Nearly all real estate assets being impacted by COVID-19, we sat down remotely with Erik Engstrand, an authority in risk management, COVID-19 Compliance and security management for retail, shopping centres and real estate. Erik has a strong risk management background working for organisations such as IKEA, Lindex, and PSU until getting back to working successfully in his own business SAFE Asset Group since 2016.
Introducing Erik Engstrand to our readers
I have 30 years of experience in the area of risk and security management and my focus for the past 15 years has been in hospitality, retail and real estate. I have worked extensively on an international basis and lived in Russia and China working with the challenges there from a risk and security perspective.
What is your take on COVID-19 lockdowns and what could companies do differently to remain unparalysed by them?
Well, we also got uncertain on what to do and so did a lot of our clients. And since most of our clients are outside of Sweden, this became a challenge. We sat down and looked at the current situation and our business idea and started to brainstorm what we could do as a business to support our clients and how that would look like.
Once we decided, we made a plan to manage the risks for our business and also our clients by supporting them with advice free of charge and then also identifying the needs.
We digitalised our processes and started to do what we are good at, doing audits and assessments with the help of audits.io, this time by issuing COVID-19 Compliance assessments and certifications. They have become a very big support for our clients and also for our own business.
What we have found out in these audits and assessments is that there are a lot of small things that retailers and public buildings can do to increase trust in customers. Whether it's signage or enhanced cleaning of touch prone surfaces, these actions stack up and stick to consumers' minds as well.
How do you see things turning out in Retail and Shopping Centres in the next few years?
Wow, a hard question and I do not have a crystal ball. What we see from a real estate perspective is for sure mixed use of assets and transformation of the shopping space to more than just shopping. It sounds cliché but that will happen.
Also retail will not go away. People love to shop but how they shop and where they do will change. But people are people and we like to feel, touch, meet and eat so therefore the meeting spaces will become even more important.
Most of us have also noted that this same applies for offices. People will not continue to work “only” from home, but the office space will change and the type of services for an office will also change.
As an auditor I have personally seen how far many Retailers and Shopping Centres have been ready to go in order to keep their customers and visitors safe and to provide the needed trust, I am confident that things will get better. Those companies who have understood that safety is now a big part of customer experience will have a better chance of survival than those who haven't.
Besides pandemics, what other risks are companies currently overlooking too much?
Pandemics have certainly brought more attention to different types of risks. It's interesting that cleaning as a function and department is actually a board level priority now and that has never happened before. So boards' views of risks are definitely changing.
I feel that cyber attacks and "lone wolf" attacks by extremists will happen more often in the Nordics as well. Organised crime is changing its face and methods so it will still be a priority to be able to stay competitive as a business and for the protection of people and your brand.
What is the wildest and most memorable case of your career (so far)?
In our business, we run into a lot of funny things and also some not so funny.
This memorable story actually took place in China. While working there, we got taken to a dinner with a client in a small village in the very southern part of the country close to the border of Vietnam. With benevolence and pride, they served us dog, this being a traditional cuisine in the area. That was very different from anything I had seen and also a lesson on how to politely say no even through a thick language barrier. Our hosts spoke hardly any English so we ended up having a lot of Baijiu (Chinese booze) instead of dog.
Safe Asset Group is certifying different types of assets for COVID-19 compliance. What does the certification include?
We look at six core areas of real estates in terms of COVID-19 certification and assessments:
1. Management system - Roles, responsibilities, organisation and legal issues.
2. Risk assessment - Safety risk assessment to minimise the spread of COVID-19 in and around the asset.
3. Supplier safety measures - Hygiene for their staff, self-health declaration, rules on social distancing, compliance and enforcement of rules.
4. Tenant Safety measures – Safety measures for the asset, queuing, social distancing rules, and enforcement, communication/public announcements.
5. Hygiene/cleaning - Risk mapping of areas, cleaning measures and touch prone surfaces.
6. Staff safety measures - Measures for safety of staff and visitors, signage, social distancing measures, disinfection, rules and enforcement.
Thank you Erik for chatting with us!
If you want to increase trust in your clientele by getting your real estate certified for COVID-19 Compliance, visit Safe Asset Group website at https://safeassetgroup.com/.
If you're looking for a mobile solution for COVID-19 inspections, cleaning audits or other self-assessments, have a look at our tool audits.io and start a 30-day free trial today:
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