We’ve talked previously about family offices being our principle customers.
And about our existential inquiries.
How are these things related?
One of the current principle trends in residential real estate is the introduction of technology platforms to consolidate both the product offering and the database of buyers. One of the outcomes of this is to decrease cost of sale by downgrading the user-experience, and increase the volume of transactions by cheapening, and speeding up the velocity, of the buying process.
The result is that buyers are more vulnerable than ever to amateur, subjective advice and speculative activity. They have no one to guide them, as faceless intermediary robots such as Zoopla, Rightmove and other start-ups in the sector continue to cut out the middleman.
We can almost here you applauding:
‘This is a good thing, no?!’
In many cases we agree with you. One of the benefits of technology is it flushes out entire industries in double quick time. Mediocre operators living on borrowed time move on or fade away.
But how do bricks-and-mortar businesses with real-world, long-term experience and valuable expertise navigate this new terrain?
At NVP are spending more time than ever with both buyer and seller. And our customer service practices are proudly non-digital.
You might call us NVP Unplugged.
Don’t’ worry – we have email and we use Whatsapp!
But time and again, our clients tell us they miss the old ways.
And not just in real estate. Our clients miss having a personal contact at the bank, with their insurance companies, at their stockbrokers, and with airlines and hotels.
This love of the old way, of a more analogue existence, is what sparked the phenomenon of the family office in the first place.
It was also an intrinsic motivation to why we set up our business.
At Nicolas Van Patrick (NVP) our intentions could not be more different from the industry trend.
Wealthy clients (the kind who purchase premium residential properties in Knightsbridge where NVP is based) began to develop private infrastructure to support their investments as soon as the personal touch began to die out. In many cases we know, they literally poached their investment managers from large well-known banks to come in-house, when it became clear those people would not be continuing as their one point of contact.
This migration of highly skilled investment professionals away from big accountancy firms and banks towards UHNW concentrations of wealth is the principle reason behind ‘the family office’ being our principle client focus. As we talk to our customers, they tell us about preoccupations on their time and thinking. Often this includes how to pass on on real-world values to the next generation. In addition to the above, in a world where excessive screen-time is an issue for all young people, our clients hold traditional values in the highest regard. Obviously for wealthy families this includes instilling the value of money, and how to invest it wisely. And one of their biggest fears is that this generation, the first truly digital natives, have surrendered their ability to relate to people in socially sophisticated ways, to read between the lines and to develop a trust for one’s intuition and higher intelligence.
Often these things were the principle drivers behind a family’s wealth creation in the first place.
In addition to the above, many of our clients are international investors from markets where real face-time and curiosity about your business partner’s family and personal interests are still deemed integral to the business process. At NVP we are passionate about understanding these global business cultures, and in our experience the likelihood of overseas investors warming to automated aggregator websites or similar, as they invest in London property, is remote.
This type of attitude extends all the way through NVP’s approach to the prime residential property market in which we earn our living. Typically in-house investors at the family office make decisions in a less emotional, more rational way than your traditional property investor. They plan ahead, they think organically, they read the market and they know when to stick or twist.
It’s essential our services at NVP compliment this type of thinking. As such, although obviously we believe in technology enough to spend time blogging these thoughts, we have not been seduced by our industry’s move into software and the promises of riches therein. We often experience long-term gestation processes, where we are in touch with both the seller and the buyer, sometimes for years, before a deal is done. We consider the management of this often-delicate process to be a key strength.
On this basis, our partners know that an investment they see as part of their legacy is being viewed with the same respect.
Despite the efforts of the technology, old-school real estate is alive and well. And in the digital age, ironically it is traditional values which ensure a memorable, stand-out customer experience.
In these ways we see ourselves, and our approach, as extensions of the family office.
Come and see us sometime for the best coffee in Knightsbridge. We are just opposite Harrods.