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ESG & Diversity In Real Estate: What Are The Key Action Areas For Investors? With Jonathan Hannam & Joanna Marsh


On the the 3rd episode of Season 9 of The Propcast, Louisa is joined by Jonathan Hannam, Co-Founder and Managing Partner, Taronga Ventures and Joanna Marsh, GM Innovation & Advanced Analytics at Investa Property Group. They chat about their journeys towards a built environment and innovation space, with a focus on what can be done to bridge the gap between technologists and real estate institutions and corporates. 

The discussion zeroes in on how companies can improve diversity and ultimately speed up transformation as well as ESG technologies in the industry. The key understanding from this episode is that there is an incredible opportunity to be in between the real estate world and the emerging technology companies. 


Companies Mentioned:

Shout Outs:

Key Insights From This Episode: 

  • There is this incredible opportunity to be in between the real estate world and the emerging technology companies. – Jonathan
  • There is a much greater focus on using ESG to actually deliver real outcomes. – Jonathan
  • Historically in real estate, the industry has been extremely opaque. – Joanna
  • For the last 12 months, every investor and every discussion has been about ESG. – Jonathan
  • One of the trends in real estate has been the move from the point solutions to something that is more of a holistic ecosystem as well as the blending of the technologies together. – Joanna
  • We build better products and better businesses with diverse thoughts. – Joanna
  • Globally, the real estate sector isn’t greatly diverse especially at the senior leadership level. – Jonathan
  • We tell founders that, “Your business will be more attractive to us from a capital perspective, if you can demonstrate that you’ve got diversity of leadership.” – Jonathan
  • In 2019, 2.8% of funding went to women-led startups and in 2020, that fell to 2.3%. – Louisa 

About Our Guests:

Jonathan Hannam, Co-Founder and Managing Partner, Taronga Ventures 

Jonathan is a global citizen, having held senior executive and board roles across Asia and Europe in real estate, venture capital, technology, and infrastructure-related investments. In 2015, Jonathan jointly founded Taronga Ventures, Asia’s leading technology and innovation investor focused on the real estate sector and the wider built environment. His vision is to bridge the gap between real estate institutions and corporates, and the emerging technology companies that are now targeting the real estate sector. Through Taronga Ventures, Jonathan’s focus is on real estate technology (RealTech) investments that drive real and measurable impact across ESG, including carbon reduction, renewable energy, sustainability, and health & safety. Prior to Taronga Ventures, Jonathan has also held executive roles at Mirvac, as a Director at AREIM in Sweden and as the Portfolio Manager Asia for the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA) during a period when ADIA completed more than 40 transactions across Asia. 

In other roles, Jonathan has lived and worked in China, the Philippines and Singapore with Savills, and was also the Managing Director South East Asia based in Singapore for ING Real Estate. Jonathan attended the INSEAD AMP course in Singapore & Abu Dhabi in 2015-2016. He holds an MBA from the University of South Australia, a Bachelor of Planning & Design and a Bachelor of Town & Regional Planning from the University of Melbourne. He also completed postgraduate studies at Tsinghua University and is fluent in Mandarin and Swedish. 

About Taronga Ventures 

Taronga Ventures is Asia’s leading technology and innovation investor focused on the real estate sector and the wider built environment. The group consists of the RealTech Ventures Fund, the RealTechX innovation program and Taronga Advisory and has offices in Singapore and Australia. The Fund is backed by global institutional investors and major real estate owners including APG, Ivanhoé Cambridge, CBRE Inc., PGIM Real Estate, Mitsubishi Corporation, Nomura Real Estate, Patrizia AG, Dexus, Vicinity Centres, amongst others. The Fund invests into scalable technology and innovation that enhances or challenges the traditional real estate and infrastructure sectors. Taronga Ventures is focused on investing in strategic opportunities and providing its institutional partners first mover advantage, whilst maintaining a focus on creating a better built environment, through sustainable and responsible investment practices. Recognising that climate change is the biggest global challenge we all face, Taronga Ventures has been independently certified as being 100% carbon neutral.

Joanna Marsh, GM Innovation & Advanced Analytics at Investa Property Group

Joanna is a leader with 15+ years of Australian & International property experience, across office, industrial and residential sectors. Currently, she is GM of Innovation & Advanced Analytics at Investa and is disrupting the property markets globally though data & AI/ML analytics.

Over her career, she has transformed big property companies and small ones. Grown property businesses through acquisitions, financing and leasing. Sold down assets and restructured portfolios. Created property management & tenant service businesses. Built technology platforms with corresponding systems, processes and people.

Prior to Investa, she led Transformation & Innovation in Property at Lendlease, and Strategy & Strategic Operations at Dexus. 

Joanna studied Neuroscience at Harvard University, Design Thinking at Stanford and has a variety of AI/ML and data nanodegrees; as well as attending the entrepreneurial school of hard knocks.

About Investa  

Investa is a commercial real estate management and development service provider in the Australian office sector. With more than $11 billion in assets under management, we maximise the value of Australian workplaces for our tenants, investors and the community through our office management expertise and by consistently delivering a superior customer experience, while remaining in industry leader in sustainable building management and responsible property investment.t.

About Our Host

Louisa Dickins

Louisa is the co-founder of LMRE, which has rapidly become the market leading global PropTech recruitment platform and search consultancy with operations across North America, United Kingdom, Europe and Asia-Pacific.

To promote the industry she is so passionate about, Louisa set up the Global podcast ‘The Propcast’where she hosts and invites guests from the built environment space to join her in conversation about innovation.

About LMRE

LMRE is globally recognised for leading the way in Real Estate Tech & Innovation talent management.

From the outset our vision was to become a global provider of the very best strategic talent to the most innovative organisations in PropTech, ConTech, Smart Buildings, ESG, Sustainability and Strategic Consulting.

At LMRE we are fully committed at all times to exceed the expectations of our candidates and clients by providing the very best advice and by unlocking exclusive opportunities across our global network in the UK, Europe, North America and Asia-Pacific.


[02:20] Jonathan: Talk us through your career and tell us how you ended up at Taronga Ventures?

  • My career started in China, I did my post-grad at a Chinese University and I started doing Urban Planning and from there I stumbled into real estate working for a Singaporean firm in China (one the first VC funds in that markert). 
  • After working in VC, I started at Savills and I have now been in real estate for the last 25 years. 
  • I then worked for Abu Dhabi Investment Authority before moving on to ING Real Estate Finance and most recently Mirvac.

[04:30] Joanna: Can you tell us about your 15 years in real estate? 

  • I started at Harvard studying neuroscience. Investment banks, consulting companies and banks love Ivy league kids with science degrees so I went to work at KeyBank Real Estate Capital where we did the structural and financial side of real estate.  
  • I decided I wanted to be an entrepreneur and started a small fund where we bought multifamily assets, refurbished them and started a property management company to do that. 
  • I arrived in Australia at 30, with a failed business and a banking career so I started working on strategy at DEXUS Property Group.  I was more interested in the cutting edge and at Lendlease I was doing transformation and innovation, moving further up the R and D curve.

[07:20] Joanna: What are investors honing in on when it comes to innovation? 

  • We have a broad innovation strategy. Advanced analytics and data underpins all of it. 
  • One of the ways of innovating is to take on startups and scaleups and integrate new technologies. 
  • Data and analytics sit under everything that we do. 

[09:20] Jonathan: You are currently running an ESG impact program, can you talk us through the program and the mission of it? 

  • We needed to have both the fund and a growth program. 
  • The ESG program is for select high calibre quality companies
  • We needed to move up to the scalable businesses who already had customers and they had some level of traction because the real estate world actually couldn’t deal with startups. 
  • It is an ecosystem builder. 

[13:00] Joanna: With ESG, it is difficult to get good data from it as well as finding technology to support it. What is your take on this? 

  • Historically in real estate, the industry has been extremely opaque. There’s been huge information asymmetry and that’s resulted in a massive lack of transparency. 
  • The information asymmetries are breaking down and what’s happening is we’re starting to be able to abstract data from other industries and from other data sets in order to back solve and fill in data that the real estate industry either doesn’t have or is not sharing. 
  • The pressure from the investors and the capital regarding ESG is forcing a level of transparency and scrutiny that is going to become akin to financial reporting.  

[15:35] On the topic of investment going into the real estate space and ESG, are there any technologies which you guys can share? 

  • For the last 12 months, every investor and every discussion has been about ESG.  
  • In the building management, energy efficiency space, there are a lot of Companies that are targeting that as an area, but we are looking for a more complete solution. 
  • It often isn’t a cost, it’s actually a benefit and an upside for the corporates that start using this technique

[18:30] Joanna: Are there any major trends that you have seen in the real estate space? 

  • The move from the point solutions to something that is more of a holistic ecosystem as well as the blending of the technologies together.
  • Some technologies simplify a part of something but causes so much extra exhaustion.

[21:25] How do we attract and retain more people into the real estate and data world? 

  • The first thing is to know that it is possible. 
  • In terms of diversity, I think it is about honouring diversity of thought and innovation. 

[24:40] Jonathan: What are your thoughts on this, knowing that you are in the hiring process? 

  • What we’ve tried to do from within our advisory board and from our hiring policy, is to have the most diverse approach hiring that we can have. 
  • When we’ve looked through the businesses that we are investing in, we often see that it is male founded.  
  • We’re doing a lot of work to try to positively fund female founded enterprises.  

[29:35] Have you seen any change happening when it comes down to education and exploring technology as a career path?

  • Jonathan: I moved from Australia from Sweden, and in Sweden there is just a different approach. We have systematic issues in Australia when it comes to childcare. 
  • Joanna: I think there is a lack of how to even do this and things like how to raise capital.

[32:30] Jonathan: What is next for Taronga? 

  • In the next three months we will be churning through hundreds of deals to work out the partners for the ESG program.

[33:25] Joanna: What is exciting that is coming up? 

  • The data, analytics and advanced analytics of ESG and the ecosystem around that. 
  • Giving the power back to the people  where you no longer have to big IT for innovation. 

[35:50] The ‘LMRE’ part, Louisa asks the guests to talk about; 

L – Touch on the main lessons you have learnt throughout your career.

Jonathan: Decision-making in the corporate real estate world takes longer and you need to build your business to be able to withstand that challenge.

Joanna: Be really resourceful and find a way.

M – Please give a mention to anyone / product / service.


Joanna: William CosbyEx Omina  

R – What has been the most rewarding aspect of working in PropTech?

Jonathan: The people

Joanna: Partnering

E – What are you excited about in the future of PropTech?

Joanna: Distilling down to the fundamental set of data points.


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