06 Sep 2021

From London start-ups & Silicon Valley with Yahoo to building Westfield’s ecosystem

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Grant Howie is our General Manager CX Ventures. Having successfully co-founded an online start-up in the early 2000s before working with Yahoo and Yahoo7, Grant now leads our CX Ventures team to nurture and grow new offerings to expand our Westfield ecosystem. 

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Grant Howie, General Manager CX Ventures

Building our digital capability is essential to deliver our plan: to create the places more people choose to come, more often, for longer. As such, we’re currently building our technology and digital capabilities and have multiple job roles and opportunities available for new team members to join our Scentre Group team.

Explore the opportunities we have available or reach out to Arthur Georgiou, our Talent Team Leader, for a chat via our Contact Us page and direct your enquiry to Careers.
 

The start-up…
I was about to embark on a welding apprenticeship when a cousin convinced me to go to university instead. The internet piqued my interest, so despite never having owned a computer, I studied a hybrid technology and business degree.

After completing my degree, I went travelling and one night in London I met a successful entrepreneur with an idea for an internet business but no idea how to bring it to life. We hit it off and co-founded Noozz Media Group.
Our proposition was to provide an affordable and reliable business intelligence service for decision makers in emerging markets.

We worked out of a hotel lobby for the first six months before expanding the business and opening offices in Europe, the United States and the Middle East. So, at the same time as building a digital platform and business, I was thrust into leadership helping to establish various teams in different parts of the world. 

To fuel our growth, we raised capital from private and institutional investors in the Middle East and out of New York. Being part of that process gave me great grounding in strategic business planning, fund raising and capital management.

Over time we built an extensive client list of blue-chip multinationals and Fortune 500 companies, but unfortunately the fairy-tale didn’t end as we’d hoped. When the GFC hit we were considered a discretionary spend by most clients and we had to scale back the business expansion plans. 

At the end of 2009 it was time to move on having gained an incredible life experience and seeing first-hand the impact diverse teams can have when they unify behind a clear vision and audacious goals. 

Silicon Valley calls…
During the 2000s I witnessed the speed and scale of value that was being created by tech companies coming out of Silicon Valley. At that time, Yahoo was still one of the most visited websites in the world so I took a job with them and surrounded myself with people who were at the cutting edge of developing web technology and building new internet-enabled business models.

After 12 months I switched to a more locally-focussed role with Yahoo7, a joint venture between Yahoo and Seven West Media. This was my first taste of working with a ‘traditional’ business that was being challenged by the big tech players and needed to digitally transform to remain relevant. We were responsible for the digital broadcast (Channel 7), newspaper (The West Australian), and magazine (Pacific Magazines) assets for the group. 

Westfield…
My career to this point had been focussed on pureplay online businesses and what fascinated me about Westfield was the focus on the convergence of physical and digital. Westfield is an iconic global brand that was influencing the continuously changing and innovative retail industry, it was too good an opportunity to pass up. So after five years with Yahoo, I joined Westfield Group as part of the Westfield Labs team.
I think about my time here in chapters...

Chapter 1: Westfield Labs
The first 12 months was a wild ride. Westfield Labs was set up out of San Francisco and my role was to help identify and develop digital innovation concepts and pilot them in the Australian market, including partnerships with Silicon Valley giants Google and Apple. 

One pilot that has since been rolled out to many of our Westfield Living Centres is Ticketless Parking. We dreamed of not having the headache of parking tickets and partnered with the local teams to create a solution for the Westfield Miranda redevelopment.

Chapter 2: Scentre Group formation and scaling up…
In 2014 Westfield Group demerged, forming Scentre Group to manage the Australian and New Zealand Westfield business, and Westfield Corporation to look after the international business. Westfield Labs moved into Westfield Corporation with the majority of the Sydney-based team relocating to San Francisco, however I remained in Sydney and moved into Scentre Group.

As Scentre Group, we shaped our new digital capabilities alongside the Customer Experience team to support our ‘Connected Customer Experience’ vision.

When we talk about a Connected Customer Experience, we’re working to ensure that however a customer chooses to connect with Westfield – physically or digitally – each experience is connected and enhances the other. 

Initially, we built our core data and digital technology platforms from which we relaunched 41 new Westfield centre websites.

Since then, we’ve developed a direct relationship with Westfield customers through the Westfield Digital Gift Card and Westfield Plus, our member program that is nearing 2 million members.

Now we’re connecting our customers with our business partners in new ways to drive growth. This is where Westfield Direct plays. 

Westfield Direct was accelerated during the first COVID lockdown in 2020. Our team brought a pilot to market in a matter of weeks which speaks to their technical skills, agility and collaboration. We’ll launch the next iteration of Westfield Direct soon and I’m looking forward to seeing its growth and success.

Chapter 3: We’re just getting started…
What still excites me about the work we’re doing today – four years on – is the scale of opportunity that remains ahead of us. We really are just getting started.

I see and hear it every day when I’m with our teams or talking to our retail partners – the energy and innovative ideas are really exciting – and we have the capabilities and ambition to go after them. My role as General Manager CX Ventures is to help nurture and grow these opportunities into viable offerings.

Attracting and retaining the best talent underpins the success we’ve had to date and what more we can achieve. With so many opportunities ahead of us, we’re building our team’s capabilities even further, so if you’re interested in joining my team, explore our job opportunities or reach out to Arthur Georgiou, our Talent Team Leader, for a chat via our Contact Us page and direct your enquiry to Careers.

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