Dean Ward, CEO, DCW Group.

Dean Ward, CEO, DCW Group.

Meet the CEO: Dean Ward, DCW Group

In the realm of visionary leadership, Dean Ward’s time as DCW Group CEO has involved expansion into new sectors and birthing revolutionary software set to redefine the property industry. 

In this exclusive spotlight, we delve into the dynamic world of DCW Group, a leading company in the property development and acquisition space, through the lens of its CEO, Dean Ward. Join us as we uncover the journey, insights, and transformative impact of the driving force behind DCW Group’s rise. 


Tell us a little about yourself.  

I’m a veteran of the property and development industry. I’ve been in the industry for nearly 21 years. Over the course of my career, I’ve worked with some of the big names of the industry in a variety of roles, from running residential development teams to being involved in a number of mergers and acquisitions. My career then pivoted, and I ventured away from the corporate train and set up DCW Group.  


Tell us about your company. 

DCW Group is made up of three companies. We are specifically positioned in the marketplace to aid everything surrounding construction, residential property and development, as well as feasibility and viability studies. The core of the business is that we enable people within the industry to buy better and build faster. We have a lot of data at our fingertips which helps, guides and aids a challenging housing market, and increases the ability to be able to buy sites and build houses with better and better quality. 

Firstly, the “land” division involves buying, selling and acquiring land on behalf of clients and landowners. We’ve got our consultancy division, which is geared towards helping and guiding companies stepping into the marketplace or with specific challenges in front of them. The third arm is our retrofit and surveying division, which has been more recently formed. This involves undertaking energy performance certificates for residential properties.  

Additionally, part of what we do at DCW Group is upskilling existing trades to work on non-domestic energy assessments on commercial buildings, all the way through to retrofit coordination and retrofitting existing housing stock with housing associations. It’s important to us to not only provide jobs but to upskill existing workforces within the Swansea and South Wales domain. 

We also have our brand-new software platform, It’s been a five-year journey, creating a software platform that can speed up the due diligence, research and identification process of buying land and property, which has historically been very data heavy. launched a few weeks ago, and we’ve seen some really encouraging feedback from users logging onto the system. Historically, the process addresses has been very manual, but our new platform takes an archaic process, which used to take from six to twelve months, down to about 20 minutes. We’ve just been granted Royal Institute Chartered Surveyors (RICS) Tech Partnership status, essentially bridging the gap between proptech and fintech. 


How would you characterise 2023 in your sector so far? 

To characterise 2023 so far, it’s been challenging with a lot of promise. The residential development sector is a challenging one on a number of different levels. Mainly, the building cost increases have been a massive strain on the industry. We’ve seen a number of companies having to close their doors, which is unfortunate, and this is due to massive increases in building material costs. In addition to the cost increases, we are also witnessing planning delays which are beyond our control. 

However, the biggest changes in 2023 have been positive. There’s been some real change in regard to the use of modern methods of construction and a newfound positivity in building with an environmental benefit at its core. 

As an industry, we are ripe for technical advancement, and I definitely see the implementation of AI as an opportunity to enhance what we’ve already got. The next thing that needs to change is the planning process and the ability to secure planning permissions faster. 

We’ve seen some really encouraging steps forward in regard to plugging the skills gap in both technology and construction this year. There have been some steps forward from a retrofit perspective, and we’re actively working with government and training providers to upskill existing workforces.  


What are the key opportunities you are gearing towards as a company? 

Our biggest opportunity is, because it’s taking a process that is lengthy and archaic, at a cost of £300,000 in time equivalent, and reducing it to 20 minutes, saving up to £100,000. 

I see the retrofit and surveying angle as a huge market to enter going forward. In particular, the partnerships between Retrofit Coordinators, EPC and NDEA assessors and the actual physical contractors. These companies then have access to an end-to-end service that can begin to facilitate the energy and climate crisis targets that the government are putting in place.  

It’s a huge opportunity for us at DCW, that’s for sure, because we’re already on that journey of upskilling people, we’re ticking the upskilling box and we’re also ticking the energy efficiency box and merging the two together. 


What are your biggest challenges? 

It’s been a very turbulent start to our business because of Brexit, COVID, and a number of different prime ministers. Our biggest challenge is access to finance for a company of our age. The lending market in technology, where your value lies in intellectual property becomes an issue. The only real way to raise funds quickly, in order to supplement new business journeys or to supplement growth, is to sell equity in your business. We’re on course to have over 200 staff in the next five years, but limited access to finance means it may be difficult to have a large recruitment drive.  


How would you analyse the economic conditions that are influencing those challenges? 

The perception of the economic conditions is fuelled by mainstream media. I spend my life talking the market up, because from our perspective, the market is okay and transactions are still happening. If you use the housing industry as an example, the housing industry is the biggest driver of the economy, and the wheels are still turning. COVID, ironically, made the housing industry boom.  

Funding has been a challenging time because from a lending perspective, in regard to research and development grants, we have been waiting 14 months for our research and development grant to be authorised, that should take four to six weeks, but has been slowed as a result of undergoing compliance checks. I agree with the checks, but not to the detriment of companies who need that money to survive and to be able to increase their research and development opportunities.  

We’re having to navigate that and find alternative funding modes in order to be able to bridge that gap. This may result in a number of promising young companies falling by the wayside because they cannot access research and development funding.  


What projects or developments are you most proud of? 

Two of my newest and proudest projects are the birth of and our EPC division. We’re seeing some real promise in our EPC division which complements everything we already do and our overall skill set.  

With especially, has been a convoluted journey to get to where we are. We’ve just been shortlisted in the Fintech Wales Awards, at which there are some big names in our category for Product of the Year. It is great to be recognised and it my staff and I a huge sense of pride. They have worked tirelessly to get us to where we are today. From a personal perspective, I’m turning 40 in September, and we start to use words like legacy. With, I hope to make a real difference in the industry.  


What are your goals for the future? 

The wider goal is to be Wales’s first unicorn. That’s certainly our aim. I want to be able to grow the team to be able to allow us to be reactive and proactive. We are in the process of having our own internal development function with new software developers joining our team, who are all from the South Wales area. It’s great to be able to give back by helping local people to do what they know and love. 

We’ve got some acquisitions that we want to look at, namely surveying businesses. We are also excited for the growth of into different industries and international expansion. We’ve been approached by a number of individuals from the GCC to licence in Dubai and Qatar, to help their housing market through the utilisation of new software. In addition, we are also looking to license in Germany, in warm-up to take on the US in the coming years.  


What would be your advice for budding entrepreneurs? 

Let’s put it this way, as an entrepreneur, it’s a bumpy journey. It’s important to have that moral compass that steers you and your decisions. If I look back at where I was five years ago, to where I am now, I’m a completely different businessman.  

There are three bits of advice I would give those people entering the world of entrepreneurship. Firstly, stick to what you know. If you don’t know what you’re doing, get somebody in who does.
Secondly, don’t go in with rose-tinted glasses; it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a tough journey, and sometimes you must make mistakes in order to learn. Learn fast and learn cheap.  

The third thing is to identify a gap in the market that you know exists. Part of the reason why has been so successful is because I have dealt with that particular problem for 21 years and it’s never been changed. We’ve then built a product as a solution to a real-time, tangible problem. 


Stay tuned for more insights from CEO’s across Wales.