Arthur Charlaftis: People Are At The Heart Of Our Business

Arthur Charlaftis: People Are At The Heart Of Our Business

In a recent chat with iProperty.com Malaysia, Arthur shared with us his plans and goals for the company as well as how the integration of both brands will translate into better products and services for its customers and consumers across the ASEAN region.

Please do tell us a bit about yourself.

I joined REA Group five years ago after more than 15 years working in senior commercial leadership positions within multinational businesses, with responsibilities extending across Emerging Markets and the Asia Pacific region.

In 2011, I took on the role leading the Sales & Marketing Operations of REA Group, overseeing the transformation of the business processes and teams to deliver sales efficiencies and improve overall profitability.

Last year, I commenced the new position of COO of international markets, covering our operations in Italy, Luxembourg, France, Germany as well as an investment in Move Inc. in North America.

iProperty Group joined the REA Group family in February this year and I’ve been spending a lot of time with our teams across Southeast Asia. It’s been a fantastic opportunity to learn more about different cultures and people, as well as the diversity of our markets.

I have a personal interest in the commercial property sector, managing the entire property development process of a number of child-care facilities throughout Melbourne.

With a population of more than 500 million people, Southeast Asia is the world’s fastest-growing real estate market. How does iProperty Group fit into REA’s picture of growth and expansion?

iProperty Group and growth in Asia is a core part of our global strategy – arguably the most important part.

The market conditions in Southeast Asia are extremely promising. Average property prices in Singapore and Hong Kong are already higher than in Australia, and there are more than a million property transactions per year in Southeast Asia.

The total advertising spend here is at a similar level to Australia, however online only accounts for a very small percentage of the total advertising spend.

We know that consumers in these markets are online and connected, and we expect that with changes in consumer behaviour, the advertising spend will migrate rapidly towards online channels.

iProperty Group is well positioned to capture this transition to digital. The team – with local market expertise and access to capabilities and resources from REA’s global network – will play a pivotal role in growing the digital advertising market within the region.

What are your strategies moving forward with the acquisition of iProperty Group?

Our aim in every market we operate in is to deliver the best consumer experiences and to provide value to our customers.

With cross-border property transactions increasing in popularity, we have already launched the Global Property Network which provides iProperty consumers the opportunity to view more than 4 million properties across more than 56 countries. That means consumers right across the world can now view properties available in Malaysia, and connect to sellers in the Malaysian property market.

There is also further opportunity to forge stronger links between investors in the Southeast Asian region and Australian real estate agents and developers.

With iProperty’s dominant position within Southeast Asia, there is a fantastic opportunity to connect buyers, investors and customers from these markets to a global network– providing them with access to the largest resource of online real estate advertising in the world.

What is the biggest challenge you faced so far as COO of REA Group? How did you handle it?

Good question! I think the largest challenge we have as a business is around people.

Our business is all about people – it’s about attracting and retaining people with the vision to imagine what the future of our industry could look like, as well as finding the skills and expertise to help us reach the next level.

We have incredible people as part of our business around the world. We are really proud of the opportunities we provide to our teams in terms of training, development and mobility across markets.

We have a truly unique culture – not just within our first home in Australia, but on a global basis. Our culture has innovation at its heart, with a commitment to supporting big ideas which will help us to deliver on our purpose – to change the way the world experiences property.

Which is most important to your organizationmission, core values or vision?

I would say our values. They are incredibly important to me, my team and the whole company. It’s the role of the leadership team, as well as everyone in the business, to ensure that we live by them every day through our work and in our interactions with each other.

How do other leaders in the REA Group communicate the “core values”?

What I love most about our values is that they were developed by people within our business – not by the executive team. For us, that means in every market we operate in, we work in a way that brings these values to life. That is, we: Own it, Re-imagine it, Inspire it, Do it with heart, Do it as one team and Keep it Real.

Our values feel authentic to who we are. It’s been easy for our broader teams to embrace them because there’s a sense that ‘Yes – this is us.’

How do you encourage creative thinking within the REA Group?

We’ve made it a priority to grow a culture that encourages our people to take risks and prioritise innovation. We’ve done this by committing a regular period of time solely to this purpose. The time allows our teams the space to think about ways we can change the way the world experiences property.

Every three months, REA Group holds Inventorship days (previously called Hack Days) where we allow our teams to spend two days working individually or as part of a team to identify a challenge they want to solve to change the property experience and experiment with the latest technology and develop new products for our consumers, customers and the community.

In 2015, we launched The Big Idea, an international innovation program to capture, evaluate and test new business ideas. While innovation is something we encourage every day, The Big Idea provides an opportunity for our people to bring an idea to life, provide seed funding to help it get it to market and we are now working on getting the first ‘big idea’ out there for our consumers.

What is your decision-making style?

My background in sales and marketing means that I approach things from an analytical perspective. I like to have all the facts and figures in front of me so decisions can be made in context.

As I also have a science background, this too allows me to have grass root understanding and focus on continuous improvement and truly understanding action and causality.

Aside from this, I also encourage my teams to be provocative in our discussions. Having a robust debate is a great way to keep our thinking fresh and ensure we’re considering a full range of possibilities.

How do you unwind?

I travel a lot with work, so one of the best ways to relax is by sitting around the dinner table with my wife and children. I come from a big Greek family and coming together over good food is just part of our makeup! It’s “device free” time where we can spend time together and chat about our day. It’s one of my favourite things to do.

This article was first published in the iProperty.com Malaysia October 2016 Magazine. Get your copy from selected news stands or view the magazine online for free at www.iproperty.com.my/magazine.  Better yet, order a discounted subscription by putting in your details in the form below!

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