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2021 - Groundhog Day

Like last year, Christmas Eve leads me to reflect on the year that was, and I believe 2021 will be etched in my mind as Groundhog Day x 365. Despite the flurry of social activities earlier in the year – making up for lost time during 2020’s restrictions – it seems like we landed on a snake and fell back to square one of the recovery game.

But at least this time we had a road map to navigate through working from home while juggling family life and avoiding the worst of the pandemic.

So, through an optimistic lens, here are some 2021 silver linings.

Colleague Comradery
The sense that we are all in this together and that we did it before so can do it again proved to be an unspoken war cry from our team. I am immensely proud of the durability, drive and determination of our 320+ workforce. Our Melbourne colleagues endured 246 days in lockdown yet achieved some of their best results including a record number of Victorian acquisitions that were integrated into our system together with the successful leasing of more than 81,000 sqm across our Victorian property portfolio, which includes office, industrial and healthcare assets.

Our back office team in Manila, which is still in lockdown and has been since March 2020, has seamlessly provided accounting and systems support from their homes. In fact, the Philippines team grew by 84% during the year – a substantial achievement by the Sydney-based managers who have initiated the new starters into the company.

The Auckland office is just emerging from their rigorous restrictions… in time for the festive season holidays. But in all seriousness, after 15 weeks of working from home, the New Zealand team is poised for a year of growth in 2022 with the recent announcement of a NZ$291 million healthcare property portfolio with assets throughout New Zealand.

On top of this, we added a new office to our network in Perth. This follows the merger with Primewest, whose staff include Perth, Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney colleagues. Despite not being able to meet our WA team due to border closures, they have already become an integral part of our business, rapidly expanding our Daily Needs Retail (DNR) and Large Format Retail (LFR) portfolios in addition to our development pipeline.

So, after a second year of living through a crisis climate that is the pandemic, I want to thank our fellow Centurians for their resilience. If we can get through these challenging times, imagine what we can achieve in a calmer business environment.

Great Outdoors Appreciation
On the topic of colleagues, a strong theme to emerge during the year is the appreciation for the natural environment. Lunchtime walks or a lap around the park while taking a conference call seemed to be the right remedy during restrictions. The mental health benefits of being in the great outdoors can never be understated and colleagues’ mental health and wellbeing are paramount. The combination of staff welfare and the environment helped us foster a renewed sense of our sustainability commitments and ESG initiatives. We now have a defined framework to act upon next year and the years to come.

Homegrown Focus
Which brings me to my next highlight – a new focus on local supply chains and appreciation of homegrown products and produce. This is one of the reasons we diversified into agriculture throughout the year in addition to expanding our industrial portfolio, which supports transport logistics, food manufacturing and online retailing, especially from the non-discretionary sector, such as groceries. Supporting local and domestic businesses speaks to the inherent Australian and New Zealand cultures.

Health and Care
And we can’t speak about the effects of a pandemic without addressing the merits of health. Never before have we learnt so much about health issues – immunity, viral symptoms and vaccinations. More than ever, we are focused on being healthy and staying healthy. During the year our healthcare property team expanded its portfolio by building and acquiring new medical centres, dementia care residences, day/short stay hospitals and specialist centres, such as oncology facilities. Towards the end of this year, however, it branched out into two strong emerging subsectors – mental health facilities and life science infrastructure. The latter providing laboratories and R&D properties to facilitate with the production of testing agents needed for diagnostics.

The value of freedom
Finally, I believe I’m not alone in valuing travel again – by car, rail and plane. For those that have endured long-periods of restrictions, the freedom of journeying to see loved ones, especially as border restrictions ease, is an early Christmas present. I hope this festive season will be a very joyous period as loved ones are reunited.

And on that note, I must get back to the festivities happening in the McBain household.

Have a happy and safe festive season and here’s to a great New Year that, hopefully, gets us off the “repeat” cycle.