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BMO Commercial Property Trust

Richard Kirby discusses all things BMO Commercial Property Trust, his journey through real estate and the good advice his father gave him. Approved by BMO Global Asset Management.

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I grew up in south Buckinghamshire with my mum, my dad and my sister and went to Langley Grammar School, which was a school just outside Slough. Dad had a big influence on my career. He was a insurance underwriter and spent the whole of his career in the city and he said to me, well I’m tied to the city, I’m tied to the Lloyd’s building. You should be getting yourself qualified in a profession that has skills that are transferable and you can work in different places and different countries. And really, that was one of his guiding principles and mantras to me when I was young.

When I was at school, I think I really wanted to be an architect, but back in those days you had to be good at drawing and my drawing skills were not quite up to it, but I still wanted a career in real estate, in the built environment. So I’m lucky enough to be in a role now where I can have some influence on how buildings are designed, how buildings are constructed, how buildings are managed. And I really take a lot of satisfaction and pride from being able to influence those decisions.

My interest in real estate has definitely had an influence on my son’s career. My son has just graduated from Reading University with a degree in real estate. My wife was also a surveyor. She developed shopping centers. So I suppose my son grew up in an environment where his mum and dad were talking real estate all the time. So unbeknown to us, I should imagine it did influence him. After I graduated, I was lucky enough to join the investment development team of Friends Provident, a large life company, and they had a fantastic real estate portfolio back in the 1990s. And I’ve been with the group now for 30 years, so I haven’t moved on.

But over that period of time, I’ve probably been through 10 mergers and acquisitions and now work for BMO Real Estate Partners. BMO Commercial Property Trust is a listed real estate investment trust, which was established in 2005 and has a value of over one billion pounds. We invest in a variety of core, core plus properties across the main commercial real estate sectors being offices, industrial, retail. We’ve also got an exposure to the alternative sectors, with some holdings in student accommodation and residential.

The move to tech and A.I. within real estate is really coming through now. With the immediacy of information, the analysis of information, is really influencing a number of our investment decisions and how we analyze investment decisions. Looking at physical real estate itself, you know, we go around these fantastic industrial buildings that are full of automated tracking systems and robots, and we have to understand how that’s influencing occupiers. You know, with regard to offices, the office occupier now is demanding more from us as landlords. And we need to use tech and A.I. to influence those occupier’s decisions to locate in our properties.

At BMO we structure our teams into sector specialists. So we have teams that deal with in town retail, out of town retail, industrial, logistics and the alternative sectors. And it’s those specialisms that really identify value, create value, add value and really drive the performance of the trust. What gets me out of bed in the morning is the fact that I work with a great team of people at BMO Rep. I run a great portfolio. It’s a portfolio that I’ve managed since 2005 and the fact that my job gives me that flexibility to move around the UK to learn about different cities, to learn about different local markets, and gives me the flexibility movement that Dad advised me to do all those years ago.