Nerida Conisbee National Director of Research Colliers International  / 

story / Interview / June 15, 2015

I found it really quite tricky, having children and coming back to work. I had six months off with Anna, then came back full time.  I took one year off with Tom, then came back to full time work again. One thing that really helped me through, was having a supportive manager. She had children of her own and really encouraged my progression between children, promoting me to head of strategic consulting during that time.

I joined Colliers International five years ago and I love it here. I’m the Head of Research for Australia. They have been very good at throwing me different challenges. For me, when I’ve made really big leaps in my career it has been because I have had really good people supporting me.

I have taken on information management for the company and this year and I’m starting to work with our Asian research team, building their strategy for the region. As a result of this, I’m regularly in Asia  working primarily with the teams in Hong Kong, Singapore, China and India. We also cover markets more broadly, including emerging markets such as the Philippines and Indonesia. However, it’s likely we will look at these in more depth in 2016.

I like the diversity of the people in the property industry. I love working in agency because I find the people very different from me. It’s the fast paced nature, the personalities, the external focus and the dynamics of agency, that makes it exciting.

The amount of residential development in our CBDs is unprecedented.  We don’t really know what the impact will be. In Melbourne CBD, we currently have 20,000 apartments either under construction or with planning approval. These are expected to come online in the next five years. Historically we have seen around 1,000 apartments complete every year so 4,000 apartments per annum is particularly high. Sydney is seeing quite a bit of development as well, but nothing near the level of Melbourne. A lot of the apartments are being sold to offshore investors. Compared to many cities in Asia, Australian residential is still very well priced and considered inexpensive.

In the office sector, we are starting to be more positive on the leasing side than we were last year, particularly for Sydney and Melbourne CBDs. Tenant enquiry is up in both those markets and we expect to start seeing rental growth by the end of this year. We are less positive in Perth and Brisbane where the vacancy rate remains high and the amount of tenant enquiry still remains relatively low.

The retail sector is looking positive, led by strong spending on household goods. In Melbourne CBD our retail vacancy rate is the lowest in Asia Pacific sitting at 1%. Most of this is being driven by population growth, however more confident consumers and a robust housing market are also factors.

The view from Asia on Australia, is that Australia is a good market to invest with low sovereign risk, a stable economy and a transparent property sector. Some investors are starting to see Australia as becoming expensive, however this does not seem to be impacting the flow of capital. Compared to other gateway cities such as Singapore, London and New York, Australian pricing remains competitive.

Typically the biggest offshore investor in Australia is Singapore, however China is rising in dominance. Offshore money from China grew from almost nothing in 2007 to approximately $1 billion in 2014. Most of the offshore Chinese investors here, are buying sites for residential redevelopments, but they are now going to start moving into B grade office investments as well.

Trying to balance work and children has been the hardest stage in my career, particularly when they were babies. I had Anna when I was 32 and by that time, I felt confident enough to ask to work from home two days a week, as well as starting and finishing early. I worked like that for several years.  I think if I had had her younger, I would have found it more difficult to ask.

I do know that when I had kids, I found it really hard to find role models of women around me. Either they didn’t have children or they could afford to have nannies. My husband has been very supportive of my career and he does all the school pick ups, drop offs and basically runs the household. It has made it a lot easier for me to concentrate on my career.

My daughter is nine and loves swimming. She tried out for the swimming squad at school despite that fact that she was the youngest and the smallest. Unfortunately, she didn’t get in and was devastated. I explained to her that it is such an important lesson to learn to fail. To not be successful, to bounce back and keep going, is the biggest lesson we all need to learn.

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