Interview: Six Senses CEO Neil Jacobs on the rise of branded residences & collaborating with the world's top luxury property developers

By PrimeResi Editor

'The buzz around The Whiteley is a testament to the ongoing global appetite for property in the capital – so we’re looking forward to seeing how this unfolds'

Following the recent launch of London’s first Six Senses Residences, PrimeResi speaks to the brand’s CEO, Neil Jacobs, to discuss working with top-flight developers, global expansion plans, and emerging trends amongst today’s super-prime buyers….

The Whiteley is one of a number of high-profile branded residence schemes raising the bar in London’s luxury property market; how did the collaboration with Finchatton come about, and what can we expect from the finished product?

Jacobs joined Six Senses in 2012, having previously held leadership roles at Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts and Starwood Capital Group

We have been looking into expanding into London for some time. As one of the world’s most iconic gateway cities, with its colourful culture and heritage, it was just a case of waiting for the perfect opportunity. From a residential perspective, the branded residences market in London is an exciting space and one which picked up pace in the past five years. As we continued to grow the Six Senses Residences brand, it was only natural that our first UK property became a fully integrated hotel and residence offering.

When conversations began with Finchatton, we quickly realised it could be a perfect partnership. Finchatton’s hallmark quality matches Six Senses Residences own, and the opportunity to collaborate to transform a significant architectural landmark was too good to miss.

This will be Six Senses’ first foray into the UK market; are there any plans to develop the presence further, either in London or nationally?

London being the first of our residences in the UK is a significant milestone for us. We’re so excited to see how the project progresses and ahead to when we open and welcome our first residents. The buzz around The Whiteley is a testament to the ongoing global appetite for property in the capital – so we’re looking forward to seeing how this unfolds. We’re always looking for the ‘next’ destination to expand the Six Senses portfolio and are in discussions with different partners around the world, so watch this space.

The ultra-luxe serviced residences are being delivered as part of the £1bn transformation of the former Whiteleys shopping centre in Bayswater

What sets a Six Senses residence apart from other luxury developments and homes?

We pride ourselves on offering best-in-class service, and our level of care and attention to detail sets us apart from other luxury developments. 

We go to great lengths to understand and seamlessly fit in with the local surroundings and cultural references, for example, working with well-known architects and interior designers, but also local architects and artisans to really elevate the vision and design experiences to bring each residence to life. At the same time, our residence owners retain the intimacy of a private villa or apartment and have the flexibility to add personal touches. 

We have an unparalleled level of service, and thanks to our hospitality background, this is extended so that all of our owners can fully enjoy the privileges of a hotel or resort, with every aspect taken care of to the highest quality.

Kitzbuehl, Austria

Which are the key Six Senses openings we should be looking out for around the world over the next few years?

It’s set to be a very exciting few years for Six Senses Residences. We have significant growth plans underway, with highly successful launches in 2022, including Six Senses Residences The Forestias, on the outskirts of Bangkok, and Six Senses Residences, The Palm, Dubai, which marks our first entrance into the UAE market. 

Looking ahead, the expansion of our residential portfolio is only set to continue, with residential sales now open in destinations such as Belize, the Kitzbühel Alps in Austria, and Phase 2 at Kaplankaya in Turkey. The following 12 months should also see residential sales open in Costa Rica. 

Thanks to the extensive planning that goes into each Six Senses Residences project, every one of our upcoming residences will have something completely unique to offer buyers. So, the radar should be kept on every one of them.

Kaplankaya, Turkey

What has driven the recent blurring of the lines between hospitality and residential around the world?

At Six Senses, we see it as less of a blurring of lines between hospitality and residential, but more of a growing partnership between these two markets, as buyers begin to seek a more personal experience, curated to individual needs. More and more people want to tap into the lifestyle and service that we offer at Six Senses resorts more full-time.

The trust and reputation we have built over the years as a hospitality business  positions us firmly to deliver this, as people already know and love our brand.

Wellness is becoming a ubiquitous term in real estate; how do you personally define it, and how do you see the trend evolving over the next ten years?

For me, wellness is found within the greater consciousness and willingness to dive deep into oneself, to reconnect, regenerate, contribute more, and enjoy greater wellness in life. It’s these that form the foundations of Reconnect With Six Senses – our brand-wide initiative crafted to offer guests and residents a more profound connection to their natural surroundings and those around them. 

A founding ethos of Six Senses is that wellness and sustainability are interconnected. Neither are about sacrifice but abundance and the need for a reciprocal connection between human health and the health of our planet. Over the past year, we have challenged our brand vision of reconnection, and this has allowed us to realize that the key was not to change who we are but to broaden and deepen those pillars of our DNA. 

Over the coming years, wellness and sustainability will continue to show up more meaningfully. In design, use of materials, healthy rooms, the bed, lighting, and so on will all promote wellness.

Six Senses Residences at The Palm, Dubai

Are there any other interesting trends at play in the branded residence/luxury real estate space?

The philanthropic buyer is an increasing presence in the branded residences sector, whereby the purpose is, in part, an important motivation for their property purchase.

High-net-worth buyers now want to invest in something beyond bricks and mortar and beyond financial returns

High-net-worth buyers now want to invest in something beyond bricks and mortar and beyond financial returns. Instead, they are increasingly seeking a home that has been created in a socially and environmentally responsible way. Six Senses Residences is well placed to respond to this rising demand, as we approach all of our projects sustainably, from using locally sourced and renewable building materials and smart build processes to reduce water usage through to eliminating plastic items and using biodegradable cleaning products. 

This desire also extends beyond the way in which the property is built, with buyers at this top end of the market wanting the reassurance that their residence, and the wider resort, has been crafted in a way which honours the local areas environment, culture, and heritage, and contributes to the local community.

The pandemic drove a so-called ‘race for space’ as buyers escaped to the country; was this trend evident across the Six Senses portfolio, and how do you foresee the future for global urban centres going forward?

Within the Six Senses Residences portfolio, we’ve seen less of a ‘race for space’, but more of an increase in those searching for their very own retreat. There’s an increasing desire from buyers to have a far wider range of wellness facilities and a home that offers access to a breadth of luxury amenities – across wellbeing, socialising, and work – beyond the confines of their own four walls. This needs to remain a top consideration when expanding into these global urban centres.

How will you ensure the residences appeal to a wide range of buyers, from young professionals, through to families and retirees?

The Six Senses brand was born from the desire to help people reconnect with themselves, others and the world around them – regardless of age or stage of life. We use a sensitive design approach which carefully considers all modern lifestyles and at the forefront of this design approach is our consideration of how all residents may live and enjoy our properties – with each enjoying tailored experiences that best suit them.

 Our vision is translated across a broad property portfolio with wellness, sustainability, and out-of-the-ordinary experiences at our very core, and we believe that this reconnection can happen just about anywhere from a remote private island, snowy mountain hideaway, desert dune or lively lounge in the heart of a city.

Roughly what proportion of purchasers buy their residences in turnkey condition – and are in-house design services available to those looking to personalise further?

This varies depending on whether our buyers want to rent their homes or not. Owners who place their home in our rental programme automatically take advantage of our furniture packages as standard – with each home inspired by, and designed in line with, the nature of its environment and local community. 

Dependant on the resort and stage of construction, there are also sometimes opportunities for owners to personalise design details, such as material choices.

You joined Six Senses in 2012, following roles with Four Seasons and Starwood Capital Group; how did you start out in the industry, and what keeps you motivated?

I studied Hotel Management at Westminster University, French Civilization at La Sorbonne University and Italian culture and art in Florence. I knew I wanted to travel and use the languages I’d learnt, so figured the hotel business was a good way of going about it. 

The opportunity to apply my skills and experience to this unique brand and leading a group of dedicated professionals is a joy and is what drives my motivation. My personal passion for wellness, sustainability and making travel purposeful also plays a part. One of the core goals when I first joined the company was to create a global footprint and allow people to experience our brand in different environments.

In addition to our exotic locations, we wanted to be in key destinations and gateway cities around the world. Alongside, of course, continuing to elevate the brand in terms of responsible design, green initiatives and wellness programming.

Are you allowed to have a personal favourite among the Six Senses resorts

Sadly not! That said, part of the richness of my job is the opportunity to interact with our hosts around the world and the buy-in to the brand that shows up in each location. So, my favourite is really the project I’m visiting, during the time I am there.

What’s the best piece of advice you have ever received?

I have a life coach that tells me not to listen to advice. Listen to your body, engage intuitively, follow your heart and remember that thoughts are only thoughts and emotions a result of thoughts that may or may not be useful. We all have innate wisdom; we just need to search for it.

The Whiteley

Main image: The Whiteley