Cushman & Wakefield focuses on Saudi's growing FM market
Cushman & Wakefield is focusing its efforts on Saudi Arabia’s FM market. Having seen its most successful year Under the guidance of regional chief executive Richard Naylor
Suaudi-based Cushman & Wakefield’s regional business has just completed a restructuring. It wasn’t one that was caused by any external business factors, but more of a case of its parent company changing hands — both globally and regionally.
Interestingly, most of the changes have coincided with Richard Naylor’s appointment to the role of regional chief executive officer. Six years on, Naylor has sailed the business through many a change. “We have gone through a significant evolution since I joined the business, and probably most multinationals have done, and we will do as well — grow through acquisitions. The company was born out of a very traditional facilities management, property management (PM) company called UGL in Australia, and by October 2011 the company had acquired DTZ — a strong real-estate and PM firm in the UK and Europe,” Naylor says.
UGL then sold DTZ 18 months down the line to a private equity company which then acquired Cushman and Wakefield. “The two businesses were merged, eventually rebranding the DTZ business to Cushman and Wakefield (C&W) as the latter had a stronger global brand appeal,” Naylor says.
Here, in the GCC, C&W was envisaged to be the next big ticket company Naylor says. “The business has been in Saudi for more than 20 years now, and I joined the team about six years ago, and we just signed a JV with a local partner. At that time we were known as a traditional blue-collar company in Asia and Australia. And we have a strong technical track record in those markets. So, the JV was set up just before I joined the business the vision was to replicate that in Saudi Arabia, i.e. they had the vision of becoming the next Saudi Bin Laden or a Saudi Oger with hundreds and thousands of guys running around the Kingdom.”
But a few hurdles made it apparent that it would not be so, Naylor says. “It’s difficult to replicate what those guys have been doing for the last 40 years to 50 years. Over the years getting foreign worker visas alone has become tough task.”
Today C&W is known as one of the key FM consultants throughout the Gulf, and that was ascertained from an IFM contract that the firm secured in Saudi soon after Naylor joined. “It was a traditional IFM contract, which included two towers — one was completed and the other was about 90% complete. We took over the FM of the completed tower and found out there were no owner manuals or training systems in place. Our guys arrived on site with nothing.”
Naylor and the team then realised there was an opportunity to consult on the other tower that was nearing completion. “That’s where our FM consulting capabilities started, it was never really our desire to do that but there was a need and the longer we have been in Saudi we have realised there is a growing need for early input from an FM perspective. Whether that includes transition management, design reviews or sewage charge calculation. In some respects, we fell into consultancy but it’s been an area of growth over the last five years,” he notes.
An assurance of its new found guise came when it won the Jeddah Tower contract in the back end of 2014, a full service FM consulting contract began in early 2015. fmME had detailed the four stages of the project in the magazine’s February 2016 issue. Today, Naylor says, three of the four stages have been completed and the fourth stage will come into effect closer to the super tall tower’s completion. Various sources have reported that the tower is about 60 floors complete.
Naylor outlines: “Stage one is the design review, stage two is developing the fit-out manual and guidelines, stage three is developing the FM masterplan or strategy and phase four is that transition management which is making sure that the process from construction to operations goes as smoothly as possible.”
As consultants, C&W assist clients with technical and tender documentation, pre-qualification, and helping them make the right decision on awarding the contract for the incoming FM service provider.
Following the mergers and acquisitions, C&W is the second largest property services company in the world. Naylor says: “We are ahead of CBRE and JLL at least on the revenue front — which is $6bn p.a. making us capable of providing our clients with end-to-end service delivery. So we can help an MNC to find office space in Dubai or any other part of the world — lease agreement, acquisition, help them with fit-out, relocation and facilities management. So, that’s our ability and the manner in which we have moved on from offering traditional FM services.
“As UGL we were in that traditional FM mould, and now we are more a wider service line. We want to grow our FM side of the business where it’s weak and likewise with our property services side of the business,” Naylor informs.
C&W currently employs close to 400 staff in the GCC, most of which are on a supervisory and managerial role. “Apart from Saudi, a major chunk of manpower operations comes in the form of an international sports facility where we have been operating it since 2007, that’s a boots on the ground operation for us,” Naylor says.
“In Bahrain, we offer property management services — we run the World Trade Centre where we oversee facilities management but don’t exactly deliver it ourselves. The services are subcontracted. Here, in the UAE we do more of the real estate and corporate valuation side of the business,” he reveals.
Naylor says the firm’s focus is set on growth within Saudi Arabia’s FM sector. As there is still a lack of tier 1 FM service providers, and concepts surrounding client expectation and customer satisfaction is still in its nascent stage, Naylor notes.
“We have had to actively engage with the supply chain [FM companies] — develop them and educate them to make sure the service we deliver is to C&W standards. When we bring in a tier 1 service provider, we ensure they are trained to our standards and we write these things into our contracts, SLAs and KPIs. We are more than happy to treat their employees like our employees, badge them up in our uniform, train and treat them like one of ours. And, we make sure people who have gained that project knowledge are retained on site,” Naylor reveals.
Although in an early stage, the expectations of delivery from a Saudi FM service provider have changed. Naylor says: “The market predominantly has been O&M and not FM, but there has bee a change. Clients are starting to realise, and expectations are starting to grow. Six years ago, there were two to three recognised FM companies in Saudi. Today there are about 15 competing for work, which is a good thing for the market. The last we checked the current value of FM in Saudi Arabia was reported to be about $20bn, but as industry stakeholders we believe the true worth of FM in KSA is about 5% to 10% of that. Because the market is filled with O&M service providers and a lot of the business is self-delivered.
“Approximately 33% of the business at this stage is outsourced. Things like shopping malls, hotels and other big assets are done by in-house teams, whereas you have a much different approach in the UAE. But the good thing is that we are beginning to witness a turnaround,” he says.
Having weathered a turbulent economic market in the Kingdom, Naylor remains optimistic about the future. “Recently, we picked up a large banking contract, for one of the largest banks in Saudi Arabia. We also recently picked up a private American hospital in the Riyadh as well. We are also well placed to secure a large educational facility, although we are not there yet — but if it does happen it will be a Saudi-wide opportunity. We have also secured a large multinational manufacturing facility, in KEC, in Jeddah. We have done some consultancy work in Kuwait, and in the UAE for one of the largest airlines,” Naylor says adding that the last six months to eight months has been positive for the company’s growth.