‘Fast Five’ with Bruce van Niekerk - General Manager Projects, Operations & Innovation

Bruce’s career has spanned the financial services sector, not for profit, construction and development sectors including roles in business development and operational management. Passionate about the hospitality, retirement and retail asset classes, Bruce has been instrumental in creating development opportunities for developers, tenants and operators alike; helping clients develop partnerships which build their portfolios and ultimately add value to their business.


Your title is General Manager Projects – Operations and Innovation. Can you explain in more detail what your role entails day to day.

With such a wordy title, it’s fair to say I get asked this question quite a bit! While I’m not a project manager per se, I’m quite heavily involved in what we call the ‘how’ and ‘why’ we deliver our client’s the best outcomes possible. A lot of this involves incorporating the research of our economics analysts on market trends (new product typologies or price metrics for example) and investigating new opportunities for design innovation (global trends, technologies or methodologies) with our consultant teams and tying these opportunities together into project objectives that we action throughout the journey. We don’t believe in ‘doing it like it’s always been done’ -  and with the resources we have in house, my job is to make sure we leave no stone unturned.


You are based in Sydney. What upcoming approved project/development can you see having the biggest impact on the city?

In the short / medium term, the staged opening of the Sydney Metro project(s) are going to be well received by Sydney residents who for decades have not had a rail service as a public transport option. Beyond the travel related convenience, the redevelopment of the nodes around the light rail stations is going to generate significant pockets of redevelopment that will create opportunities for young people to find employment and housing near where they live.


What will Australian Cities look like in the next 50 years?  And How do we get there?

Our cities are currently experiencing huge transport social infrastructure investment – short term pain but hopefully for long term benefit. Coupling this with technological / digital disruption to our work and home environments, I imagine that true mixed use development, future proofed by flexible built form design, will see our cities develop into ecosystems that will self-stimulate growth. I’d like to see cities that contain a rich mix of residences, commercial space, short term accommodation, retail, education, food & beverage, health and social services (if planning system changes allow), occupying buildings whose uses can adapt as changes to the inherent social fabric do. Flexible cities, empowered by solid infrastructure and a progressive planning system.


How has technology impacted the evolution of project management?

The honest answer is ‘not as much as it should have by now’. The construction industry is at an innovation inflection point across consultants, contractors and developers – there’s more capable technology on offer than ever before but only few firms (generally those with a blend of  ownership across age and gender groups) are adopting and adapting. The problem we face is the conflict between the young innovators and the more age mature developers or bigger firms who are more innovation averse. There’s a serious leadership void to be filled in this space and I think it needs to come from a group of industry players who define and champion the pathway forward, because there’s money to made by everyone.


What has been your career highlight to date?

The gratefulness shown by a family childcare developer when we managed to get their first child care centre approved when it seemed like they were up against the wall with council.


Contact: Bruce van Niekerk General Manager Projects, Operations & Innovation 02 9221 5211