Property Australia

Navigating property’s twists and turns

Karen Jamal Karen Jamal May 18, 2021

After two decades leading property finance businesses around the world, Westpac’s Marty Green shares some of his secrets to career success – and his insights may surprise you.

Green, Westpac's national general manager of property finance, “eats, sleeps and breathes” property. He was managing director of real estate for Lloyds Bank in London for nearly five years, creating one of the world’s largest global property debt portfolios. Before that, Green led NAB's institutional Australian development finance business. For the last five years he has led property finance for the Westpac Group, which includes Westpac, Bank of Melbourne, BankSA and St George Bank.

190521 - Story 1 - Marty Green“I love helping to structure solutions and have a real hand in physical assets coming to life. There’s no greater satisfaction,” he says. Among those physical assets are some of Australia’s most iconic projects, including Melbourne’s Eureka Tower and 1 Martin Place in Sydney.

As much as he loves bricks and mortar, Green is equally drawn to people in the property industry. “I’m fascinated by the characters and how they have navigated their journey – it varies greatly. I have learnt from and been mentored by some amazing people around the world over the years,” he says.

Green is particularly passionate about the role of mentoring in career building, especially for young people navigating nascent careers in an increasingly complex world.

“A great mentor can not only expand your thinking and your views. A mentor can be a friend for life. I’ve seen that in my own career. The people who took an interest in me 30 years ago, and helped me with career decisions, are still in my life, even after they’ve finished their own careers.”

It is with this passion for mentoring that Green enlisted Westpac as the national partner for the Property Council’s new National Mentoring Program. This follows a “rewarding” decade of program “incubation” with the Bank of Melbourne, pioneered by the bank’s head of property finance in Victoria, Jim Serafim. “We have a lot to thank Jim and his team for in forging this partnership with the Property Council,” Green says.

The National Mentoring Program features experiential workshops, speed networking and facilitated discussions, complemented by a powerful matching service that is part science and part alchemy.

“It’s about finding the chemistry and the connection between the mentor and mentee. It’s definitely not a lucky dip,” Green explains. “It’s a very carefully-crafted process that can create a new dimension in how people think – that’s what’s really special about the program. The Property Council has done an amazing job in building the credibility of the program.”

The broad cross-section of professions represented is another plus. “Whether you are in funds management, engineering or direct property development, you’ll meet a whole range of people – and that can be career changing.

“Westpac is committed to the sector – and we see this as a way to give back and it reflects our core values in supporting young people in the business community. We truly believe in investing in talent – not just in our own talent but the entire industry’s. We’ve been waiting for – and hoping for – the program to go national.”

With such a big stake in property, Green keeps a close eye on the trends transforming the industry.

“I’m always fascinated with how and where people invest,” he explains, pointing to booming regional housing markets as a trend to watch. Is this a transient or permanent change? The work-from-home shift is “permanent” and that makes regional markets more attractive, Green says. But that doesn’t mean the major cities won’t flourish; they have always had a way of transforming as the centre of society. Young professional talent will always want to experience life and relationships in big cities, he says.

Green sees the emerging build-to-rent asset class as an important addition to Australia’s housing mix in our cities – one which will ensure key workers can, if they choose, live close to their workplaces. “This is how we lived in the 60s and 70s before our cities boomed and property prices exploded. I think build-to-rent will help us to recreate those ‘village environments’ we once had in our cities.”

Will our offices return to capacity? “Yes,” is his short answer. “But there will be a change in the way we use space.” He points to the emergence of artificial intelligence and its influence on white collar work. But this doesn’t spell the end for offices. “The computing age didn’t eliminate the need for offices – they just changed the way we work. The same will happen with AI.”

In an era of exponential change, clear-eyed career advice has never been more essential, Green emphasises.

“Having someone sitting at your shoulder – someone who has lived through crashes and changes in the market and can help you navigate your way – that’s nothing short of a world-class opportunity.”