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Meet Jose de Pablo: championing diversity in the retirement sector

24 Aug 2019

We spoke to Jose de Pablo, Investment Director at Octopus Real Estate, about how his diverse experience helps him champion a new breed of inclusive and accessible retirement communities.

How long have you been with Octopus, and what did you do before you joined?

I’ve been at Octopus since 2015, and I currently manage investments within our retirement portfolio.

Before that, I worked at Colliers International as a consultant, where I helped BUPA with its acquisition of Richmond Villages. I started my career at Sunrise Senior Living in Washington D.C., helping them expand into new markets outside of the United States.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be a diplomat, but I realised early enough that I’m not very diplomatic! Thinking back, what interested me was the international aspect – and that’s the course I ended up following.

So your career has taken you around the world?

Yes, I’ve been very lucky to travel a lot. I was born and grew up in Seville, Spain and I spent my summers in Germany as a teenager. As well as my time in America with Sunrise, I completed my MBA between France and Singapore before coming to London.

Has this international experience given you an edge at Octopus?

It’s definitely helped inform my work here. Retirement communities are a relatively new real estate asset class in the UK, but they are well-established in other countries. I’ve been able to bring valuable insights to the table from my experience in the US and Japan. I know what tends to work, and what doesn’t, which is a real advantage.

What does a typical day at Octopus look like for you?

I’ll start by catching up with my team. There are five of us at the moment, but we’re looking to expand. We’ll set out what we need to achieve that day, and make a plan. I’ll usually go to a few meetings which is great because our team stays in constant communication with a wide range of people. Between meetings, I’ll be reviewing contracts, negotiating terms for deals, or working on fundraising initiatives.

What’s the best thing about life at Octopus?

I love the element of challenge. At Octopus there’s always an opportunity to learn more, to push yourself. I also love the entrepreneurial spirit here. We’re really trying to transform the industries we’re in, from real estate to venture capital to renewable energy.

But for me, the best thing is the way my job exposes me to different kinds of people and experiences. The communities we’re helping to create will provide people with genuinely attractive options for where to spend the last 10-20 years of their lives. It’s not just about downsizing to a smaller flat anymore. We’re providing fully age-adapted, actively-managed retirement villages where people can socialise and enjoy life. It’s a very rewarding thing to be involved in.

How do you like to relax when you’re not working?

I’m always happy when I’m with good friends, going to the opera or travelling. I was in Japan a couple of months ago, and more recently in Mykonos with a group of good friends.

What’s your advice for someone thinking about joining Octopus?

If you like to sit still, this might not be the place for you! Octopus is an agile environment, which can be demanding but equally, rewarding. A positive mindset and good energy goes a long way here.

If you could have a different career to the one you’re doing now, what would it be?

I’ve been in healthcare real estate for over 20 years – I really can’t imagine doing anything else. It’s such a varied industry, there are always new opportunities and roles to explore.

I recently joined the board of Tonic Living, a community interest company working to create LGBT+ affirmative retirement communities. There’s a growing population of older LGBT+ people in the UK, and research has shown that they often experience discrimination and social isolation. Tonic is working to change that. It’s a great thing to be part of – and it helps inform and enrich the rest of my work at Octopus.

So you’re championing diversity at Octopus?

Absolutely. Octopus is an entrepreneurial, boundary-breaking organisation – which means we’re in a great place to push for diversity. My team is very diverse, even though it’s small. We have a mix of genders, nationalities, ages and sexualities. Our work is strengthened by the varied perspectives we can all bring to our work, and I’m proud to work somewhere everyone feels accepted.

What three items do you carry with you everywhere you go?

Well, I never go anywhere without my phone, of course. But I don’t like to carry many things, so I’d say the other two are good company and an open mind.

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