Octodec FD Anabel Vieira rethinking the property game

Having recently stepped into the FD role, Anabel is looking forward to navigating the changing property industry.

Anabel Vieira stepped into the role of FD at Octodec Investments on 1 September. Having spent the previous five years as a senior financial manager at City Property Administration, the asset and property manager of Octodec’s R11.3 billion property portfolio is looking forward to the challenges that will come with her new role.

Her new wide-ranging responsibilities at Octodec will include jointly shaping and driving the group’s strategy and directly managing its financial reporting and treasury functions. In addition, Anabel’s role includes complete oversight of the tax and compliance functions, ensuring that the group delivers on its legislative requirements.

Leading in uncertain times
Anabel says that she has found that when working in finance, you often deal with the past and report on previous events. She says, “Taking on an executive function is exciting because you are steering the ship, making decisions and mapping the way to do what’s necessary to achieve your goals. I am excited about the fact that this new role is very much future driven rather than reviewing the past.”

She acknowledges that the industry is going through a challenging time: “There was already a climate of low economic growth and the recession just before the pandemic hit us. So these have been tough times for businesses, and most are focused on protecting their business instead of growing it.”

She says that property used to be an attractive industry because it was reliably stable, continuously growing, but even that has changed: “The economy has become very tough, so you need to make big decisions and act on them quickly.” However, she says that on the flip side, these shifts are forcing industry leaders out of their comfort zones and signalling that they need to explore new ways of doing business.

Navigating the new normal
Anabel is optimistic that there are opportunities to be unearthed. However, she says that most businesses are looking to sustain themselves rather than take risks, so there is still an air of caution. “For us, the new opportunities we see are in trying to change the product that we offer. We don’t operate in a business where you can quickly sell off your assets at the drop of a hat or make rapid changes. You have to look at reinventing your product offering and trying to enhance it. We also have to look at the market and respond and adjust to what it’s telling us.”

She points to newly accepted ways of working and how the move to hybrid work has shifted the demand for property. “Office space tenants have different needs now, depending on whether they are big corporations or SMMEs. We are looking at converting offices into more full-service offerings and enhancing them as user-friendly places for people to meet. We are also rethinking the facilities as locations for people to access services they may not have at home, such as stable wi-fi, quiet spaces, and meeting rooms to congregate. We don’t yet know what the demand will be, but we will test that market to gain a better understanding as time goes.”

The company is also looking at trends in the residential market. Anabel says that it’s clear that working from home or flexible working is here to stay, and the company is diving deeper into how to tailor its offerings in that fast-evolving space.

Keeping a bigger mission in sight
She explains that at this time, with the slow economic growth, the group isn’t in a position to undertake huge, exciting projects, but says keeping an eye on a bigger purpose is still important. Octodec is a property investment company focusing on reviving the CBDs, something that matters deeply to Anabel. “Seeing our inner cities run down is heart-breaking, so finding opportunities where we can positively impact our cities is important to me,” she says. “I am excited about some new projects on the horizon, and my role is making sure we are well-financed and able to accomplish more.”

Outside of work, her biggest hobby is international travel, and she enjoys holidays that involve visiting historical sites in Europe and the Middle East, peppered with some adventure.