TheBusinessDesk.com : Stuart Stead Interview
6th July 2011
1. How difficult is it to operate in the property sector at this time?
There is a nervousness that needs to be overcome. That said, there are good opportunities out there for strong management teams with good track records and access to finance (which is clearly the most difficult aspect).
The key is balancing the need for equity with investor’s perception and desired return and I think there is still work to be done on this. We are very closely involved with a number of developers and investors to make viable schemes happen and we are having to unlock or create sources of finance to do so.
2. Looking into your crystal ball, what are your predictions for the industry over the coming months?
I do not foresee much movement, unless we continue to be more creative and make things happen.
We are working on a number of schemes in the student accommodation and care sectors as well as some residential and mixed-use stuff and we will push these forward in the coming months. My belief is that you need to make things happen and not just wait for the market to turn and I am working with my clients and contacts to do just that.
I am also interested to see the effects of the Localism Bill, which I am certainly behind and expect residential landlords to take advantage of the recent SDLT initiative on bulk purchases at the end of the summer. The residential rental market should remain buoyant while feasible mortgage products are limited. The First Buy scheme will push some people onto the property ladder, albeit the reported sum of £250m is unlikely to have a dramatic impact.
3. If you could improve anything in the region what would it be?
Perhaps we should be a little more forthright in letting the rest of the country and the world know what we have to offer. The North West has a massive amount to offer in terms of business and leisure and is a great place to live but I don’t believe we shout loudly enough about it.
4. How does the North West commercial property compare to other regions in the UK?
We have good stock and good developers, but like anything else there is always room for improvement and risk of voids. There have been a number of brave schemes in the North West and this symbolises the entrepreneurial spirit of the region.
In my opinion, Manchester is the UK’s second city for business.
5. What has been your biggest business mistake / achievement?
My biggest mistake was being a little too young to take advantage of the property boom personally!
My biggest achievement in business was to be made Partner at Cowgill Holloway at a relatively young age. The early exposure to being involved in running a successful business and being at the table with experienced partners has proved invaluable when advising clients.
6. What is the best project you’ve been involved in?
I have been heavily involved recently in the creation of a new property fund concept which has been incredibly interesting. I have worked with some great people, share my ideas and more importantly implement them. The client has a product that the market wants, so we will make it happen.
7. What drives you to be the best in your field?
We are striving to ensure that clients in the property and construction sector have no need to look anywhere else for innovative advice on funding, structure and taxation backed up with robust accountancy compliance services. I am passionate about our business and I want to help drive continued growth.
8. What would be the biggest thing that could be done to improve the property sector in this region?
There appears to be such a focus on London in relation to certain aspects of the property sector, particularly funding. We all tend to gravitate there for larger and more unusual transactions and I believe we should attract more of this talent and resource to the North West region.
Local knowledge is critical in property and if we can encourage more of the boutique finance houses, merchant banks etc. to have a greater presence here, or better still create our own, I believe the sector and the region would benefit immensely.
I spend a great deal of time in London and there is no reason why a lot of what I have done down there can’t be done in our region.
9. Name the person who has most inspired you and the one who has had the biggest influence on your career.
I can’t really single out any individual. My family, friends, partners and staff have all been hugely influential, as have a number of my clients.
10. What are the best and worst pieces of advice you’ve been given?
The best advice I have ever had is to never focus too much on financial success as you can never have enough money. Do the right things for your clients and your family and the personal and financial benefits will come.
The worst advice I had was to become a games teacher when I was leaving college. Anybody who knows me will understand why this wouldn’t work!
The information was correct at time of publishing but may now be out of date.