On 8 March, the world came together for International Women’s Day. To coincide with this, we spoke with Katie Parsonson, a Partner at Knight Frank LLP and Women of the Future in Real Estate nominee.
What attracted you to the property industry?
I come from a farming background so property was not necessarily a natural route for me to take, but I left school and got a job working for a local, family run, estate agents and auctioneers in Lincolnshire. It was here that I got a flavour for the diverse opportunities within the property industry from residential and commercial sales and lettings to land agency and auctioneering. It wasn’t just the asset classes that interested me; it was the wide range of people that I would be dealing with on a day to day basis. I get great satisfaction from assisting people with important decisions such as buying, selling, and developing property. On top of all that, this industry is not a desk based job and most days I knew I would be out visiting properties and meeting clients. All of these factors contributed to me following a career within the property industry and I decided to focus on the residential sector.
What is a working day like for you?
Very busy. My role at Knight Frank is quite varied. I am a partner within the Residential Valuation & Consultancy team specialising in Prime Central London. In addition, I am one of the partners in charge of the Residential Graduate Scheme. No one day is the same. Perhaps it might be easier to give you a brief idea of my week rather than a day. I am an early riser, so for the first few hours I catch up on emails, undertake pier reviews of my colleagues’ valuation reports and plan my day ahead.
During my week I will be visiting three or four properties to provide professional valuation advice. This could be for a number of reasons from loan security, litigation, acquisition, or taxation to name but a few. These properties could be flats, houses, or single development opportunities within central London. We are instructed to undertake valuation work by private banks, solicitors, accountants, and various wealth advisers. To ensure a flow of work, relationships with these contacts are extremely important so some of my week will involve meetings, coffees, events etc to meet new and existing clients to discuss the opportunities.
To undertake these valuations I spend time researching the market for comparable data, breaking down the transactions to analyse them, and speak to the local agents within the market to understand the demand and supply in any one area. Once I have undertaken my research, I write my report detailing the property, its characteristics, market movements and the valuation considerations that have impacted upon our opinion of value.
In between my valuation work, I work alongside our HR department on the Residential Graduate Scheme. I am very passionate about the graduates, guiding them through their development, leading to the interview. During any week and it depends on the time of year, but I am involved in the interviews, selection of all the candidates, planning their rotations according to their experience and goals, holding revision sessions and being a general sounding board for their ideas or concerns. This again involves working with a team of people but also with younger individuals who are striving to achieve their RICS Assessment of Professional Competence (APC), and it brings its own challenges at times.
What has been a career highlight so far?
There are a few! Firstly every time a graduate passes their APC, having seen all their hard work in the previous months makes me very proud. Equally as their career develops and they establish their roles it is very humbling to see them progress and get promoted.
In 2014, I was nominated and shortlisted as Women of the Future in Real Estate 2014. It was the first time this category had been considered and was sponsored by the RICS. It has resulted in me being involved within the network and assisting as an Ambassador. The initiative connects the Ambassadors with school sixth formers, providing students with mentors and role models and strengthening the pipeline of talent among Britain’s younger women.
I was promoted to partner two years ago and at that time was one of the youngest female partners within Knight Frank and achieved this in a relatively short time frame. A great example, that if you enjoy your career and work hard there are no barriers for young females at Knight Frank.
What lessons have you learnt so far in your career?
There are times when you might be faced with a task or project that might not be the most exciting and I have often said this to graduates. The best thing to do is to give it as much time and energy as you would any other and do not prolong completing it.
Secondly, enjoy what you do. If you enjoy what you do, you will get great satisfaction and achievement and will inevitably progress and do well in your career.
Have you come across any barriers as a woman in the industry?
Personally no I haven’t and I strongly feel that the barriers have actually reduced for women. We all know the property industry has traditionally been a male dominated environment but year on year we have seen this change in the workplace and with the graduate applications from universities. Knight Frank is an extremely diverse organisation with so many opportunities and it promotes the development of all employees, so there is never anyone holding you back or putting up a barrier.
As someone who recruits interns and graduates, what changes have you seen in young people starting out in the industry?
We have seen many changes over the years and all positive. The candidates we are seeing all have a genuine passion for the industry as individuals and at such a young age have very clear areas they wish to focus on. We believe this is a result of an increase of work experience during their university years in different placements and is something we strongly encourage.
We are excited to say that we have also seen a much increased gender balance in recent years, whereby there has been a 50/50 female and male split. This is thanks to the on-going visits and talks at a secondary school/six form level which are educating individuals that the built environment and property industry can be for anyone. Our clients are now extremely diverse and so must we.
What advice do you have for women considering a role in surveying?
The stigma of this environment being male only has long gone! There are so many exciting opportunities and pathways within surveying. It is a global profession that is well regarded, offering different challenges and will be a lifelong career. Within our environment there are now more female role models than ever before. For example the existing and previous RICS presidents have both been female. The current, Amanda Clack FRICS, was ranked 13 in City AM's 'Powerful Women in the City' list 2015!! There is nothing to stop a female considering surveying as a successful career path.