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Group Tuesday 23rd September 2014

A DRINK WITH… JESSICA BERNEY

A DRINK WITH… JESSICA BERNEY

Jessica and Dom met for a drink at The Folly bar and restaurant in the Square Mile. Open for breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner and drinks, The Folly with its botanically inspired interiors, offers quirky cocktails and a wide selection of wines alongside a carefully crafted seasonal menu.
There’s music and a late license until the early hours on Thursday and Friday which make The Folly a perfect place to start and end your party.

Hi Jessica, what will you have?

I have a wine allergy sadly, so I’m a gin & tonic girl at lunch, and generally continue the clear spirits theme in the evening if required!

You took over as Head of UK Retail at Schroders in January. How’s the year been going?

It’s been a busy year. There are just three of us in the team: Harry Pickering and Henry Cartwright work with me across the Schroder Real Estate Investment Trust and Schroder UK Property Fund (SPF) which total around £530m of retail assets. Our business model at Schroders is to be sector-split, in a ‘cradle to grave’ style, so we work across both the investment and asset management side in our respective sector specialisms – all of which have been fortunately very active this year. The verdict is ‘so far so good’ and we’re looking forward to it continuing to the end of the year. 

We’re in a more positive economic environment. What are your goals for the retail holdings?

Taking advantage of the economy to succeed in the business plans for the ‘trickier’ assets. Our goal is to work the assets we have under management hard with a clear focus on asset management and to complete the individual business plans.

Have you got your ‘buying boots’ on and, if so, what appeals?

We’ve been very acquisitive on the investment side having raised an additional £100m of equity for SREIT, of which £40m has been drawn down so far. We’ve been buying higher yielding assets in larger lot sizes with good property fundamentals and the potential to create further value from driving rents, lease lengths, improving tenant mix and/or development value. SPF is an open-ended structure and is experiencing strong monthly inflows of primary subscriptions which we have been actively deploying. Investments have included the Arndale Centre in Headingley, the City Tower mixed-use scheme in Manchester and the Meadows Retail Park in Chelmsford. Lemon Quay in Truro and Spalding Retail Park were acquired at the end of last year. 

Do you think a balance has now been reached between online retailing and physical stores?

There will be continual structural change with new technologies, new retailer entrants, changing demographics, changing levels of discretionary spend, and retailers developing their offer and strategies but I do think that people enjoy shopping for the experience and ‘hobby’ aspect which can’t be replaced by online channels.

What’s the best – and worst – thing about your job?

The best is variety in my role from retail asset management to fund level growth strategies, and working with a proactive ‘can do’ team. The worst: the time it takes to get certain deals over the line, not for lack of trying on our part!

Where do you like to shop?

I’m a horrid shopper which isn’t a great advert for a retail specialist! I stick to my staples: Kooples, All Saints, and Reiss.

Are there some favourite designers that feature in the Berney wardrobe?

Having been informed that my wardrobe epitomises what not to wear at Schroders, even on dress-down days… I have not changed my less than corporate look, which reminds me, I haven’t worn an indie rock T to an investment committee for a while!

Rumour has it you’re often to be found on the open water?

My father strapped me into a child’s seat bolted to the bulkhead and raced me across the North Sea multiple times before I reached my teens, so there was no avoiding it and luckily I still love sailing! I race National 18 and Musto Skiff dinghies on the East Coast, but also do a lot of off-shore sailing on our family Sigma 41.

Snack time: what do you fancy?

Salted peanuts every time.