Phlip is a theoretical physicist who fell in love with city-making and believes trust is at the heart of what he does. He likes to challenge the status quo and thinks of cities as living organisms responding to the changing demands of the people who live in them.
Here, he explains how the soul of his company has been influenced by professional ethics and the desire to make a difference to people, communities and society at large.
I’m a theoretical physicist with 20 years of experience in real estate, more specifically in multi-development corporations.
I qualified with RICS more than 12 years ago and have been running my own company for 10 years in The Hague in the Netherlands. Arnout van Kessel, Eric Martens and I co-own Local, an independent development company with 10 employees.
I’m also a fellow at the Amsterdam School of Real Estate and give lectures in postgraduate courses.
We see real estate as a complex jigsaw which you can solve only by having the collaboration of a team of diverse thinkers. We respect all opinions and force ourselves into some rules to make sure we have a 360-degree approach to city-making.
Unfortunately, developers in the Dutch market didn’t deliver the highest levels of professionalism in the past and this negative reputation led to low trust in the sector.
The first time I heard about RICS was in 2002 from my former boss at Multi Vastgoed, who was qualified as MRICS. My initial impression was that such a qualification couldn’t work well locally, as it was too focused on the British market.
Then I completed my Real Estate Masters in 2003 and changed my mind. I understood that there was an opportunity for professionals in all international real estate markets to make a difference.
Looking at the global applicability of professional and ethical standards, I thought there was a real chance to have a transparent development sector in the Netherlands and decided to apply.
Sure, we have five words in the company which describe who we are and the way we want to operate both internally and externally and, it’s true, there’s a certain affinity with the RICS ethical standards and principles.
The first word we use is trust, which means having a strong internal culture of openness and transparency; acting with integrity, but also establishing a two-way relationship with our clients to ensure a high standard of service.
The second word is diversity. We see real estate as a complex jigsaw which you can solve only by having the collaboration of a team of diverse thinkers. We respect all opinions and force ourselves into some rules to make sure we have a 360-degree approach to city making: for example, during kick-off brainstorming meetings nobody is allowed to speak about their own discipline, but has to listen to others instead. There’s always another viewpoint to take into consideration…
Urbanisation needs creative solutions and the best way to make it happen is staying in touch with fresh minds. Initiatives like Cities for our Future, lifelong learning development and involvement with the academic world are great opportunities to glean information from different sources.
The third word is creativity. Urbanisation needs creative solutions and the best way to make it happen is staying in touch with fresh minds. Initiatives like Cities for our Future, lifelong learning development and involvement with the academic world are great opportunities to glean information from different sources and combine practical and academic ideas.
In this sense, we strongly believe in the power of education and – when I work with Delft and Rotterdam Universities – I try to attract new talent for internships or longer collaborations.
To finish, we also have energy and focus on our list – because only passionate and motivated professionals can offer the best to their clients.
We were the first developers regulated by RICS in the Dutch market as we wanted to be an example for others, but it’s still a challenge because some companies feel this could also limit them. In my opinion, they are not seeing the main advantage of being fully trusted by their stakeholders.
We’re happy with our choice and don’t think it’s difficult for other firms to do the same. If you really believe in what you do and have strong ethical principles, it’s just another way of being consistent.