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Alumni of the month – December 2014

Christian Birrell
MSc Real Estate, 2014

Robert Humphreys

Whilst on the MSc Real Estate course at LSBU, Christian Birrell (pictured left at the World Championships in Thailand) successfully balanced his studies with high-intensity training to reach the top of the Sailing world stage. He also recently qualified as a Chartered Surveyor and is currently working with DTZ Investors, a large European real estate firm managing over £7 billion of assets.

Christian’s lifelong passion for sailing began when he entered his first boat at the age of four. Since then, his career “afloat” has yielded national and world titles: “I have had a lot of highlights in the sport over the last 20 years. The first time you win a championship is probably the best feeling though. I first won a National Championship in 2009 and that is probably a feeling I will always remember. Once you have won a Championship, you put an expectation on yourself to win it again, so winning it again then becomes a relief rather than satisfying!” 

He believes sailing can be compared to golf given the variety of skills required to be successful: “Tactics and strategy around the race course are a big part of sailing in terms of reading the wind and tides. However fitness, technique of sailing the boat and equipment optimisation are also a huge part of the sport.”

The part-time MSc Real Estate suited Christian’s desire for flexible study as he was able to combine the course with whilst attending the University once a week: “For me, the best part of studying at LSBU was the network of contacts I made. All the other part-time students on my course were also working in the industry so this automatically creates a large network of useful contacts. I am sure that I will continue to work with this network of friends throughout the rest of my career.”

Taking the Property Investment module taught by Martin Lake, Head of the Built Environment department, provided to be a turning point in Christian’s career development: "Investment management was not a career path that I had considered before completing the module. All the lecturers have had such extensive careers within the industry. Afterwards, I knew I wanted to work in investment management."

His new role within fund management at DTZ Investors will principally involve acquisition and disposals for the fund, along with investment strategy and asset management initiatives including development projects. He is looking forward to getting stuck into the job and credits the practical nature of the course content that was so relevant to his work as a Chartered Surveyor.

Christian still has ambitions to his retain the World Championship sailing title in 2015 and is relishing the chance to do this on home waters in Wales: “Next year will be tough as there is going to be a very large entry from around the world and I have to commit more time to my job. But I’ll be training hard over the next nine months to make sure I’m in the best shape possible to retain the title.”