“Property may be about product, but it’s also about people,” argues Adrian Sayer, Managing Director of Metrus, a company dedicated to defining both the meaning, and importance of property management in the present day. Oft described as a “modern classic”, Metrus is one of London’s leading property management specialists, offering a synthesis of traditional values within a modern framework, and thus allowing the company to offer a cutting edge service on a personable, interactive and thoroughly transparent level.
Established some 35 years ago, Metrus toes the line of being large enough to offer a comprehensive property management service, yet still of a size where a friendly, more personal approach can be offered. Able to fill the gap in the market left by the departure of a number of middle-sized firms, Metrus leads the way in offering this balanced, flexible and yet incredibly professional service required by firms seeking something of a more personal touch yet unavailable from some of the larger, international agency firms.
Metrus offers a complete commercial and residential property management service, with about 90% of its current portfolio made up of commercial property. Yet, increasingly the company has been approached by residential clients seeking a like-service and, as such the company has recently laid the foundations for a highly specialised residential department to target this demand. Across these two arenas Metrus offers a vast number of complementary services including: agency, retail, office, lease advisory and asset management service for specific refurbishment and development projects; effectively, the whole package.
Originally created from the internal perspective of managing its own property interests, Metrus was born out of the perspective of the client itself and, as such has a profound understanding of both where property management can go right, or wrong. Over the years, this understanding has since been built upon through the acquisition of further, external clients and the diversification of the business out into offering a fully comprehensive service portfolio for clients; yet, to this day, it is this understanding from the customer perspective of what a property manager can offer which defines the organisation’s service to this very day.
Building further upon Metrus’ understanding of customer needs is also the way in which the company both sources, nurtures and supports its property management teams. Through the predominant recruitment of individuals possessing extensive experience within the property arena, combined with the company’s ability to retain such individuals, Metrus maintains a position in the industry unlike any other: a position whereupon clients can develop a mutual understanding, a relationship and a cooperative partnership with the team itself.
As an industry plagued by low staff retention and fluid career movement, the ability to develop a working relationship with the property manager is one unique to Metrus’ clients. Bringing with it a whole host of benefits such as a pre-emptive, not solely responsive, property management service which can plan for the future needs, expectations and requirements onto and into the future. This enables for a far more collaborative property strategy which goes above and beyond the bare management of an asset, and instead pursues a strategy for maximising the efficiencies and value of the asset itself.
As Sayer attests: “Due to the majority of us either having worked in property companies or owning property directly, we understand what clients are seeking and we can fulfil their expectations as well as grow with those clients organically as the business grows forward. It’s absolutely essential and, mostly on the surveying front, many of our clients have also been with us for many many years and they like coming back to the same people who have an increasingly intimate understanding of their properties and needs.
“Similarly, on the accounting side it’s a crucial part of property management which always needs to be done well, but often isn’t with other companies. The understanding of what the client needs in terms of day-to-day reporting, wider bank reporting and providing flexibility to the client is also key to how we try to differentiate ourselves from the masses.”
Of no surprise, given the company’s approach to working alongside clients, is that much of Metrus’ work comes from recommendation and repeat business with existing clients, going so far as to step on the toes of some of the big agents in offering a service which can offer a solution to many of the challenges its clients have found in past experiences with other property agents. The company’s reputation has also gone so far as to attract quality staff, and quality product to further enhance its own ability to deliver an increasingly competitive service.
Retaining such clients, alongside the retention of these key staff members also adds to the quality of the service which Metrus can offer yet further, as Sayer illustrates: “You do need to know your clients, their backgrounds and the types of properties that they’re dealing with. For example, we look after Burlington Arcade and we have a particularly experienced manager who is able to understand a lot of the interaction of the individual operators who, many of them, have been situated in there for many decades now. They need that personal touch, the caring approach but they also need the understanding of the commercial perspective that the client is trying to achieve – it’s trying to achieve that balance between personal approach and also the business side as well. Finding that balance is really important and is one of the key considerations when we’re placing people on individual jobs.”
And further adding to the proud reputation of the company is the way in which Metrus increasingly promotes corporate responsibility values across the property portfolio. Having achieved 14001 most recently, Metrus is keen to display its own commitment to sustainability and environmental best practice, whilst simultaneously pushing that process out to clients and encouraging engagement in the process at every possible level: “While, as the landlord, you’re in control of certain resources in the operation of a building, the occupiers are utilising as much, if not more of the energy process than the landlord is. It’s all about getting everyone on board with embracing an energy-efficient culture,” argues Sayer. And, given the growing environmental consciousness of the present market, this is an approach which will no doubt pay off for the company in the coming years.
This ethical, compliant approach also flows further down the chain, directly into the contractors and suppliers in support of Metrus on a day to day basis. With close to 400 suppliers on its retained list, Metrus maintains a vast supplier base, independently checked on a regular basis to ensure that compliance standards are being met and that the company is associated only with those operating on a similar, ethically responsible basis. Of these, Metrus finds itself working with smaller, local suppliers which not only supports local business, communities and growth, but also makes it easier for Metrus to develop close working relationships built upon a keenness to impress. At the same time, through maintaining such a diverse and vast contractor base such as this, Metrus is able to push competitiveness both in terms of quality and efficiencies on all properties – something of great benefit to the client when estimating costs and offering the best value for money which can comfortably be offered.
But the provision of Metrus’ accomplished service has not been without its challenges as, understanding the position of property management within the industry, Metrus has had to overcome historic connotations associated with the management of property as a necessity, rather than as the potential for developing asset value. Talking on the changing face, and pace of the market itself, Sayer explains: “Property management has changed hugely over the last few decades. It was perceived as the lower quality end of the surveying profession, as someone who just collects rent and manage a few service charges, but the dynamic is also turned on its head by the increasingly compressed profile of investment purchases in London.
“Clients now realise that they need quite comprehensive property and asset management strategies in order to maximise returns and achieve their aims out of properties. The property manager’s role of supplying information to the clients and banks has radically changed, where lessons have been learned over the recession, with people understanding the very important role of interfacing between the client and their financiers and we’ve developed a really good relationship with loan intermediaries who do appreciate the type of reporting and functions that we can provide.
“Property managers need to continue to improve their services, their efficiencies, their accountability, their whole profiling so that they can be seen as a completely independent industry within the property playing with. At Metrus that’s something we’ve been really pushing, but within a traditional framework.”
And looking to the future of itself as a commercial entity, Metrus is already ahead of the game in pandering to the developing needs of the modern-day client and is presently poised to take advantage of this position, most specifically by targeting a new, overseas investor market where the importance of service, consultation and support is absolute. With many of such investors requiring additional support so as best to understand the workings of the London property market, Metrus is increasingly coming into its own by being able to offer a cradle-to-grave service which effectively guides clients through every step of the process, including support in finding the right asset, at the right price and going so far as to assist in the purchasing of the asset itself through sister company, Michael Elliott, a boutique investment agency in the West End.
Increasingly, such investors have begun to realise the value of such a service, allowing them to focus more intensively on the provision of their own, individual service, whilst Metrus can take up the reigns in offering the essential management and professional asset management service behind the scenes. “Those clients can feel that they’re being looked after right through the journey, which is working very well for with our international clients who have changed the dynamic of the business itself,” explains Sayer, who sees the incorporation of the international investor community as a direction of future focus for the continued growth of the company’s client base and overarching turnovers.