CRE Success: The Podcast, S01E14
shelley boland, Standard chartered
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organization, real estate, leader, podcast, leadership, benefit, role, industry, clients, corporate, success, business, people, services, focus, asia, lead, partnership, Shelley, support
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Welcome to CRE Success: The Podcast, where we help people working in commercial real estate achieve their professional goals. Check us out online at cresuccess.co/podcast. And now here's your host, Darren Krakowiak.
Hello and welcome to Episode 14 of the podcast that's made for people who work in commercial real estate and want to achieve higher levels of professional success.
Standing by is my guest for today's episode, Shelley Boland of Standard Chartered Bank. Shelley is based in Hong Kong and performs the role of regional head of property covering Greater China and North Asia with the bank. My discussion with Shelley will cover her transition from a high-flying banking and finance career into corporate real estate, a discussion about how large organisations consider outsourcing for commercial real estate services, and we'll also talk about why our commitment to diversity and inclusion is the best approach to business in this day and age.
Before we get into that, I don't mean to make this all about me, but if you'll allow me a small indulgence, I want to use this podcast as an example to demonstrate the importance of consistency. If you are a regular listener, you may have noticed that we release a new podcast episode every week, at exactly the same time, without fail. And that consistency helps build a reputation of reliability. And being consistent with the action helps me form the habit. I now automatically know that this is a piece of content that I need to get out the door every week by a certain deadline. It's the same with arranging for the transcript to get uploaded to the website before each episode goes live.
So why am I telling you this? Well, it can take one to three months to form a new habit, but the time taken to get results can be longer. For example, last week, we had the biggest week ever in terms of downloads for the podcast, and recent episodes are typically reaching download milestones faster than earlier ones. Now, just to be super clear, I'm not saying that this is a successful podcast yet…we have certainly got a long way to go before I would claim that mantle. But we have certainly made progress and it took time to achieve this; there was hard work and no success signals before the better results started happening.
The point I want to share is that sometimes you need the discipline to consistently stick with new habits before you start to receive the benefit from making the investment of time and effort. It does require some confidence in the fact that what you are doing is the right thing that will lead to positive results. When you set a goal to form a consistent habit, just make sure that you set a realistic target. Using the example of this podcast, if I told myself that I was going to release a new episode three times a week, I would probably have some trouble keeping up with that. Once a week though is something that I can commit to, and I can reasonably continue delivering on in terms of maintaining the production quality that I want associated with this brand. So remember: don't give up on new habits too early, remain consistent and give it time for your efforts to produce results.
Patience is a virtue and if you can stand by for just another 30 seconds, you will get the benefit of hearing our interview with Shelley Boland of Standard Chartered Bank
And now it's time for the interview on CRE Success: The Podcast.
Shelley, welcome to CRE Success: The Podcast.
Thanks, Darren. Great to be here.
Shelley, the first thing we do is we ask our guests to step into the virtual elevator and deliver their elevator pitch. So Shelley, who are you?
Well currently based in Hong Kong, working for Standard Chartered Bank, and I'm the regional head of property. For some of your audience, they may not be as familiar with Standard Chartered, but it's a global financial services company with operations across Asia, Africa, Middle East, Europe and the Americas. We support around 90,000 plus colleagues and offer both corporate and retail services.
So, you have an unusual path which led you to corporate real estate. So, let's start there. Can you tell me a little bit about your past life in finance, which by all accounts was a very successful career, and why you now find yourself in our industry?
Yeah, thanks, I probably didn't start off my career a traditional real estate. I joined a bank when I was studying at university. I then started working full time, while completing my degree part time. And during that first 10 years, I was able to work on a number of opportunities. Whether it was retail banking, financial services, investment banking. The segue into real estate was quite interesting, an opportunity came to me to move to the US and work to set up a mortgages operation, selling residential and commercial mortgages to US clients. I really enjoyed that, and at the end of the three year assignment, there was an opportunity to transition to the corporate side of real estate, and relocate to New York to head up the real estate America's portfolio for the bank. I thought can't be too hard. Switch to corporate real estate. And of course, the rest is history.
Right. And you've worked on, I think, four continents, but amazingly, only two companies over your career is that right?
Yeah. So, I was really privileged to start my career with Macquarie Bank, and I spent over 20 years with the organisation. They offered me opportunities that took me to the UK, the Americas, Cape Town, South Africa, obviously, Australia, and then they were also the organization that transferred me to Asia, where I've been based in Hong Kong now for 10 years.
Well, then I'll have to fire my research because that's five continents not for
Slipped another one in there quickly.
Good. Um, so how is your finance experience helped you in the various property roles? You know, you've worked in corporate real estate, workplace, facilities, across the property and portfolio overall, how's that helped you within the financial services sector, to have that corporate real estate role?
I think it has been extremely helpful, it gave me a really good understanding of the client that real estate supports, whether internal to the organization or external. It really honed in on my storytelling skills, so I could better adjust my communication. It allows me to talk to customers, less around real estate technical, and more around linking what we looking at to business outcomes. I think for me, it gave me quite an ability to draw upon diverse experience, whether from geography or industry, to then create a CRE strategy that linked back to business rationale, such as improved experience, greater productivity, and obviously an economic outcome.
Right. So, can you tell me a bit more about your current role at Standard Chartered Bank.
Yeah, great role at Standard Chartered I've been with the organszation for coming up to six years, as you mentioned, job number two, based in Hong Kong regional head of property with a focus on our operations in Greater China and North Asia. It's quite a diverse portfolio. The bank both owns and leases assets, we cover both commercial office and retail. The role oversees the end-to-end Real Estate Services, from strategy, asset and transaction management, through to workplace, design, project management and facilities, right through to corporate security, health and safety. The other part of my role is to drive the partnership with our supply chain to deliver these services throughout the network.
Well, I'm sure that your leadership experience from property, but also from your time in finance, will come in handy as you execute this role. Can you tell me one or more attributes that you think is important to being a great leader?
I'm lucky enough to have worked with many great leaders over my 20 plus year career. So I was reflecting on this and a few attributes really stood out for me; I think you really need to embrace vulnerability as a leader, you know, show your true self and your authentic side. Also create an environment where it is safe to talk about challenge and failures. This is really important, particularly as I've worked in different markets, and creating that safe space for people to speak. I really strongly believe that a great leader drives cultural change through continuous learning. And often, you find the best ideas as a leader, much deeper in the organization. So don't be afraid to go outside that immediate network, to look for the next great idea or initiative from the team on the ground.
I think they're all great points. And I think one thing that's interesting in the part of the world where you work in is that, the idea of the leader being vulnerable, is not always what people commonly think of it within leaders; they think of leaders as being very stoic and strong and, and perhaps even a little bit without emotion, whereas what you're advocating is something quite different.
I think it's really important to be human, with your team, with your clients, and with the people that you lead. It enables you to create the vision and lead change across what is quite a diverse group. And I think this human side, people really appreciate and connect to much stronger. And this in turn develops a really strong followership for any great leader.
So you mentioned you've had the benefit of working with some great leaders throughout your career; what's something that you do to continue to grow and improve as a leader?
Well, many continuous improvement moments over my leadership career, and I think one of the things that I've really valued is, is I take time out to self-reflect, learn, gain new perspectives, and explore new skills. I think I've tried never stopping to be curious, which probably can be seen as both a good thing and a bad thing, always asking questions. And I've really focused on growth, through learning through others. As I mentioned before, I hone in on the human skills of my leadership style, and need to look at constantly adapting those given our environment is full of change and unlikely to slow down. And I think, slightly selfish, in that I never stopped investing in myself, no matter what role I mean, in the organization, I can always re-skill and learn something new to bring to my leadership ability.
Well, aside from your leadership, in terms of your own personal success, is there anything that you deliberately and consistently focus on, that contributes to you being more successful?
I think over the years, the thing that I consistently focus on his people, and that is whether it's people within my peer network, it's my colleagues, it's my clients; I focus on a pay forward approach in terms of my skills and experience through these networks. I mean, this really allows me to build an inclusive environment. And while could be viewed as, as one way of me giving back, to your question, this contributes to my success, as I find this, a great way to learn and grow personally, adapt as needed, and over the years, my success has been contributed to being able to surround myself with amazing teams, and have been able to be fortunate enough to work with, and for, some of our exceptional industry talent.
Oh, that's, that's fantastic. I think, when you're a leader, and the people around you are successful, then they're success reflects on you. And you don't have to focus so much on gloating about your own success when your leadership can obviously help others shine through. So yeah, really, really appreciate that. One thing that's interesting about your recent experience that you've implemented and effective partnership model within two organizations, the two that you've worked for, Macquarie and Standard Chartered, which is setting a new standard for the delivery of various commercial real estate services within large and complex global organizations. So, can you explain for us briefly, what is the partnership model?
I think a number of your listeners may be familiar, and there is many terms in the industry, whether it's outsourcing, integrated FM, partnership, but I think in the two experiences I've had, we looked at our target operating model. And the business really asked itself what was core to our business operations and what was considered non-core, and then very honestly, asked ourselves who is best place to deliver these services? And being brave enough to answer, it wasn't always us. I think the supply chain has really developed over the years, it’s quite advanced. And the partnership model is able to leverage that strong CRE experience, to execute operations across our markets. And as a result, my experience both at Macquarie and Standard Chartered, were able to implement this model globally, to benefit overall, our customers and clients that stay at the Bank.
Sounds like it would really require a very detailed change management strategy, because you're really changing the way that the organization operates, asking people that were doing things to no longer do them, or not to be doing them as an employee of the bank. And also it would require a really deep trust in the service providers to outsource and to ask them to provide those services. Is that correct?
Yeah, I think there's a number of areas to focus on when going through a transition to a new partnership model. But the biggest ingredients for success is going to be how you manage that transition and change. And that's going to come from the platform that you partner with, it's going to come from the people that are part of the transition. And it's obviously going to need to align with your stakeholder expectations. So for any partnership to work, the critical time is definitely during that change period.
I know that you've spent some time explaining the benefits of this model when speaking at industry events, so what are those major benefits for the organization once a partnership model is fully embraced?
Yeah, number of benefits I've seen in the two organisations where I've been part of this program. I think if I focus on the retain team, or the team, that's remained with the bank; it's allowed that group to focus and build on their core skills. And that is very much around strategy, risk management and governance, stakeholder management, and then clearly a pivot towards a client focus. With the right partner, the benefits to the organization can be extensive. If I focus on a few that I've observed, clearly there is likely to be a commercial outcome. And with that comes greater transparency around your economics. The other benefit we've seen is the ability to flex our operation as the business changes. And we've particularly been able to leverage that in the past 12 to 18 months. If I think about what's in it for our clients, they see a consistency in service, as we operate in a holistic manner, rather than individual silos. And one of the things that I've really enjoyed is unlocking and accessing industry talent, and being able to bring that talent into the organisation to benefit not only the 90,000 colleagues that Standard Chartered support, but also the broader client network. I think the other part in terms of benefits is very much moving away from the operational agenda and having a strategic partner that contributes by thought leadership, investment to advance the overall organization agenda.
When you're talking about clients, you're talking about internal stakeholders, correct?
For me, personally, I view clients for two lenses. If I refer to Standard Chartered, I've got 90,000 internal colleagues that are clients of my real estate services. But then more broadly, we service an external client base, whether they come into my branch every day, or visit our office, or I'm supporting colleagues who are providing services. So, for me, a client is not only my colleague, external, but also that broader community.
Right, right. Thank you for that explanation. I know Shelley you're very involved with CoreNett. So I just want to ask you about your role within CoreNet. And if you can tell me what CoreNet does.
Yeah, sure, I'm lucky enough to be the Hong Kong chapter chair for Corenet Global. For those who may not be as familiar with CoreNet, it's a organization with around 50 locally based chapters, it focuses on education and knowledge to a diverse group of members. It provides a global network and access to research and Industry Insight. And it also looks at programs to develop future talent and allows members to reskill and upskill through a number of programs.
Well 2020 was the first time in probably, I don't know about you, maybe a decade or longer that many of your commercial, corporate real estate peers have not been gathered in March for the Asia CoreNet Summit. And if you didn't know that COVID-19 was serious yet, you sure did when they canceled CoreNet in Singapore this year. How do you see the role and the structure of industry associations like CoreNet changing in the future as a result of COVID-19? If at all?
Yeah, I think CoreNet along with a number of associations, and needed more than ever during this environment. Clearly, we've changed the way we connect. And that's moved to a more virtual platform. But with that has bought access to quite a diverse range of individuals. I know personally, through CoreNet and the associations I'm involved in, at this time it's an avenue for me to understand best practice and share knowledge across my peers. It gives me insight and what's happening to the market and how to manage some of the situations that are coming across our desk. It gives me access to a continuous learning culture, where I need to reskill and retool to be future ready, given our workforce is changing. And I think a lot of ways it just provides that global connection that, while we can all together in the same room, I can still learn and build that network via association such as CoreNet.
Well apart from your industry leadership in CoreNet another area, which I know is important to you through being connected with you on LinkedIn, is diversity and inclusion. So I guess the first thing I'd like to ask you about that is what does diversity and inclusion mean to you?
Diversity and inclusion, as you rightly point out, is very important to me. And something that I've focused on over the years. Simply put, it's good for business, in my view, and it's not just gender. I am very privileged to have worked at two organizations that openly embraced diversity in their workforce. And that was across a number of areas. For me, I see the benefit as it really facilitates, you know, this broader cultural transformation that's needed. And it's needed so that we can collectively build an environment where both men and women support equality in leadership.
Well, in some parts of Asia, I think the conversation about diversity and inclusion, despite what you've rightly pointed out, which is that it is not just about gender issues, I think in some parts of Asia, it is more focused on gender issues, partly because there might be more work to do in that area. But also because the conversation isn't yet focused on other aspects like LGBTI issues or supporting people with disabilities, for example. So, in countries like Korea and Japan, they're also less focused on multicultural issues, because the demographics of the population are not that diverse. So, what impact can initiatives from global businesses have in these types of markets to broaden the D&I discussion?
It's a good point. And Darren, you and I have worked in Asia for a number of years, so there are…it is an emerging discussion, D&I. But I think the global impact we are seeing have a local effect, through creating an environment to at least have the conversations. It's no longer taboo to speak about some of the areas that were challenged when it comes to the diversity agenda. I think, again, this leads to building an inclusive culture, you know, allowing people the safe space to be able to speak up. And the other thing that I'm impressed by, as I look at not only the two organisations I've worked for, but a number of the peer organizations I follow, is the best global impact is also to lead by example. And we've got great global role models within SCB. And again, they partner with local ambassadors to really connect the cultural and diversity agenda on the ground level.
Well, speaking of leading by example, what are some of the things that you do to support women in the industry?
Yeah, I think I've been able, over the years, to spend and get to know, and see, some exceptional female leaders grow within real estate. I think personally, I've tried to explore better systems to support this female leadership group, whether it's through education, training, mentoring, job swap, different ways to be able to give females a platform to advance. So personally, I've joined the Women's Network within Standard Chartered, and sit on the Hong Kong committee. In addition, I've taken the lead role to collaborate with Standard Chartered and the Women's Foundation in Hong Kong, which is an organisation that focuses on challenging gender stereotypes, empowering women in the industry, and advancing women's leaders. So trying very much to give back to an industry that I've benefited greatly from.
And final question for you Shelley is, what advice do you have for women who aspire to future leadership in business?
I would encourage female leaders, all leaders actually, to be courageous and step out of your comfort zone. You may recall from the elevator pitch, I've been lucky enough to move overseas, change roles and change industries. And all were very big decisions, that if I didn't take that step forward, I may not be in the privileged position I'm in today. The other areas of advice I would encourage people to consider is picking up on my earlier theme about continuing to learn and invest in yourself. You need to be agile and demonstrate your ability to lead change. And I think finally very much embrace an inclusive culture. Remember, the best idea is often not yours.
Brilliant. Well, Shelley, I've really enjoyed our discussion today. I really appreciate what you have had to say about leadership, the human-centered approach. And I really appreciate you just sharing your thoughts about what women in leadership, and everyone in general, can be doing to be better leaders. So, I want to say thank you, Shelley, for being here on CRE Success: The Podcast.
Thank you, Darren, I really appreciate it the time.
For more information about our guest, visit cresuccess.co/podcast. And now a final thought from Darren Krakowiak.
Well, I hope you enjoyed that interview, a lot of what Shelley had to say about leadership, continuous improvement, getting input from all levels of the organization, and having a human-centered approach all really resonated with me. I also liked how she talked about her clients as being not only those internal stakeholders, for which she is directly responsible for delivering corporate real estate outcomes for, but also the external customers of the bank. That's a great holistic approach, it was a nice reminder to not just think about those who directly serve, but also the flow on effects, and how what you do has a broader impact.
A lot of great takeaways from this, and all of our past guests on the podcast. If you haven't heard previous episodes, make sure you subscribe to the podcast, download the back catalogue, and take a listen. I also recommend that you head to our website where you can review all of what was said in all of our interviews in the form of transcripts. You could find those online at cresuccess.co/podcast
That's all we've got time for this week. Thanks a lot for listening. And I will speak to you soon.
Thanks for listening to CRE Success: The Podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, make sure you subscribe to us on your favourite podcast platform and be sure to leave us a five-star review. For more information about the show, just check the show notes on your podcast app or visit us online at cresuccess.co