The landed estate operates as a distinct breed of family office, and with this comes a unique set of challenges and opportunities, with landed ultra-high net worth (UHNW) individuals contending with the weight of family expectations, stewardship obligations, tradition and long-standing commitments to the surrounding community.
Family offices are finding that the most effective way to navigate competing objectives is looking to consolidate and focus on areas of inherent value—often property, land and development potential.
In order to realise and maximise the value of land assets and contribute to their broader communities, family offices are seeking out new talent to help manage their landed estates, with commercial nous and a degree of impartiality increasingly important.
Security meets stewardship
Tradition and reputation, though vitally important across family offices, are especially prevalent in relation to the landed estate, where individuals must contend with both stewardship obligations and the pressure to keep real estate assets within the family.
By increasing the emphasis on the potential of their property assets, family offices charged with landed estate management can unlock opportunities to both give back to the community and maximise value at a time when the real estate environment is being shaped by the demands of the UK housing shortage, the need for rural resilience and a boom in government infrastructure plans.
Beyond the well-known London based estates, the likes of Buccleuch (nationally) and Gascoyne Cecil Estates (Hatfield) continue to invest in regeneration projects, housing development and economic investment in the local community. They are also realising that commercial and real estate talent from outside the family brings in essential commercial expertise that ensures they can maximise the value of such opportunities.
Look no further than the recent news that Benny Higgins, former Tesco Bank chief executive, will take over from Duke of Buccleuch, John Glen (pictured below), as chairman of the Buccleuch Group—with Higgins’ investment management, retail and business banking experience providing valuable commercial expertise to spearhead activity and optimise the value of the development going forward.
In the traditionally conservative landed estates sector, bringing in fresh talent from outside the family is crucial to ensure real estate strategy becomes innovative, dynamic and commercially focused.
It is important, though, to get the balance right. It is vital that the successful landed estate hire marries experience in planning, land strategy, and promotion with a keen awareness of the delicate synergy between tradition and profitability. Take the appointment of Andy Byrne as property development director at the Devonshire Group, where his 20 years of property and development sector experience will help drive community development. This has translated into positive results for the estate most famous for Chatsworth House (pictured). Byrne has masterminded the recent planning application for a 700-home redevelopment of nearby Staveley Works site, which, if approved, will combine modern housing and community facilities as both a sound investment and a way to give back to the local area.
More than just a job
In order to attract crucial external talent, family offices must be prepared to commit to creating an environment that will attract and retain the best talent. For the outsiders coming in, the appeal lies in meeting the challenges and delivering the development opportunities that are unique to landed estates.
Primarily due to the complexities arising from wealth management and branding, the landed estate is a key opportunity for business leaders to flex strategic muscles, at the same time as participating in a value-led approach unlikely to be found in other sectors. Look no further than David Horton-Fawkes, encouraged to move into the landed estate market from his hospitality roots by the draw of engaging with communities and balancing complex factors relating to landed estate development. This has seen him recently managing the Gascoyne Cecil Estates’ regeneration of the Hatfield area—including a building new railway station and mass job creation—crafting an approach that centres on stakeholder collaboration.
Landed estates offer talent such as Horton-Fawkes the chance to work with the community and balance heritage driven needs. This means the family office needs to keep up its side of the bargain, granting key talent the freedom and trust to use the commercial know-how for which they were hired, and remaining receptive to guidance away from typically conservative strategy decisions.
Family offices at the helm of landed estates must recognise that they offer leaders the rare chance to align their personal values with the core values of the workplace. If leaders play their cards right, family offices and external experts can land upon a mutually beneficial partnership—unlocking rich real estate opportunities.