Membership Spotlight February 2019

Thursday, Feb 21, 2019

Cindy MacMillan


CREW is excited to spotlight Cindy MacMillan, CREW Vancouver's President for 2019!

Cindy is the Director of Asset Management for Anthem Properties. We recently sat down with Cindy to talk about her interesting career path, Anthem, and her thoughts on the ever-evolving retail industry. We LOVE what she has shared...

CREW Vancouver Q&A

Q: Walk us through your career. What led you to Asset Management?

I’ve been at Anthem for 14 years and held 3 different roles during my tenure. I started as a corporate accountant knowing nothing about commercial real estate. After 3 years of exposure to the business through accounting, I recognized that the sales side of real estate strongly appealed to me. In 2007, with the support of Anthem and a strong female leader within the company at the time, I made the switch to leasing.

Looking back at how my career shift happened, it’s quite a funny story. I was out for lunch at a company celebration and was sat beside Alexa, a leader in Anthem’s leasing department at the time who also happens to be one of the founding members of CREW Vancouver. Alexa and I got to talking and she asked me if I knew anyone who might be interested in joining their team in the recently vacant role of a leasing manager. I remember thinking “this is what I want, do I have the guts to say me?”. I didn’t know if it was the right time or place but decided that opportunities like this don’t always come along and you don’t get what you don’t ask for, so I leaned over and replied “yeah, me!”.

Knowing what she knew of me and my work ethic in accounting, I was successful in getting the role as a leasing manager. With my accounting background I understood the numbers side of things but it’s a relationship business. I remember attending my first conference, looking around a room 99% filled with men and thinking to myself “am I going to survive this?”. Female representation in commercial real estate is getting much better but back then it was a different time. Through hard work, Anthem’s support and a strong female leader, I found success.

Q: Tell us about Anthem.

Anthem is a real estate investment, management and development company that operates in 5 asset classes across 4 cities in Canada and the US. At Anthem, we work on properties in a team-based manor. In my role, I am responsible for the performance of my portfolio of assets, developing and executing each property’s strategic plan and ensuring they generate income for the company, so Anthem can continue to grow.

Even though when I started it was an 80-person company and it’s now 400, Anthem remains a very entrepreneurial company and it attracts talented people that make it a great place to work. Anthem nurtures its people and makes room for them to flourish in whatever area of the business they want to. I’m proof of that.

27 years ago, in Anthem’s early days, the company was primarily focused on commercial real estate, and it has been extremely exciting to watch us grow and thrive to become a relevant and respected developer, owner and manager in 5 asset classes.

Also, Anthem is a big supporter of CREW and has been an annual sponsor since the Vancouver chapter formed in 2005.

Q: What do you find is one of the biggest challenges of your role and the real estate industry?

Retail, which makes up a large portion of my portfolio, is such a moving target these days. How, where and when people shop is evolving at a quick pace and it’s the consumer who is now driving how we function in retail. A lot of the flexibility required for this rapidly changing environment falls on our tenants and it’s difficult to stay current as a landlord in retail unless you can be nimble.

There is a lot of pressure on landlords and tenants from consumers’ expectations, rising costs, the Amazon effect, etc. as well as a degree of uncertainty with not knowing what’s going to happen next in our industry. This makes people and corporations more careful, which is good, but it slows down the process and makes deals harder to do.

Q: Is retail dying?

Consumers are smart and know what they want. They’re willing to go places to get the right product.

In some areas of retail such as common ‘errands’ that people must do and may not necessary want to, for example buying groceries, I see a lot of consumers moving towards online shopping and delivery. However, I firmly believe that people are community driven and want physical spaces to commune and go for entertainment. Shopping is a great platform for that. It’s about creating the right spaces that entice people to want to go there.

People also love to touch and feel. In a research project conducted by Anthem we found that Generation Z, the generation following Millennials, are more willing to go into a store and shop than their preceding generation We’re also seeing the creation of clever marketing campaigns such as #OFFLINESHOPPING that was coined by TJX, to speak to the instant gratification received by physically shopping which isn’t attainable through online shopping.

I think the biggest technology shake up in retail is behind us and moving forward, tech will continue to integrate, enhance and be a vital part of the physical retail environment.

Q: How have you found your mentors and fostered relationships within and outside of work?

I have people that I look up to and can go to when I have questions. It’s important to have people in your professional circle that you’re comfortable asking questions or guidance to. Admitting you don’t know the answer can be such a great launchpad for learning and opportunity.

I also have a business coach who provides insight and direction and a fresh perspective on my role and is integral in my professional development.

I also find ways to get exposure to different people through attending industry events and getting involved in organizations like CREW. I have met so many smart, professional women who continue to inspire me and enhance my business network. CREW has over 150 amazing members so if you see someone that you’re interested in connecting with and you have that opportunity, take it. Ask them for a coffee!

Q: Favourite book you’ve read or podcast you’ve listened to recently?

Thank You For Being Late by Thomas Friedman

It shares an interesting perspective on creating space to think differently than you normally do, especially in such a fast-paced world where you feel like you should always be doing something else.

On behalf of CREW Vancouver, we would like to thank Cindy for such an incredibly honest and thoughtful interview. We can’t wait to be a part of all the positive change and fun events that Cindy has in store for CREW in 2019.