Asset manager Andri Pienaar, is also the acting general manager for Fourways Mall, a super-regional shopping centre in Fourways, Johannesburg.
For the last five years she has been involved in the redevelopment of Fourways Mall – the last 20 months of which she has been responsible for managing the team and day-to-day operations of the mall, in addition to her asset manager position.
Fourways Mall measures 180,000 m2, with some 350 retail stores and 8,000 parking bays. The extension of the mall, which opened in August 2019, is home to national and local retail brands, as well as international brands such as Cotton On, Starbucks and H & M, among others.
As an asset manager, Pienaar is part of a team that makes important portfolio and investment decisions to ensure that value is retained and risk is mitigated.
Her multifaceted role enables her to use business intelligence from asset data to build relationships with tenants. Furthermore, this allows her to gain full understanding of asset performance requirements used for service-level assurance.
“I was bit by the property bug 18 years ago and have never looked back. At the time, I was working for a niche law firm that specialised in property,” says Pienaar.
She has worked for a tenant property management company, and as a landlord and property developer in all aspects of property.
“Property development is challenging but highly rewarding. It’s like being pregnant and then waiting a long time for your baby to be born, thereafter dealing with the toddler phase when your mall starts settling and growing.”
On being a female asset manager
Pienaar says that the property industry is still very much male-dominated. “However, property management and leasing tend to attract a lot of women, which is encouraging.”
As an established female asset manager and key decision-maker, she would like to see more women in the boardroom making independent decisions.
Pienaar says that for those who aspire to be in property development, it is not easy. Women particularly, need to step up to the plate and roll up their sleeves, even it means climbing a scaffolding to check the progress.
“Those who work hard are rewarded, and once one finds their niche within the industry they flourish.”
The retail sector
Pienaar points out that the Covid-19 impact on the retail sector has been devastating, and continues to be so, to a certain extent.
In 2020, when the pandemic hit and South Africa went into hard lockdown, landlords took measures to assist struggling tenants. In line with the South African Property Owners’ Association (Sapoa) recommendations, Pienaar says they offered rent relief for their tenants.
“These relief models were suited to help alleviate individual tenants’ hardships during this difficult time. Short of having unlimited funds (which no one has) to solve every financial problem, I do not think there is anything else one could have done.”
She says that in asset management, there have been some shifts due to the global pandemic. For example, Pienaar notes that there are many rental reversions. This is a metric used to show whether a new lease agreement is showing higher or lower rental rates than before.
Tenants are also negotiating hard on their leases, whether new or when they renew. Additionally, she says they have seen opportunistic business rescue filings. The good news is that she believes this will be short-lived, and not likely to continue post-Covid.
Pienaar recalls seeing a memory on her Facebook page recently, in which she and the team were excited about the re-opening of the extended Fourways Mall in 2019. “At the time, I remembered the excitement of years of hard work about to be rewarded. Little did we know we were about to be hit by a double recession as a country in October/November 2019, and with Covid lurking around the corner in March 2020, waiting to strike. Looking back, she says there is a Hebrew saying: ‘Gam zeh ya’avor’ which means This too shall pass,”!
Challenging as her roles of being an asset manager and acting general manager are, Pienaar wouldn’t trade them for the world. “I love my job and I do every day. Retail is a dynamic sector with fascinating insights, as I get to deal with different businesses all the time.”
Apart from her demanding job, Pienaar has recently become a serious gardener, and reckons she could crack the landscaping business. “Gardening is quite relaxing. Much like property development; there is joy in seeing the fruits of your labour flourish after much nourishment.”
Pienaar is the mother of an adult daughter and school-going son. Outside of work and gardening, she has instilled in her children the value and reward of hard work.
Edited by Gudrun Kaiser