New recruit Ella hits the ground running

11 February 2021
  • Cooke & Arkwright new graduate surveyor Ella Jefferies in Retail & Leisure
  • Cooke & Arkwright new graduate surveyor Ella Jefferies in Retail & Leisure

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Cooke & Arkwright continues to work harder than ever in the commercial property market during the ongoing challenges. We are still growing with a full commitment to Wales, and recently added to our team by recruiting three new graduate surveyors. We met Rob Lane previously and here we get to know our second recruit, Ella Jefferies, who joined the Retail & Leisure team in October. Ella is from Cardiff and has a First Class Honours degree in real Estate from the University of the West of England. She is working towards her RICS accreditation.

Tell us a bit about your background and what led you into property as a career?

I was unsure when in 6th form what I wanted to do, but did know that I did not want to take a pure subject degree such as Geography or History; I preferred to apply my interest in the built environment. Having both parents as surveyors helped with my decision as I had a rough idea of the role and knew the scope of work was varied.

I initially considered a Planning and Development degree but decided this may be too narrow for me. Then my research identified the Real Estate course which would enable me to attain RICS accreditation as a route into the wider field of commercial property. I felt this course provided the practical and vocational elements I was seeking.

Most of my contemporaries from university have followed similar routes into commercial property via mainly graduate programmes at commercial practices or the Valuation Office. 

Can you say something about your role and the support and training that you are getting?

I am lucky when it comes to my day to day role in the Retail & Leisure department as it involves a mixture of agency and Landlord and Tenant work, providing a good variety and experience. The agency role sees me dealing with enquiries about properties we have on the market and undertaking viewings. You will also find me drafting and finalising heads of terms for involved parties in preparation for solicitor’s instruction.

Within my Landlord and Tenant role you will find me writing emails triggering rent reviews or drafting section 26 terms to be sent to the client for review. If you come across me in the office (or currently at home), you would most likely see me reading leases or searching for evidence for rent reviews and lease renewals.

The Retail & Leisure team are great, they are very supportive and answer any questions I have, stupid or not! As a team we have weekly catch up meetings to discuss job progress that week and to establish what needs to be focused on in the coming week. I also have one-to-one meetings with each of the team to go over specific jobs. The level of contact has been invaluable. 

You joined the team during unusual times; what are the challenges and opportunities you’ve encountered?

It was a very unusual time to join and a bit of a shock to the system, including the early starts! I was anxious at first to understand how everything would work since there was no ‘normal’ - and still isn’t given the home working situation - but everyone has been very helpful, including colleagues from other departments (those I have had the chance to meet to-date).

It’s all well and good knowing what you are doing in university, but putting what you’ve learnt into practice is a bit different! In my first week I was tasked with a variety of things to do, but everything I learnt is falling into place and I am getting to grips with it all. It has been a fast learning curve and helped me embrace and understand the processes and working practices quicker than perhaps normal times would have required. In fact, it has proved you are not alone, with colleagues available to assist and advise at any time at the end of a phone or online, be it email or video calls. I rapidly felt more confident to competently research and pull information together.

In my second week I was tasked with undertaking viewings. This was interesting - from tackling stiff locks and roller shutter doors, which being 5ft 3in does pose some challenges, and all whilst socially distancing and wearing masks!

What have you learned about the retail & leisure sector – has anything surprised you?

I had some knowledge of the retail and leisure sector when I joined, so nothing was really a major surprise initially. However, one aspect has been the emerging importance of localism and my experience so far is that the local markets have done well throughout the pandemic, with many either looking to expand their current businesses or looking to set up new ventures. Either way, I think it’s great to see the local market thriving in such circumstances. Larger retail players have obviously seen difficulties in the current climate which will undoubtedly result in a changing face and focus of some of the main city pitches, so interesting times ahead.

What are your interests outside of work – how do you spend your spare time?

Outside of work most of my time is spent either running, cycling (indoors at the moment as it is too cold for me!) or swimming when able, as I am currently training - or more appropriately attempting to train - for my first half-Ironman!

Any place that you can’t wait to go to once restrictions are lifted?

I look forward to going out for a meal with family and friends, but can’t wait to be able to go skiing, albeit I may have to wait until next year. I am also looking forward to being able to go and stay in the Lake District and climb Scafell Pike to finish off the final peak of my Three Peaks challenge.

Read Rob Lane's piece here.

The Leekes Retail and Leisure Group have substantial property assets within the group and have engaged Andrew West to appeal against rating assessments on these properties since 2010. We have consistently been impressed by Andrew's knowledge of the property market and his negotiating skills have been exceptional. Given Andrew's outstanding performance, we would not hesitate to recommend Andrew to any business large or small seeking to appeal their rates liabilities.

Mike Fowler, Group Finance Director, Leekes Group