Emma Burnaby-Atkins to Judge Inspiring Women in Property Awards

Madison Lincoln's Senior Director will join the panel for the 2024 Property Week's Inspiring Women in Property Awards.

Property’s Week’s Inspiring Women in Property Awards sets a new benchmark for recognising collective efforts and achievements in advancing equality, diversity, and inclusion within the property sector. The awards offer a unique opportunity to recognise individuals, teams, and organisations dedicated to breaking down the barriers that women face in real estate.

Emma Burnaby-Atkins says: “It’s a real honour to be on the judging panel for the 2024 Inspiring Women in Property Awards. I’m particularly pleased to be involved in recognising those individuals and teams creating positive change for women in property.”

The judging panel, comprised of leaders from across the property sector, reviews the entries, deliberates in panels, and elects the winners through a rigorous judging process.

Entries can be submitted via https://iwip.propertyweek.com
The entry deadline is 7th June 2024.

Emma brings extensive experience in real estate investment and funds.

Emma Burnaby-Atkins has joined Madison Lincoln to lead its real estate investment and private equity executive search offering. This appointment follows our steady and continued growth over the past 18 months.

Emma’s extensive experience in real estate investment and funds will enable us to build outstanding leadership teams for existing and prospective clients. Emma Burnaby-Atkins joins from Macdonald & Company, where she was a director within the Real Estate Investment and Funds practice for seven years. Prior to this, Emma specialised in senior level executive search within the European real estate and hospitality sectors at Ferguson Partners.

We are continuing to see strong senior recruitment demand from clients and prospects across the industry. Emma’s impressive track record in placing senior executives across real estate private equity, investment management, REIT and family offices will be crucial as we expand our existing client base and service.

If you want to discuss recruitment within real estate private equity, investment management, REIT and family offices, please do get in touch.

The Rise of the Counter Offer

Most businesses want to attract female and diverse talent at leadership level. But are they doing enough to nurture and retain senior women?

Often, it’s only when a senior woman resigns that you see organisations jump into action and so everything to persuade them to stay.

The LSE and Mastercard Inclusion Initiative[1], which interviewed black women in finance, professional services, and technology, discovered organisations are increasingly using counter offers to retain talent. 14 of the 32 women who resigned from their roles were presented with monetary offers to stay.

Are Women More Loyal to Organisations?

We concur: Every single senior female candidate we placed has then received a counter offer from their existing employer. Significantly, female candidates themselves are more likely to entertain a responding pay rise. They often have a strong sense of loyalty and integrity, which causes them to give their current organisation a second chance.

Organisations must better nurture current and future female leaders to achieve gender balance in the boardroom. Current employers must focus on supporting and developing them and, if they’re not, women shouldn’t turn down promising opportunities to stay. Sadly, this isn’t always the case. We have seen some extremely talented candidates decline career-changing job offers.

Counter Offers Don’t Always Work

Our experience is that senior talent leaves an organisation because of corporate culture, not feeling valued, or not being given the right opportunities; it’s rarely down to salary alone. Offering a financial reward to stay seldom addresses the underlying issues. 80% of candidates who accept a counter offer from their current employer end up leaving within six months anyway (Phaidon International Research).

What we’re beginning to see is a divide in the way that senior women are recruited versus the way they are promoted and rewarded, all within the same organisation.

Female and D&I Talent in Real Estate

Demand for female and D&I talent remains high, even more so at senior levels. Real estate firms recruiting for positions are increasingly demanding diverse shortlists, so we will see more competition to recruit and retain female talent. Counter offers for women will become more prevalent as approaches from competitors rise.

We have a perfect storm brewing: a cohort of senior, valuable female talent that has been overlooked within an industry where there is now tremendous demand for them.


[1] ‘Transparent: Creating Organisations Inclusive of Black Women in Finance, Professional Services and Big Technology.’

Gemma has worked at Madison Lincoln since the beginning, leading the administration side of the business. Her extensive experience in supporting companies in periods of high growth and change has enabled Madison Lincoln to flourish, even in challenging times. Gemma focuses on enhancing our work environment, refining processes, overseeing projects, and organising the team.

What do you enjoy about your role?

We have a very clear vision of what needs to be done, and I enjoy using my analytical and organisation skills to solve problems and help get us there. I am passionate about creating a rewarding workplace culture and an environment that motivates and inspires. Overall, I would just like to think of myself as steadying the ship in all weathers!

Why real estate recruitment?

I began my career in several administration roles, before joining a real estate and construction recruitment agency, where I gained a good understanding of the key “behind the scenes” procedures. Staying in operations, I joined a strategy agency, before moving to a wine supplier. In these two roles, I established new systems and processes, arranged office moves, organised events and managed multiple office locations.  

With these skills on board, I ultimately returned to real estate recruitment and Madison Lincoln. I believe my experience in these different industries and my understanding of fast-growing environments gives me a unique perspective.

What skills and experience do you bring to Madison Lincoln?

I think combining an innate understanding of people and business environments with a creative approach really helps me in this role. Having a real mix of skills and experience has been a huge advantage. I have two, quite different, degrees (one in sociology from Warwick University and another in professional make-up artistry), which goes to show the range of my interests!

How do you switch off?

I’m not sure I ever really do, with a young daughter at home! Before starting a family, I travelled extensively across South America, Southeast Asia, Canada, and Africa. Although I tend to stay a bit closer to home these days, I love nothing more than discovering new restaurants and places with my husband and friends.

75% of The Times Top 100 companies and 70% of UK companies with over 50 employees use psychometric testing* as part of their recruitment process. But how important is psychometric testing for hiring senior real estate talent?

There are three key success factors when hiring a board-level executive:

  1. A Strong pool of applicants:
    An extensive and far-reaching research phase will produce an exhaustive pool of initial candidates from which to create exceptional shortlists.
  2. Securing your 1st choice candidate:
    This requires creating a positive and rewarding process that positively reflects on your organisation, detailed candidate packs and regular reporting from us.
  3. Ensuring long term success:
    The essential experience and skills will be checked early in the process, but ensuring cultural fit, personality, and communication styles to inspire and lead a team are harder to guarantee. Psychometric testing is a vital part of confirming this and will lead to better business outcomes and increased retention.

According to Hogan Assessments, ‘Leadership is the ability to build and maintain a team that performs well relative to its competition'**. Psychometric testing helps you understand a candidate’s aptitude for inspiring others, communication, management style, problem solving abilities, judgement and how their personality aligns with your organisation’s culture? Ultimately, the goal is to secure someone who creates an environment that positively influences team effectiveness.

What are we looking for?

As well as securing a candidate that will optimise the team they will lead, there are other reasons to use psychometric testing.

Why psychometric testing?

As well as supporting the selection and decision-making process for senior hires, we have also used psychometric testing to aid succession planning efforts, identifying future leaders already within the organisation.

Thomas International, a provider of psychometric assessment tools, deems it critical that leaders model their company’s values***. Workplace Personality Assessments will reveal innate personality preferences, their underlying motivations and how these will show in the work environment. We then map the candidates’ preferences against our client’s values.

We work with clients to secure the best senior real estate talent, using our in-depth understanding of the industry. Interviews combined with a candidate’s track record and reputation will encompass the bulk of the selection process, but psychometric testing helps to identify those essential character traits and competencies for leaders.

If you’d like to find out about our psychometric testing services, please do get in touch.


*https://www.hoganassessments.com/guides-and-insights/what-is-leadership/

**https://www.open.edu/openlearn/health-sports-psychology/psychology/what-you-need-know-about-psychometrics

***Recruiting Leaders: 5 key risks in leadership recruitment and how to mitigate them. Thomas International 2022

In this ever-evolving environment, we are seeing continuing demand for interim leaders to fill specific functions at senior levels across the real estate industry. 11% of all UK senior interim placements in the past year have been within the property / construction / real estate industry (Institute of Interim Management, 2023).

Real estate interim hires

Traditionally, interim hires haven’t been commonplace in our sector, but things are changing. For organisations grappling with a senior exit, a new strategy to implement or just a rapid stage of growth and development, a short-term expert with the experience to jump in and lead can deliver substantial benefits. In the past year, we have seen the requirement for interim c-suite operational and financial roles increase.

Interim leaders have a defined function, with specific delivery objectives within a set amount of time. The combination of tangibility and flexibility can be very attractive for senior real estate executives, not to mention lucrative. Companies benefit not only from an experienced talent delivering specific goals, but skills that they can transfer to the team. Significantly, these leaders are often uniquely objective and can bring a vital dose of neutrality to teams and situations.

Why hire an interim leader?

Our clients have particularly benefitted from this when expanding specific capabilities or developing their presence in new areas. Short-term, senior consultants can check the viability of projects or expansion with less financial risk. Covering maternity and, increasingly, paternity leave for six months or more is also beneficial when the work cannot be covered effectively internally.

Experience is the key requirement, so the average age of interim hires tends to be higher than those of their permanent counterparts. According to the Institute of Interim Management 2023 Survey, 68% of interim managers are between 40 and 60. With an uncertain market prevailing, we expect the need for senior interim hires to remain high within the real estate business. If you are interested in discussing interim options for your leadership team, please do get in touch.

Madison Lincoln's co-founder tells us what's happening with senior hires in real estate

Tom McNally co-founded Madison Lincoln in 2020, having identified a need for a boutique real estate executive search firm that delivers material value to organisations.

How are current market conditions affecting senior recruitment?

Because many real estate companies are ‘waiting and seeing’, there’s a danger they won’t be prepared when things start to pick up. The problem is that we’ll see many firms get into a pattern of ‘desperate recruitment: they need to hire someone and quickly, choosing from a pool of available candidates rather than headhunting the best person for the job. As a result, they could be repeating the same process within the year.

The minimum time to hire senior talent is five months. Companies should be planning by looking at succession forecasting, talent loss and mapping who’s in the market.

Which skills will continue to be important for real estate leaders?

Leadership means something different today than it did 20 years ago. The ability to connect with others and lead in a more collaborative way will continue to be essential. Tech skills will become increasingly important for those taking on senior roles in our industry.

How did you get into Real Estate Recruitment?

With a degree in Finance and Business, the aim was always to get into accountancy or banking. I worked at JP Morgan after graduating and was spending too much time on Excel for my liking, so I started to think about other industries. I decided on recruitment and began to think about which sector would be most interesting. Real Estate appealed because you can tangibly see the fruits of someone’s labour. For example, when I place a Development Director it’s then incredibly exciting to see the resulting buildings and schemes.

What’s a common misconception about what you do?

Everyone calls it executive search, but we see ourselves as a retained business partner. We have a unique insight into the nuances of our clients’ businesses and the roles they need to develop and fill. This means we can communicate the opportunities to candidates more effectively and attract the right people for the business.

What’s next for Madison Lincoln?

I started a renewables desk 12 years ago when it was in its infancy, placing people within solar, wind and wave power. Recent Government pressure has created a huge demand for renewables, generating a huge opportunity for us with both extensive real estate and renewables experience.

We’re going to see new teams with varied experience to harness the opportunities of renewables, hiring from different sectors. This will change the face of the real estate industry which, up until recently, has been very traditional. These will be very exciting times.

The rapid maturation of the renewable energy market is well under way.

McKinsey estimates that by 2026, global renewable-electricity capacity will rise more than 80 percent from 2020 levels, two-thirds of which will come from wind and solar.

Investment in Renewable Energy

It’s not just oil and gas companies shifting their strategies in response; institutional investors and players in manufacturing, shipping and private-equity are making renewable energy a significant element of their investment strategies. During a PERE Logistics webinar in September 2022, attendees’ renewable energy investments were focused on two areas: Solar (86%) and electric vehicle charging (14%).

Renewable land and development

Some of the biggest challenges are not only identifying and securing the land required to develop and invest in, but also acquiring these assets at speed. Land sites previously earmarked for residential or industrial purposes are being aggressively targeted by renewables investor and developers.

Skills for Renewables and Real Estate

A skills and labour shortage may curb those organisations wishing to maximise the opportunities that new energy investments bring. 33 per cent of UK workers are at least somewhat likely to leave their current companies in the next three to six months*. The UK renewables market needs thousands of workers, at every level, to deliver on their targets.

A new mix of experience and skills are required. Investors and developers need Real Estate expertise to secure and manage assets, plus energy and infrastructure experience to ensure innovation and robust energy production.

Our founder, Tom, set up a renewables and infrastructure recruitment desk 12 years ago and has a solid track record in building multi-faceted teams with the capability and skills to deliver on new energy investments. This includes experience in attracting talent from infrastructure and private equity companies into real estate and vice-versa.

If you would like to discuss attracting senior talent into a renewables role, get in touch.


*McKinsey Quarterly, July 2022: “The Great Attrition is making hiring harder. Are you searching the right talent pools?”

With annual investment in BtR and PBSA at a record high, firms need experienced leaders to steer next stage of growth

Both the Build to Rent (BtR) and purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) sectors remain resolutely buoyant. Annual investment in UK living real estate was a record £18bn in 2022* and investor appetite shows little sign of flagging.

Investors and developers are increasingly turning their attention to the UK living sector in a less certain real estate market because of its defensive nature and resistance to economic cycles. BtR represented 35% of investment in UK living real estate in 2022, with transactions expected to accelerate again in H2 2023 (JLL). For PBSA, current occupancy is at record levels and expected to endure, delivering strong rental and income growth in turbulent period.

PBSA and BtR are emerging as resilient and attractive asset classes for investors because they:

Demand for both high-quality, professionally managed homes and student accommodation in the UK remains high, yet new supply is still not meeting demand. According to StuRents, the UK’s largest student rental service, there will be a shortfall of approx.450,000 student beds by 2025, while the UK rental shortage has been well-documented in recent years. Student accommodation accounted for 45% of investment in UK living sectors in 2022

While investor demand has slowed because of development viability against a backdrop of debt considerations and construction challenges, the market is anticipating a significant upturn in the second half of 2023. Recently, we have seen large deals and significant market activity, such as GIC and Greystar’s recent acquisition of Student Roost, driving current and future activity.

We are actively hiring senior, leadership roles as our clients across the living sector seek experienced c-level executives to pilot this next stage of growth. Please do get in touch if you would like to discuss shaping your recruitment strategy.


Whilst it’s undeniable that the real estate market is suffering the consequences of higher interest rates and economic decline, analysts expect an upturn in property deals later this year*.

This can be a dangerous time for organisations that don’t have a plan to withstand these challenges with the best talent. Often, HR mistakes are made in these periods that may solve a short-term issue but don’t support successful teams long-term.

Senior talent acquisition in Real Estate

Key considerations should be:

What’s the plan?

Given how long it can take to recruit a senior executive (a year is not unheard of), developing a three to five-year recruitment plan that supports your business objectives is vital. Who are the people you need in your business? How can you develop the required talent?

What are the risks?

We encourage clients to undertake a mapping process that assesses risk in their workforce. Identify where you could lose potential talent and which skills will be in demand over a longer period. What are the consequences of not meeting future demand from clients or stakeholders?

Plan for eventualities

This mapping process allows businesses to develop contingencies to mitigate the risks identified.  We work with companies on strategies that include succession planning, interim talent, and long-term recruitment pipelines. Every business should know their next hire before a resignation or new business comes in. Be prepared!

Who do you want to attract?

Who do you want to attract to your future workforce and how will you do it? We help clients understand what makes a company attractive to strong candidates. Develop your employer value proposition and identify areas for improvement. Many companies are looking at diversity, equity and inclusion targets over the next few years, as well as ‘softer’ issues such as company culture. Madison Lincoln works with real estate companies to develop lasting recruitment strategies and create a rewarding process for the candidates we engage with on their behalf. To find out more, get in touch.


*Financial Times “UK commercial property dealmaking at lowest level in over a decade”, 11th January 2023

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