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Groundbreaker Profile

Dean Hopkins: Innovator Brings a Powerful New Perspective to the Real Estate Industry

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When global real estate developer Oxford Properties realized they needed to catalyze a whole new era of robust growth, they recruited technologist Dean Hopkins. Oxford President Michael Turner needed a tech dynamo who could bring deep digital know-how to enable Oxford’s vision of becoming the global real estate company of the future. Today, Hopkins is one of the most senior individuals in the global real estate sector to have come from a deep background in technology. We caught up with Dean Hopkins to discuss his role in helping Oxford make the digital leap forward.

Your background is in technology. How did you cross paths with Oxford Properties?

I spent the better part of 30 years in technology before I joined Oxford and the real estate industry. It was actually quite a bit of a change for me to move from the land of tech startups into real estate, but Michael Turner—our president—made a compelling case. He said, “Listen, real estate is about to undergo a massive shift in digitization and the application of technology.” I said, "Real estate?”

I didn’t feel I knew a lot about the real estate sector at that time. As Michael explained, "We've got lots of guys that understand real estate. What we don't have is anybody who understands tech." After about a year of talking to Michael I made the jump. I’ve been at Oxford now for two years, really soaking up the real estate sector and applying technology to its changing iteration.

As Oxford’s Chief Operations Officer, what are you focused on day to day?

The role is multifaceted. A number of teams report to me, and it’s all about helping inspire and discover the best use of technology, the best use of marketing and communications, and establishing best standards and practices for our properties. My job is all about helping Oxford put these digital practices into place around the world. We’re in 19 cities globally, totaling 130 million square feet across about 400 buildings. A pretty large canvas and a lot of change.

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Can you explain Oxford’s 4.0 strategy and what it means to you?

Going 4.0 is actually one of the reasons I joined Oxford in the first place. Michael Turner had a compelling vision. "Listen, we need to think about ourselves in the future tense. What does Oxford look like in 2025? And how do we imagine that?" He gave it the 4.0 brand and challenged us to think about how we could become the best version of ourselves in 2025. The reason it was important to me is because it meant I could actually have a direct impact on a global organization and make it one of the best, most compelling, most competitive real estate companies in the world.

How do you feel about the impact that you're having on Oxford, and the industry as a whole?

When I came in, I was really welcomed into the industry. A number of my new peers invited me to a small gathering where we sat down and talked about the real challenges and issues being faced in real estate. I will say I initially felt like, wow, I'm a fish out of water here! But as I worked through that and immersed myself in real estate—building some really strong personal relationships in the process—I began to realize to what extent I could actually have a real impact here. I can bring a perspective that no one else has.

In some sense that must have felt like an awesome opportunity, or even a responsibility?

Yes, a sense of responsibility, that’s right. How can I help this industry, which at $200 trillion is one of the largest asset classes in the world? It still boggles my mind that it's bigger than the stock and bond markets combined. Then partway through my tenure here COVID hits, and that became a sudden extra challenge. Because I have Operations in my purview, I needed to own Oxford’s COVID protocols in 19 cities around the world. I more or less didn't sleep from March until June of 2020, there was just so much going on—on both the 4.0 side and on the COVID side.

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You came through it!

I did. It was a lot of responsibility, a little bit of exhaustion, an initial sense of not necessarily knowing why I was there and how I could contribute. Now I'm just happy. This is the best job I've ever had. I'm challenged. I'm curious—and my curiosity takes me to interesting places. I love that. I'm fortunate to wake up every day and do this job.

Oxford’s 4.0 initiative is big, it’s lofty, it’s high-minded. Is there an end game here?

Does it end? No. You know, I'm a big fan of Ray Kurzweil. If you've never read Kurzweil, he just confirms that as humans we see things linearly—when in fact the world is actually changing exponentially around us. If anything, the rate of change is increasing. And so what we see for Oxford as a journey towards 4.0 is actually a journey to the horizon, and beyond. What I'm trying to do is make sure we're creating a resilient group that can keep pace with the rate of change in our industry—or better yet, defines the rate of change in our industry.

And if that's the only thing I leave behind—forget all the tools and all the technologies and all that stuff—if I just leave behind the ability for the organization to keep pace with––and even surpass––the industry’s rate of change, that's a pretty big impact. And I would feel pretty good about that.

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