Simon Bailey, Director, BidX1 UK
Tell us a little bit about you.
I’m Simon Bailey, a Director here at BidX1 UK. Originally from Staffordshire so I'm a Midlands man at heart – but I’ve effectively been ‘Southernised’ by more than 25 years living in London and Oxfordshire!
I live in a small village with my wife Rhiannon and our 9-year-old daughter, as well as a 5-month-old Cocker Spaniel named Poppy, who I’m currently attempting to train. In other words, I’m the token bloke in a household of women!
Tell us a little bit about your career prior to joining BidX1.
I did an Estate Management degree, graduating in 1996. We did a work placement in our third year, which I spent at a small private practice in Staffordshire, and they kept me on after graduation. I was doing a bit of everything – lettings, sales, rent reviews.
I moved to London in 1997 to work with Allsop, in their Office Agency division. I worked on sales and lettings in the West End initially, but later specialised in what’s known as the Thames Valley region, south-west of the capital. We’re talking huge office developments, business parks, heavy-weight corporate tenants.
…So you didn’t start your career in auctions?
No, I was an office agent to begin with.
But in 2000, I entered the RICS Young Auctioneer of the Year Competition, on a whim. I had no experience or training, but I loved every minute of it – and I ended up winning!
Wow, I did not know that!
Yes, you’re talking to the Young Auctioneer of the Year, 2000.
A privilege! Did that experience change your plans?
It certainly planted a seed. The auction experience had given me a real buzz, and I started taking part in charity auctions in my spare time, at property industry events or charitable fundraisers.
That change of focus coincided with a downturn in the market, post 9/11. Many of the big US corporates were reducing requirements. Overall, it felt like the right time to make a change.
I joined Harman Healy Auctioneers in 2004 as an Associate Director on the commercial auction team, where I met Ollie Childs [Head of Commercial Auctions at BidX1 UK] and Mat Harris [Director at BidX1 UK].
So that’s when the band first got together!
Did you enjoy working in auctions?
I loved it – we had a great team, and I enjoyed the auction cycle and the buzz of auction days. A few years later, we joined King Sturge, a large international property firm which didn’t have an auction division, so we were essentially creating a new service line for them. We were selling both residential and commercial property, which provided me with more diverse sales experience.
King Sturge was purchased by JLL in 2011 and we continued there as a team until 2012.
The band had to break up?
Well, I was offered a position as Head of London Auctions at Eddisons...and Mat Harris actually joined me there!
Eddisons had a well-established auction business in Leeds and Manchester but their London operation had no auction division so it was an incredible opportunity for us to build that from the ground up.
Then, towards the end of 2015, Ollie Childs was working at Lambert Smith Hampton, where he was setting up a commercial auction team. Mat had already joined him there, and I came on board in early 2016.
The band was back together!
Why did you want to work for BidX1?
It was fortuitous timing for us as a team; we were in the right mindset. We had been trialling an online auction model alongside traditional auctions and the advantages were clear. We understood the relevance of online sales and believed this would be the direction of travel for the auction market.
BidX1 had just entered the UK market in 2018, having acquired an established South London auction house, Andrews & Robertson.
When a pioneering firm like BidX1 comes knocking…it's not an opportunity you pass up!
How did you feel about moving fully online, leaving the rostrum behind?
It was a wrench for me because being on the rostrum was one of the main reasons I got into auctions in the first place, and the move meant letting go of something I thoroughly enjoyed and was good at (if that’s not being too vain!). I suppose in some ways I was afraid of losing my identity as an auctioneer.
But I also knew that BidX1’s model was the future for our industry – and I wanted to be part of a team that was leading the charge, not playing catch-up.
When I asked myself where I wanted to be in five years’ time, the answer was very clear.
I was the auctioneer...the man at the top of the room...so I’m lucky that I can speak with real experience of both sides.
I could talk about this all day – as you might have noticed! – but I will just take one example.
At a traditional auction, you might have 10 people bidding on a property. And let’s say that property is eventually sold for £5m to a bidder at the back of the room. At that point, you know who the buyer is… but what about the 9 under-bidders?
Those investors were also seeking to acquire that particular asset type, at that price point ...and they simply walk away!
In this scenario, that’s millions of pounds in unspent capital walking out of the room! There is no digital footprint!
At the end of the day, we’re in the business of connecting buyers with stock that matches their investment criteria – and an online model improves our ability to do that, exponentially.
What’s a typical day for you?
A little different to my typical day 12 months ago…walking down a flight of stairs to my study instead of taking a train into Central London!
I try to get a bit of exercise first thing – either taking the dog out or a session on the rowing machine. I hit a PB of 6km in under 30 minutes last week!
But honestly, what I love about auctions is that you don’t really have a typical day. New clients, new assets, new locations.
What do you like most about working at BidX1?
We have an incredibly broad range of people working here, with so many different backgrounds and skillsets. It’s refreshing, and I’ve seen first-hand that it brings new ideas and impetus.
It’s also exciting to be part of a firm which is growing internationally; there are more opportunities for collaboration and innovation.
When I look back at 2020 specifically, many of our peers had to make the sudden adjustment to online auctions, whereas our software enabled us to react to the changing landscape with minimal adjustment.
Were there some highlights in 2020, despite the challenges?
We sold several substantial shopping centre investments, including Westway Retail Park in Scotland, which was one of the largest commercial auction sales in the past 5 years.
In the past, assets like these may not have been considered suitable for auction – 70+ tenants, numerous planning angles to consider...this all requires significant due diligence that typical auction marketing timeframes don't often allow for.
But we can now tailor sale strategies to the asset in question. We're not constrained by rigid auction timelines – and we have more reach, more data, and the technology to manage such sales.
In that sense, we’re leading the charge when it comes to shaking up the auction market and that’s a huge motivator for me.
We’ve doubled sales year-on-year in the UK and it’s fantastic to be working with so many new clients – and other leading firms who see the benefits of working with a team that specialises in an online model.
There was initially a lot of scepticism about online auctions in the UK but the pandemic has propelled digital models into the mainstream. I think there has been a shift in mindsets that will certainly shape the future of the auction market here.
What advice would you give to someone starting out in their career?
Be yourself and do something you enjoy – I moved from Office Agency to Auctioneering when I was nearly 30. I remember thinking, if I don’t make this change now, I’ll be sitting here in ten years regretting it.
And get yourself into an environment where you’re working with inspiring people – that’s just as important as the job itself.