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Progress - what does it really mean?

Anne Kavanagh has been Chief Investment Officer (CIO) at PATRIZIA since April 2017. Born and raised in England, she accepts that people have mixed feelings about progress. When it comes to her own attitude towards change, Kavanagh is a self-declared optimist. That being said, she has a certain propensity to respect the traditional. This sounds like a healthy combination – and it is just one of the aspects of progress she told us about.

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estatements magazine: Ms Kavanagh, what’s your personal understanding of progress?

Anne Kavanagh: For me, progress is about movement, it can be a shift in attitude or mindset or a new invention — it is something that moves us forward and improves the existing situation. 

estatements: Are you a pessimist when it comes to progress or are you in the optimist camp?

Kavanagh: I’m a thoroughly optimistic person. For me, the glass is usually half full, it’s just the way I am. And that’s why I’m curious and open when it comes to anything related to progress, so I’m more positive and excited than dismissive or perhaps even apprehensive. Just look at the amazing advancements that were made in the 20th and 21st centuries in areas like technology and medicine — my view about most examples of progress is that they’re extremely useful and make life easier. For example, women’s lives have been transformed in western societies by education and technological advances.

estatements: Do you think progress can make certain traditions obsolete?

Kavanagh: Not necessarily. Good things are enduring, as I’ve noticed time and time again — and they become a tradition. At home or work, our lives are full of rituals and traditions from the cradle to the grave — milestones such as a christening, weddings, graduation, anniversaries and death are respected in most cultures or societies. Of course traditions also move on, or evolve. For me that’s a healthy combination: the best things from yesterday merging in the present with the best of tomorrow. 

Progress - what life's all about?

estatements: Do you have understanding for people who see things differently?

Kavanagh: Progress can really worry people or even instil fear — yes, I can relate to that. This morning I asked three people for their definition of progress and I received three  different answers, one of which focused on fear of change. If you try to force change without effective communication and buy-in, it usually meets with resistance. It is helpful to have an awareness of the different reactions, adapt accordingly and try to empower people to embrace change within their own context. 

estatements: What’s it like with progress and change in a company?

Kavanagh: Basically it’s pretty similar. Depending on the size of the company, there will always be people who welcome progress, but there will also be those who tend to be more reserved about change. What’s crucial is that managers are open to engage, listen to feedback, ideas and different approaches. It’s helpful if changes are communicated openly — and perhaps more importantly, managers should do this in a way that’s understandable, relevant to individuals and transparent. 

estatements: That sounds so easy…

Kavanagh: (smiling) … it’s a huge challenge, absolutely! It’s a bit like the way things work with technological progress. People actually find it quite good once they get comfortable with it, but it often entails certain chal-lenges and frustrations along the way. These issues are often more challeng-ing if you work in different countries, with multicultural teams, as we do at PATRIZIA. Misunderstandings are practically pre-programmed — especially when people communicate via email. Every language has its own particular expressions and every country has established rules about how to interact. That’s something you have to learn or acknowledge in order to understand and operate effectively. Good communication is essential in life as well as in business.  

estatements: What are these things like at PATRIZIA?

Kavanagh: PATRIZIA has a solid foundation of company values, which have grown and evolved over more than 30 years. The challenge is to preserve these fundamental values for the future but at the same time they also have to be moved forward. Mutual respect, a strong team spirit and a really open empowering culture — these are aspects that are timeless. But other aspects, such as working internationally, impact how we work and can add a different perspective. So the really positive fundamental values have to move on and keep evolving to keep pace with these changes.

estatements: Can you provide an example of this from everyday business? 

Kavanagh: The job done by an investment manager has changed dramatically over the last five to ten years. Today, the way people go about their profession is more modern, creative and progressive. For us at PATRIZIA this means we don’t just manage money as an investment manager. We work with it, every day, we think beyond the obvious and everything we do revolves around the same clear priority: to achieve the best possible result for the person who placed their trust in us to look after their money. You can see what this means for our investors by looking at the example of the sale of LBBW, which involved around 20,000 flats. We acquired the portfolio in 2012 on behalf of a consortium of investors and in 2015 we sold what by then was called Südewo to the firm now known as Vonovia. So we exited the investment much earlier than was originally stated in the business plan, but in so doing, we were able to deliver genuine added value for the consortium of investors. 

estatements: So progress is a catalyst of more change?

Kavanagh: Definitely. Basically it makes no difference whether we’re talking about the Industrial Revolution, urbanisation, technological progress, medical advancement or changes in a business model — change is a given; it’s part of evolution. The challenge with progress is the capacity of people to cope with the pace or speed of change. After periods of sweeping change, often a time of reflection or consolidation is required, which in today’s fast-paced environment does not always happen. Sometimes this may lead to individuals feeling out of balance as they move into the next wave of change.

estatements: Thank you for your time, Ms Kavanagh! 

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