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JLL aims to conquer Canadian real estate with a boost from tech


JONES Lang LaSalle Inc's Canada division is out to become the top commercial real estate services company in the nation, tapping tech to propel growth.

"Are we going to go to blockchain leases? We're doing the research there," Brett Miller, JLL Canada's chief executive officer, said in an interview, referring to a digitised, distributed ledger technology. "The whole process that used to be done manually, of identifying clients' needs, coming up with a fit plan, surveying the market, touring the market, making offers - well, that's got streamlined with all sorts of technology."

JLL has developed a tool called Blackbird, "a Google Earth on turbo", as Mr Miller put it, which displays the company's databases as a 3-D map, and launched an international venture fund to invest up to US$100 million in companies that use technology to improve protocols ranging from development and investing to leasing and management.

JLL Canada, based in Toronto, has grown tenfold to over 1,500 employees since Miller became CEO in 2012, he said at Bloomberg's Toronto bureau earlier this month. It has increased its revenue by 1,000 per cent, he said, declining to disclose the figure itself, and aims to surpass the Canadian units of CBRE Group Inc and Cushman & Wakefield Inc.

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"We've had a massive ramp-up, and our objective is JLL being No 1 in the marketplace and the most comprehensive service provider," he said.

Mr Miller sees the company's tech-based services as an important part of the plan. The Canadian government is implementing JLL's building-management technology platform, IntelliCommand, and Mr Miller is weighing a service to help landlords run their own co-working facilities.

"We're into the final days of the concept of the long-term commercial lease," which "very much suits the landlords, because who wouldn't want their tenant to be locked in for 10 years?" he said. "All of our large occupiers are now saying, how can we have an element of flexibility?"

One answer is WeWork Cos, the co-working leader, whose revenue jumped 110 per cent in the first quarter and whose Toronto properties include tenants such as Royal Bank of Canada and Shopify Inc alongside entrepreneurs.

But some tenants worry about the employee who "gets distracted with free beer, hears about the latest startup, possibly gets recruited away, loses that engagement and connectivity," Mr Miller said. "We're developing technology to allow employers to manage employees at a distance, using apps and communication tools." Mr Miller is something of a nomad himself. He has no office or regular desk, preferring to set his laptop down as the whim strikes him. BLOOMBERG

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