The apartment buildings that line the streets of London’s most opulent neighbourhoods tend to have a few things in common: grand architecture, uniformed doormen and amenities reminiscent of five-star hotels. Less apparent, even to the keenest-eyed observer, is that many, if not most, of these super-prime residences are managed by the same firm: Rhodium.
From the likes of Knightsbridge Gardens (billed as the UK’s first super-prime residences exclusively for renters) to the Bryanston (the Spear’s Super Prime Development of the Year winner), Rhodium has a hand in the smooth running of the homes of London’s 0.1 per cent.
The company’s name has become a byword for elegance and refinement among the agents and advisers who grease the cogs of the London market. It is now even slipped into pitches by sales associates to prospective buyers – even if it remains a subtle, reassuring nod to be registered only by a particularly discerning kind of customer.
How Rhodium is creating a legacy
The firm’s under-the-radar approach is no accident, according to Dean Main, Rhodium’s understated founder and CEO. When Spear’s meets the man himself – somewhat ironically at Annabel’s, one of Mayfair’s more ostentatiously decorated members’ clubs – he speaks of his decision to diligently control the company’s growth.
‘We’ve got to be very careful about who we work with,’ he says. ‘We want to work with [clients] who want to create a legacy, push boundaries and elevate the game.’
The firm manages 43 developments across London, Dubai and Athens, with £12 billion of real estate under management. Main, a former property developer, founded the company in 2011 after struggling to find a management company capable of providing the level of service he demanded for his residential schemes.
So, like any enterprising entrepreneur, he took on the task himself and soon realised he’d found a gap in the market when fellow developers began taking notice of the five-star, hotel-like service at his properties.
Twelve years later, Main manages a team of almost 300 people and has worked with some of the world’s leading property developers and architects, including Northacre, Almacantar, Finchatton, Norman Foster, John Caudwell and the late Thierry Despont. It’s an enviable client base, but with only 43 developments under the firm’s belt he recognises it is considerably smaller than some might expect.
‘You can’t scale luxury’ is a phrase the CEO utters more than once during our conversation. ‘If you want to be truly bespoke, you’ve got to be in a position where every development is completely tailored: different smells, different uniforms, different styles.’
It’s all in the detail
In keeping with this brief, the firm works solely with select developers of new-build, super-prime residences. Distinct from most other property management companies that are typically brought in once construction is completed, Rhodium engages with developers at the planning stage, where it offers advice on practically every element of the project’s design.
‘Where are the staff going to change and have their lunch break? What size will the refuse area need to be relative to the number of units? Do we really need a screening room? Should we engage with a personal trainer and nutritionist when building the gym? No one aside from us is really thinking about these things,’ says Main. ‘It’s an important process, not only for us to get under the skin of the developer, but also for the developer to actually build something that can be operated seamlessly.’
Once a project is 18 months away from completion, Rhodium begins mobilising. This involves hiring staff, sourcing their uniforms, arranging inventory such as luggage carts, commissioning florists and carrying out a host of other duties to ultimately ensure that UHNWs moving into their homes are met with nothing less than five-star hotel-like service.
As move-in day approaches, the Rhodium team makes contact with residents to assist them with relocating their belongings, transferring their artwork and wine, setting up utilities and even blocking out parking spaces for delivery vans.
After the completion or launch of a development, the team remains on hand for communal management purposes and for specific issues that arise for residents. ‘I don’t know any other company that does [both]. Nearly all management companies just do communal management and they come into it right at the last minute,’ Main says. ‘Whereas we’ve been involved with the design, inception and commissioning so we have such an innate knowledge of that scheme from a mechanical perspective. Our team isn’t coming in blind, and that’s the key difference.’
Rhodium is well versed in the demands of operating successful branded residences, particularly those connected to luxury hotel chains, even if such partnerships can be particularly onerous, given the hotels’ strict requirements for their own brand.
Main tells Spear’s about one client who requested that all invoices and letters sent to residents be on a particular paper with the brand’s typeface. ‘That’s where it can get cumbersome, but because we’re a business that isn’t based on high volume we’re able to do those things.’
With the recent launch of Rhodium’s white-label service last November, the firm acts as a brand’s operating partner but does so discreetly under the brand’s name. ‘If you’re living in a branded residence by Porsche and you’re having any issues in your apartment, you’re not going to call up customer services at Porsche, but from the residents’ perspectives it has to be seen to be Porsche,’ Main explains. ‘But with this new service, Rhodium is really doing it and we’re sitting behind the brand as a white label.’
The branded residences boom
As the popularity of branded residences continues, Main is confident that demand for his company’s services will remain strong. Indeed, Knight Frank’s 2023 report on branded residences predicts the size of the sector will continue to increase by 12 per cent each year until 2026. But Main is quick to point out that, without the right brand in place, such developments could struggle – particularly in established markets such as London.
‘When you’ve got a genuine luxury hotel attached to a residence, it’s beautiful and works really well. Now what we’ve started seeing is opportunistic brands saying, “We’ve got a brand and we’re a luxury watchmaker, so we’re just going to slap our brand above a new building.” It’s a marketing gimmick.’
Rhodium is looking to expand into other markets, particularly Dubai. He tells Spear’s his diverse team speak a total of 19 languages. But Main underscores the importance of picking a jurisdiction where the firm can focus and deliver the same levels of service it is renowned for in the UK.
Competition in the market is not a concern. ‘No one is doing what we’re doing,’ he says. ‘And it’s a sad state of affairs where you can only talk to Rhodium for super-prime residences. My [only] competition right now are the likes of the Four Seasons or Mandarin, who are doing branded residences and don’t need Rhodium because they’re doing it themselves.’
In any case, Main has been confident from the outset that Rhodium had something special – ever since he received a letter from the Prince’s Palace of Monaco during the early days of the business, ‘asking if they could invest in the business. That’s when I knew the business was doing something that was genuinely successful.’