Member spotlight: Don Shipway

This month we shine the API member spotlight on Don Shipway, asset manager with ALE Property Group

How long have you been in the property industry?
I have been in the property industry for over 14 years. After completing a Bachelor of Commerce (Property Economics), at the University of Western Sydney I started working at Metcash Ltd as a lease administrator, overseeing their distribution centre network, including the IGA retail network. While there, I completed a Master of Commerce (Property Development) and was promoted to national asset manager, responsible for a budget of more than $300 million and freehold assets of around $90 million.

Where are you currently working?
I am currently the asset manager for ALE Property Group (ALE), a listed Real Estate Investment Trust (AREIT). It is Australia’s largest listed freehold owner of pub properties. ALE’s 86 properties have a current value of around $800 million and the portfolio land area is equivalent to 136 football fields. The properties are located in and around Australia’s major capital cities and possess some interesting opportunities for future development in conjunction with ALH the tenant.

How did you come to be in this role?
After nearly 10 years at Metcash working from both a tenant and landlord perspective, I was keen to expand my property knowledge into other asset classes. An opportunity arose to join ALE and focus on pubs which are a very interesting niche asset class with a large number of variables from government regulation to land development.

What are the best parts of your job?
Managing and maximising the value of our properties by analysing, assessing and recommending long-term plans for each property as well as managing the various consultant teams that work with ALE including valuers, condition consultant’s, town planners and lawyers.

What are the most challenging aspects of your job?
Managing an extensive portfolio of properties with long-term growth through both rental reversion and development potential in conjunction with our tenant, and constantly pursuing the best possible outcomes for ALE’s security holders.

Can you tell us a bit about your career path so far?
Working initially with Metcash, I saw firsthand the huge challenge facing retail business owners in managing lease profile, locational and rent reversion risks. I travelled extensively throughout Australia, gaining a unique insight into the differences across property markets in the various regions.

After working with Metcash for nearly 10 years, I joined ALE which is focused in a completely different sector. In the longer term, my aim is to lead a challenging and diverse property organisation that is strategically placed to capitalise on the changing property market and achieve the best possible commercial outcomes for the organisation.

Why did you choose to pursue a career in this area?
When I was young I spent quite a few enjoyable hours with my parents helping to paint and maintain an investment duplex they had bought in Canberra. In truth, I probably spent more time with my brothers running around through the properties. Still, a lifelong love of investment property was born.

Growing up in Canberra during the '80s and seeing significant infrastructure projects like the new Parliament House, along with other great buildings assisted in a love of architecture, development, construction and investment. With an inclination towards mathematics and economics at school, this translated into studying property economics and valuation at university and, as they say, the rest is history.

Have you received any awards/professional recognition for your work?
At Metcash I had the responsibility for repositioning of the Noosa Junction Plaza Shopping Centre on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland. The centre was subsequently nominated as a finalist in the Property Council of Australia’s Innovation and Excellence awards (2011) in the category of Best Shopping Centre Developments. This was quite an honour along with the internal recognition that was achieved.

What do you think are among the biggest challenges facing the property industry?
I think one of the biggest challenges facing the property industry is the availability of competitive long-term finance for commercial property. Against your own home you can borrow for up to 30 years at very competitive rates. Against a commercial investment property, generally banks will lend on a three or five year basis or maybe up to 10 years, however the 10 year rate would be quite expensive compared to the short-term loans.

It seems that since the Global Financial Crisis and the near collapse of some ARIETs the issue has been getting more attention. Much of the ARIET sector is rebalancing towards non-bank funding. However, for the smaller commercial property investor, there still seems to be a significant gap in competitive long term funding options.

What are your plans for the remainder of 2014?
Commencing some further study in applied finance. This year I have seen firsthand ALE restructure its capital requirements with the issue of an Australian Medium Term Note (AMTN) of $335 million. To witness the process was very exciting and extremely interesting for someone who focuses more on the management and planning of the physical assets.

How has the API helped you in your career?
The API was one of the first organisations I joined while at University. It has helped secure my successful progression through my career with professional and ethical standards that are highly respected across the broad property sector. It has also provided access to research papers, guidelines and events that are extremely useful in my day to day work. I believe the API is important to property professionals as it provides a base and tools for a long and well founded career in property.

What would you say to upcoming property professionals?
The property industry is vast and opportunities will continue to abound for those that are willing to accept the challenge and changes that the property markets will continue to deliver. Keep focused on your goals and don’t compromise your standards and ethics.