Global property giant Knight Frank has hired two senior technology leaders to bolster its efforts in harnessing digital to navigate the industry’s turbulent waters as the pandemic continues to wreak havoc everywhere.
Darren Warner is the new head of IT, bringing with him 20 years’ experience, most recently at auto-distribution and retail company Inchcape. He returns to the property sector after previously serving for 10 years as APAC IT director with CBRE.
He’ll work alongside the ominously titled, ‘head of disruption’, a new role occupied by Al Jansen, previously chief technology officer with PNO Group, and director of Sydney tech foundry Uber.Biz.
Both started their new roles earlier in the year.
In an interview with CIO the men explained that Knight Frank was looking to pivot away from being and being seen as an “intermediary” in the property market, to more of a “trusted advisor”.
Smarter collection and processing of data would be key to this, with important announcements concerning new deployments of AI and cloud technology expected in coming weeks.
Jansen said digital disruption is now a big opportunity for real estate, which had been slower than some other industries to embrace technology.
“The pandemic has been an accelerator. We anticipate there will be big shifts in the market in the future and we intend to be one of the leaders of change,” he said.
“This involves rethinking the current ways of operating and devising innovative ways to make the most of the technology available to us.”
Warner noted the property market is of course very different now compared to when he was manging IT for CBRE, but said he looked forward to meeting the challenges ahead.
“I look forward to moving back into the property space, where I have extensive experience in driving transformational programs to standardise and consolidate IT services and facilitate company growth.”
Jansen and Warner are presently bringing online several new digital platforms, and have partnered with Sydney startup Empirical CRE to provide internal sales, leasing and advisory teams with data-driven insights, supporting both consumption and contribution of property listing information across greater Sydney.
“Real estate has been very traditional for a long time,” Jansen explained. “Success is living out of a black book. This is the first generation where major owners of properties can partner with startups like Empirical.”
Knight Frank is also bringing on new digital platforms and tools designed to improve collaboration between staff, as well as supporting them with professional and personal challenges related to working from home.