Mr Stöckicht, the property industry and digitisation – do they go hand in hand?
Of course, we aren’t ‘first movers’ – and self-driving cars, fingerprint payments and music playlists that adapt to your taste using AI are seemingly more disruptive. But in the digital property market, there is a lot going on behind the scenes, and that makes housing much better today – for all involved.
Which projects are you investing in?
We don’t seek to invest for the sake of it; we’re always driven by substance: what can offer our customers, colleagues and service providers in our neighbourhoods and apartments real value?
It is important to us that we use the products ourselves and can develop them in operation with our partners. That is why we sit round the table jointly and across departments when it comes to issues such as these – developing digital products can never be driven by a single internal department alone.
Do you have an example of ‘added value’?
Two, in fact. First of all, there is KIWI, whose digital locking systems make property management easier, as a service provider looking for access to the building at short notice for repairs does not have to go and get a key somewhere first. All they need to do is get the PIN from us to gain direct access. In turn, the work takes less time, which makes life easier for the customer.
And number two?
That is our partnership with the start-up Convaron, previously known as VRnow, which specialises in digital floor-plan recognition and stock analysis of residential units and buildings based on artificial intelligence. Incidentally, the investment also arose from the company’s partnership with blackprint Booster – proof of how profitable our (now very close) links to the proptech scene can be.
Our aim is the digitisation of the building, and Convaron is a key element of this approach. It is much easier for us to manage residential units, because we know them better. And, in the not-so-distant future, tenants will not need to go to the trouble of travelling to their first flat viewing. Instead, thanks to virtual reality and 3D technology, they will be able to view the property from their computer at home, their smartphone on the beach, or a VR headset in our showroom.
In which areas will the property industry see the most dramatic change due to digitisation in the next decade?
First of all, it will improve efficiency in property management. As much information and as many processes as possible should be available digitally and in real time. For example, if a lift breaks down, the more directly this information reaches the service provider, the better. Ideally, an automatic push notification will let them know not only that there is a fault but also which part is broken. Or even better, the spare part is ordered automatically, as the system itself detects that there are no more in stock. And thinking a step ahead – and that is where we enter the realm of predictive technology – the lift lets us know three days in advance that a fault is building up. It is just as important that we can then supply targeted information to our customers and inform our customer service at the same time.
The second area is added value in housing. Banks and energy companies have been doing this for a long time. They are also expanding their services beyond traditional products like bank accounts and electricity contracts. We too are asking ourselves whether there are services that go beyond letting which we can provide to boost customer satisfaction.
What is your experience of collaboration between start-ups and major companies in the property sector?
In my opinion, it is too cautious. Of course, there are cultural differences in terms of agility and speed. That does not change from one day to the next. So it is all the more important that there is someone on the corporate side who is responsible for collaborations with start-ups across the board; that you have the courage to try out new things within a defined proof of concept; that you define clear goals and develop a common understanding of what the real added value needs to be; and, lastly and crucially, that you take internal colleagues from core business on the journey with you.
Once all that is in place, both sides can enjoy huge benefits from working together. After all, what many proptechs are lacking is expertise in the property industry, as they come from a tech background – it is like fintechs and banks. We have got the expertise, the customer interface and the contacts with partners including tradespeople. That is our contribution to jointly developing products that the market truly needs.
In many digital arenas, Germany is not necessarily number one – you think of Silicon Valley or Israel instead. What about in the proptech sector?
My experience of this in our industry is actually completely different. I get the impression that there is a whole lot going on in proptech in Germany, particularly here in Berlin. In the summer, the number of proptechs here in Germany rose to over 300 for the first time – and, incidentally, with the strongest growth in property management. In terms of the variety of companies and formats you can now find in Germany, we are right at the forefront.