Life sciences, labs and data centres are some of the innovative trends ADP’s Belinda Coates has found in London as she prepares to open a new office there as part of the plan to double the size of her company in the next five years.
Since Belinda Coates joined ADP Consulting in February this year as its first female chief executive, she’s been just a tad busy.
This is a woman on the move. In just six months she’s brought on 50 new staff members including two new female directors, opened a new Adelaide office, and is on track to open a London office in October.
“It’s an exciting role and it’s growing fast,” she told The Fifth Estate in a recent interview.
“We are on a growth trajectory to double the business in five years.”
The new appointments take total numbers to 270, making ADP one of the biggest privately owned engineering and sustainability companies in Australia. It includes 40 sustainability consultants.
The move to London makes sense, Coates said.
Australia has leadership skills that are increasingly sought out in London, thanks to the NABERS energy rating tool that has been exported to the UK.
“Our key focus will be sustainability. Asset revitalisation is huge over there, they are really leading the way and they are using the NABERs rating tool.”
A big attraction for Coates and her board is that London is one of the biggest real estate markets in the world.
“This is our crack into the UK market.
“We want to take a fully Australian-owned business to the world instead of the other way around.
“We want to learn from what’s happening over there with their focus on net zero and asset revitalisation, but also bring our learnings in innovation from what we’ve learned from Australia to London in regard to sustainability and skills.
“The other thing that we are hearing is that in the UK, they love the enthusiasm of the Australians as well – the energy and the enthusiasm around what we do.”
There’s yet another reason. Around 20 per cent of Coates’ company are UK expats. So the move is a good fit.
“For us, that’s a good employee value proposition.”
The focus on staff goes deeper.
Coates has invested significant energy in building up the company’s talent attraction assets – which are among the industry’s biggest challenges, she says.
“Attracting talent is definitely where we found [it challenging]. We launched a new program – Women at ADP, where we are really focused on encouraging more women into engineering. We’ve created some policies that are very supportive of men and women, and we are finding that we are attracting a really great calibre of people across the board just by tweaking our policies.
“Appointing a female CEO does tell the market that the business is looking for change and looking for fresh ideas. That’s been working really well.”
Life Sciences and labs are a big trend in London and moving into CBDs looking for a lift
Among the big growth opportunities she sees – both in Australia and London – are build-to-rent apartments, laboratories and life science parks.
The revitalisation of the CBDs is another challenge that’s spread around the globe, post pandemic.
“In Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, city councils are trying to encourage asset owners to revitalise their buildings, go green and electrify them.”
London is leading the way, she says.
Among the more innovative solutions for non-premium buildings that can’t be retrofitted for badly-needed residential space, are conversions to meet the demand for science labs, research and innovation – and data centres.
“The world is changing so quickly – life sciences are definitely on the rise.”
“Particularly since COVID there’s definitely a much bigger investment in pharmaceuticals and research, but also in food and agriculture.”
Coates says the company recently became a founding partner of I2SL, the International Institute for Sustainable Laboratories, which has developed a tool that helps laboratories measure and reduce carbon emissions.
In Australia, it’s led by David Keenan.
“Laboratories are the biggest concern for carbon offsets so it’s important we support the introduction of these tools,” Coates says
Coates brings a broad background to the job. She has more than 20 years of experience in advising property and professional services firms on business growth. Before this role she held leadership positions at Hassell and Woods Bagot and most recently led a five year strategic review for Slattery.
She is a co-founder of influential women’s group TEN women and is passionate about empowering women in property and philanthropy.
Coates has also been active in several industry associations, including four years on the Property Council of Australia Diversity Committee. She won the Inaugural People of Property Award for Industry Impact in 2022.