Innovative companies in the ASX200.
Congrats on your recent Top 20 Innovation ranking. Why do you think Charter Hall ranked so highly?
It’s a fantastic achievement to be named by Collective Campus in their Top 20 most innovative companies in the ASX200. I’d attribute our success to the passion of our dedicated team. In particular, it’s great that Charter Hall has been recognised for investing in the grass roots of innovation in our business and breaking down traditional norms in the industry.
This recognition is the realisation of four years of hard work driving processes, systems and data transformation to create a well-established innovation pipeline and investing in resources to convert ideas into practical execution. We’ve spent a lot of time encouraging and embedding innovative thinking throughout our business, which is delivering real traction.
With Charter Hall the only A-REIT to feature in the Top 20, how does the property sector fare as a whole in regards to innovation?
Having worked in similar roles within media, it is fair to say that the real estate sector as a whole has not been as quick to adopt new technology.
I think Charter Hall is an outlier in this regard. With $22.5b of assets under management and over 500 team members nationally, we pride ourselves on making streamlined decisions. As a result, we’ve been able to execute more rapidly than others on initiatives that add demonstrable value, thanks to our nimble and entrepreneurial culture and flat structure with innovation occurring with a top down and bottom up approach.
In a competitive sector, you’ve taken a collaborative approach launching Australia’s first PropTech accelerator program. What led you down this path?
We’re proud to be one of the first in the sector to embrace start-ups, launching our PropTech accelerator program late last year with Collective Campus.
Contributing to the start-up ecosystem was a natural place for us to get involved as we’d spent the previous 2-3 years developing our own innovation processes. It was the right time to look outside of the parameters of our organisation to build mutually beneficial relationships with start-ups who are actively disrupting our industry. We recognise that no one organisation can ever have all the answers and forming partnerships and collaborating with like-minded businesses, including our customers, is a real driver at Charter Hall.
We want to be at the forefront of this innovation; we’re not just focused on creating a pipeline of great ideas, it’s all about partnering with organisations to build capability and execute, and a culture of innovation to think and act differently.
"We’re proud to be one of the first in the sector to embrace start-ups, launching our PropTech accelerator program late last year with Collective Campus"
Working with Collective Campus in Melbourne saw us develop a national program to support real estate start-ups and add valuable insights to understand what changes may occur to our business. From a shortlist of 50 start-ups we selected four to run through a program designed to deliver 13 months of growth in 13 weeks through mentoring on product development and market strategies.
Charter Hall is a large organisation, so how have you encouraged and enabled people to contribute to innovation?
One way we’ve approached it that has really worked for us is encouraging innovation through diversity and different thinking. We have a highly experienced team in our respective fields but we also actively seek to bring people in from other disciplines and industries which has sparked new ideas and different insights to solving traditional industry problems and customer needs.
In 2016, we created an innovation through diversity and inclusion program to foster innovation at all levels of our business. What differentiates our approach is we have a broad appreciation that diverse thinking and sharing these different, and often conflicting, viewpoints can actually be a good thing.
Where I’d say we’ve really lifted our game in innovation is by investing in developing our people in the innovation process. It’s not just about creating forums to share ideas, we’ve focused on upskilling with training on design thinking and how to develop prototypes for example. This has made a tangible difference to the ideas contributed.
To find out more about Collective Campus' ranking of Australia's most innovative companies on the ASX2000, click here.