Please tell us about your role at The Collective
I oversee strategic growth across our UK and international portfolio of co-living spaces, managing a 12-strong team of real estate investment specialists based in our offices in London, New York and Berlin. We now have 200 staff overall across these three cities.
Beyond London where we launched the world’s largest co-living building in 2016 and where we will open our latest project in Canary Wharf in September, we have recently announced projects in New York, Chicago, Miami and Dublin. We have raised more
than USD 800m to fund our international expansion to date and have over 8,000 rooms operating or under development.
My background is in accommodation. It was while working for Greystar, a leader in multi-family homes, that I met Reza Merchant who had founded The Collective in 2010.
How are lifestyles changing and how is The Collective responding?
City life is becoming ever more disconnected. Urbanisation is eroding our sense of community. The Collective is a kick back against this trend, borne out of a desire to foster greater human connection. The magic of our offer comes in the unique experience we create for our members – something which hasn’t existed in the market until now.
New lifestyles demand the kind of flexibility and amenity we offer. People now work in a way that’s much more agile and globally mobile than previous generations. At the same time, people are delaying major life choices like getting married, buying a house and having children, making them less tied to certain places or locations. They also very much value experiences over material possessions.
Who is the typical Collective customer?
We have members of all ages, but 75% of our members are under 35. Interestingly, the age range at The Collective Old Oak is from 18-66, which is much broader than we initially anticipated but demonstrates the intergenerational appeal of our product.
Our customers tend to be in a transformational life stage – first job, first time in a new city, newly single. The Collective provides them with the space and time to make those changes, while meeting new friends. The length of time our members stay varies, though the average is 13 months at The Collective Old Oak, where the minimum stay is four months. At The Collective Canary Wharf, you are able to stay from one night to up to a year.
We have not seen more extroverts than introverts co-living, which might surprise people. In fact, we’ve learnt from speaking to our more introverted members that co-living makes it very easy to socialise due to the balance of private space with the public space and the option to get involved on their own terms.
How does The Collective differ from other types of rented accommodation?
Ours is a very hassle−free offer. Everything’s included in one fee. Everyone has a private bedroom and a private bathroom, along with a communal kitchen on each floor.
We also have fantastic shared amenities like roof terraces, games rooms, swimming pools and virtual golf – but what really distinguishes us is our cultural events programme.
Across our group we are now hosting three events per day, ranging from brunch to parties, to movie nights to wellbeing discussions. Half of these are coordinated by our events team and the other half are self-organised by members. Typical build-to-rent operators don’t come close to providing this level of engagement.
How do you anticipate co-living changing in the future?
Through sensors and other technology in our buildings, we are gaining a better understanding of how our members are using our spaces, which will help us find new and better ways to enhance their experiences and make them happier and healthier in our environments.
Co-living is nascent across all geographies, creating a huge opportunity to access new markets. With our international expansion plans, we are aiming to create a network of global members who can stay with us wherever they are in the world.