Like many companies, at the beginning of lockdown, Waypoint Asset Management gave immediate priority to business continuity by ensuring its growing team had all they needed to allow them to undertake the day-to-day activities of asset managers.
“With the whole team working remotely, our primary focus was to ensure that the necessary communications technology functioned seamlessly,” says Mike Riley, joint managing director of Waypoint Asset Management.
“Following this initial phase our attention turned to other aspects of the business, including staff welfare and development,” he adds.
Since its inception, Waypoint has been focused on investing in staff development and the firm has an established programme that helps team members build on their qualifications and experience through continuous learning and mentoring.
“It’s all about passing on skills and an understanding of the industry and the dynamic markets that we operate in,” says Kirstyn Rutter, Waypoint Asset Management’s Investment Director, adding: “While the technical aspects of asset management and valuation can be taught academically, other business skills are not so easily taught in the classroom or lecture theatre and we concentrate on the soft skills as much as we do on the core competencies of asset management.
“Our view is that the best way to gain the interpersonal and professional communication skills needed in business is to be immersed within it. So much of what we learn, such as market knowledge and vital interpersonal communication skills, is gained from being around other people. This is particularly important for younger members of staff and it is vital for them to have access to more experienced staff and to absorb the knowledge and know-how of those around them,” she adds.
Mike Riley agrees and uses his business partner of 18 years and joint managing director of Waypoint, Nick Gregory, as evidence of the success of this approach.
“Back in the day, Nick was the graduate trainee in my team at Chestertons where he learnt the ropes and became one of the most accomplished asset managers I have ever known.”
Nick acknowledges the role that ‘on-the-job learning’ had on his development as a young surveyor.
“Learning by osmosis, within a business environment, is vital for young surveyors and asset managers. You learn so much by observing colleagues and other professionals that you interact with. Fundamentally, real estate is a networking industry and you acquire so much knowledge and understanding, simply by absorbing the background noise of an office.
“The advent of Covid-19 and the nationwide lockdown meant that we had to adapt how we continued our mentoring across the firm,” he adds.
In addition to establishing regular, online meetings and workshops to ensure that team members were able to continue with their personal and professional development through the mentoring programmes already in place, Waypoint also took steps to ensure that the firm’s ‘open door’ culture continued in the virtual working environment.
“It soon became that we were facing a prolonged period with our team working remotely, dispersed around the country and that this would present us with challenges in terms of staff development and mentoring,” says Executive Director Chris Moulden.
“We had to ensure that the business did not lose the benefits that having a horizontal-structure has brought to the business over the years. Ensuring that communication channels remained open and that everyone continued to be accessible and available – for even the smallest problem or question –has been of great value in maintaining internal development programmes and to the business as a whole,” he adds.
One member of Waypoint’s team who has benefited from this approach is Jonny Waller (24) who has been with the company since 2017.
“The online development programme has been very beneficial,” he says. “After the initial novelty of working remotely, I quickly realised how easy it was to lose touch with what was happening in the wider market. I had not appreciated the value of chance meetings and random conversations in the office. The scheduled mentoring sessions and online team meetings have gone a long way in filling the gap.
“The one-to-one coaching has not just been focused on work-related issues but has also considered personal development in terms of communication techniques, time efficiency, and other areas for improvement, that have been a great help. Among other topics, the coaching sessions have addressed handling difficult situations and getting the most out of meetings.
“These skills are hard to learn when working from home and it has been a reassurance to know that I can speak to anyone within the firm should I be facing a particular challenge, no matter how seemingly trivial it might be,” Jonny adds.