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Group Managing Director

1. Since 1978, Kexgill has established a strong reputation for itself as a high quality provider of student accommodation. Which of the projects that Kexgill has been involved in are you most proud of?

I particularly enjoyed the conversion of 13 adjoining terraced houses to create a mini hall rebranded as “The Terrace”. This involved building a new road directly from the University campus and a leaseback of a created car park. All done in a 10 week development programme between exchange and completion.

2. Your latest development for the University of Hull is part of your partnership initiative – University Quarter Housing. Can you tell us a bit more about this partnership?

Buying an entire area adjoining a campus to designate as a University Quarter primarily for returning students has never been done before (8 acres and 200 houses). 94% of the entire area owned by the Group. It is quite a challenge and responsibility to get it right.

It is a unique partnership between the University of Hull and the Kexgill Group to provide students with the highest standard of student accommodation and support within a five-minute walk from the campus. It is being dubbed the UK’s first “hybrid-hall”, combining independent living with the social and safety benefits of living in hall accommodation.

It has been helped massively by a vibrant University open to new ideas about accommodation provision.

3. You recently entered the list for the best places to work in property. How important is a strong working culture within your organisation?

For the last 3 consecutive years the Kexgill Group has been officially recognised as one of the “Best Places in Property to Work”. We have 90 people working for the Group in the UK, each one making a vital contribution to our continued success. Without motivated people all with hugely different skill sets our business would fail. As we are located all over the UK it is hard to get together but hopefully a culture of “Kexgill Family” helps.

4. In 2006, you decided to venture into Europe and entered the German property market – what made Germany stand-out compared to other European countries?

In 2006 yield compression in the UK saw wafer thin margins. German multi-family investments represented secure 8-10% gross returns. Plus it gave us an insight into a rented culture and how that works in practise with strong caretaker involvement. It has helped how we operate some of our UK student residences.

Still interested in buying this time more student oriented German assets in line with our successful previous equity involvement with the Landericus Fund (now sold).

5. Your industry sector is ever-changing, how best do you still remain true to the original philosophies of Dr Lee?

Mike is still involved in the business providing vital strategic advice, we speak 7 days a week. Mike is an active Chairman.

That moment in time when “everything is going well….relax” never happens, ever!

True to Mike’s philosophy we adapt, change and occasionally innovate but never stand still………..that would be boring.

6. What advice would you give a budding entrepreneur who is planning to enter the same sector?

Location to the campus, fairly obviously but always true. If your scheme is more than 15 minutes’ walk to a lecture, forget it. This advice excludes London.

7. What has been the game-changing moment in your career so far?

Realising it’s a good team which make a business tick, negative divisive people don’t, harsh but true.

8. What made OakNorth Bank stand out from the other banks?

First and foremost before OakNorth would consider us, all their key decision makers met Mike and myself at one meeting in London. It was at this meeting we knew OakNorth was different and could put together finance packages which worked for our deals. They have delivered on every occasion we have needed them.

9. What is the best piece of advice you have ever heard?

If better advice comes in you are allowed to change your mind.

10. Finally, a bit of fun – Can you please tell us your favourite app, book and holiday destination?

App: Spotify helps decide on what to listen to next and re-live my misspent youth.

Book: One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. After a bad day read this and in comparison it has been a breeze.

Holiday Destination: 3 things needed: Great company. Fantastic view. Alcohol. So probably most of Italy.