With thousands of new homes planned in East London’s business heartland over the coming years, we speak to Brian De’ath of Canary Wharf Residential, who has recently launched One Park Drive, the first residential development for acclaimed architects Herzog & de Meuron about what has brought him to his senior position.
What’s been your career path through housebuilding and development?
After a few years in the wilderness as an estate agent, my first role in development was as a sales manager, in 2004, for Berkeley Homes at its Royal Arsenal site (which is still going strong!). In 2008, I moved to Mount Anvil as sales director and became part of the core team that helped establish the company as a private residential developer. Then in 2014, I arrived at Canary Wharf to form and head up its residential sales team as the group entered the sector for the first time.
When did you know that working in property was the right decision for you?
When I found myself working with like-minded people who were looking for solutions and not just presenting each other with problems.
What is it about your role that you find most appealing?
The opportunity to bring the team, including agents, on the entire development journey. This leads to collective success and a sense of shared achievement which is more powerful, and far more rewarding than individual accomplishment. I’ve been very lucky to work with some super individuals in the industry who approach their roles in this same way and it has made for a very enjoyable career.
Are there particular projects and/or people that have been especially inspiring in your career?
This first scheme I ever oversaw from cradle to grave was Barnsbury Place in Islington. Towards the end of a successful launch day on an idyllic summer’s evening, I shared a few words – perhaps a Guinness or two – with Killian Hurley, co-founder and chief executive of Mount Anvil, suggesting to him that if we couldn’t enjoy moments like this then we shouldn’t be working in development. The moment has stayed with me and acts as a touchstone, reminding me of why I love my role.
What are the aspects of property development/housebuilding that most attract the people you take on?
It seems everybody has an interest in property. Those who work with me are generally more focused on people rather than property and consider themselves as providing a service rather than selling per se. Individuals who can bring the customer on the same journey that we have been on and to get to this point in the process are the most successful at communicating our message and finding an apartment that suits the customer’s needs.
Are there enough candidates of quality on offer right now?
In my field there are lots of quality candidates and they aren’t necessarily where you would expect to find them. People that I have employed have formerly been professional actors, zoologists and forensic scientists.
What do you think the housebuilding industry needs to do to inspire more of the right applicants?
We need to be better at communicating the wide variety of roles that exist, the levels of professionalism exhibited and the problem solving that occurs on a daily basis. In the sales sphere, we need to let people know that previous experience is not necessarily an advantage. A highly developed customer service skillset and emotional intelligence can be the foundation for a fantastically successful career.
Are there roles you are looking to fill right now?
Not at the moment, although I’m always happy to meet intelligent individuals who believe that they may have something to offer the industry.