This week, we caught up with Tony Arden, Eastbank’s founder and chairman to talk about how it all began.
Tony’s career began in 1960 with Chumbley & Co – a London estate agency where he honed his craft before setting up on his own. The Arden Estate Office, which would later become Eastbank Studios, was founded in 1965. Venturing into acquisition, refurbishment and selling of residential and commercial properties in London’s east end, Tony’s ambitions were starting to bear fruit and the rest, as they, is history.
Tony’s vision and instinctual mindset were a crucial part of how Eastbank was developed and how it still operates today. Being something of a reluctant frontman, Tony prefers to function quietly in the background. However, his steely determination and guidance is still a major factor in the continued success of the company. His presence and influence are never far from the daily operations, inspiring confidence and trust among the Eastbank team, investors and collaborators.
Tony, your career started in a London estate agency where you learned the business inside and out. When did you realise you had what it takes to succeed in property?
To succeed in this business, it takes an element of bravery. Buying and selling property often involve borrowing significant sums of money and you can’t do that without being confident and bold. There’s always risk involved but done correctly with a clear vision and as long as the long-term business plan is adhered to, it will bring the returns you want.
When I was very young and before I was established in the estate agency business, I sold my first house and made a respectable profit. I then bought and sold another property soon afterwards which delivered yet another financial return. It led me to wonder if this could be a viable business opportunity. Not just buying and selling for the sake of it but investing in buying to let too. I was advised against it and many of my peers of that time said it would never take off and I had just been lucky with those two sales. I was undeterred as I could see the potential, not only for a career but to provide a decent, proper service for people who needed homes that couldn’t buy them for themselves. The market was ripe for rented accommodation.
I guess you could say the bug had bitten but, it wasn’t about making a quick buck. I wanted a long-term plan. It was also my dream to have a family business so, I made it happen.
What philosophy or policies did you put in place for the business and do you still apply these today?
One of the most satisfying parts of the job back then was offering a personal approach to the people who were renting my properties. I didn’t want to be just a faceless, impersonal landlord. When I’d collect the rent on a Friday, I didn’t just take the money and run. I took the time to check on the tenants’ well-being, stop for a chat, check that everything was in working order in the house or if they needed anything. It’s vitally important to treat tenants with respect.
I firmly believe that by building relationships with people, it will bring good results for everybody. It’s imperative to be available, make your presence felt (in a kind and positive way), and being there for them will ingrain trust. Without that, the outcome might be very different.
The same goes for banks and investors. Being transparent and keeping lines of communication open at all times has been key to my success. Integrity is one of the most substantial assets a business can have. It’s a policy we still adopt at Eastbank today and something I know I’ve instilled in the people who work here. At the heart of Eastbank, regardless of how big or how successful we may become, this motto is still at the heart of our business strategy and we are still very much a close-knit family business. We’re very grounded and very approachable. I don’t think it’s wise to get too big that you can’t deliver an honest, personal style of service.
What plans or ambitions do you have for the future?
It’s simple. Do more of the same and do it with the same pride and integrity that we always have. Obviously, we must move with the times and use modern-day tools and techniques but, the business model and attitude remain the same, in my opinion.
I’m not a fan of technology to be honest and tend to leave all that to my team but they keep me abreast of everything that’s going on by traditional methods – don’t expect me to find out things on social media or the internet! Talk to me face to face or on the phone. I will always make time for that. Many of my business associates accept and admire that about me. I’m rather old-school in that respect but, it’s not a weakness, just personal preference.
I’m happy in the knowledge that I have realised a lifetime ambition of having a successful, family business and knowing it’s in the safe, capable hands of my son, Jason, and his dynamic team, allows me to concentrate on other things. I believe if we stick to our principles and keep delivering a top level of service for both our investors and our tenants, Eastbank will continue to thrive and flourish despite the challenges we all face today.