While the weather at this year’s Mipim conference in the south of France was lovely, particularly when compared with the cold and rain of a year ago, this year there appeared to be a heightened level of focus and seriousness.
Given the level of uncertainty resulting from global geopolitics and the impact on our business, we are all trying to figure out the competitive landscape and how to manage the immediate period and uncharted waters ahead.
Among the myriad events hosted by lenders, agents, investment managers, lawyers and the big four accountancy firms was the little-known RE-Invest Summit, where the who’s who of global capital gather. This year the discussion included such topics as post-Brexit risks and opportunities, where to find the best risk-adjusted returns, the impact of technology on real estate and the future of the fund model, to name just a few.
And the mood of the room? It was one of challenges creating opportunities and seeing through the immediate concerns with a long-term perspective, higher capital allocations and a positive view of the real estate sector as a whole - a good way to start the Mipim week.
I am usually a bit sceptical about local authorities taking stands at conferences, but this year I was very pleased with the commitment shown by government at all levels. In particular, I want to commend the Department for International Trade for its significant commitment to the event, establishing its own dedicated pavilion where I had the opportunity to make the inaugural speech and welcome in my role as vice-president of the British Property Federation (BPF).
After 18 months of feeling that there was no plan, I was encouraged
Fruitful meetings were hosted by Baroness Neville-Rolfe, commercial secretary to the Treasury, and Gavin Barwell, minister for housing and planning and minister for London, with members of the BPF. Mark Garnier, undersecretary of state for international trade, was also in Cannes, meeting local authorities and potential investors.
After 18 months of feeling that there was no plan and no one home at Westminster to engage in serious discussions on the post-Brexit world, I was encouraged. The BPF released a manifesto in January encouraging the government to focus on five key areas: economic stability, infrastructure, the regulatory environment, skills and housing.
Progress being made
Recognising the challenges involved in meeting all of these, I think it is fair to say progress is now being made. The proposals in the housing white paper have already contributed to positive activity in the build-to-rent, multi-family residential sector.
The Europeans were also well represented on the Croisette this year, making Mipim even more of a must-attend event. Despite some feeling that the UK’s loss is Europe’s gain, I think business and governments alike are aware of the risks of us not reaching a sensible long-term agreement for cross-border movement of people and economic activity.
In my speech at the BPF breakfast on the Wednesday, I borrowed the Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau’s phrase: “Diversity is our strength.” I believe that our success depends on diversity of thought, with people, gender, language, culture, geography, asset class and ownership of all different types being essential for a peaceful and sustainable future.
— MIPIMWorld (@MIPIMWorld) March 14, 2017
Let’s hope that our elected officials take notice of the collaborative, productive, serious thought and discussion from the real estate industry as we embark upon the upcoming Brexit negotiations. Fingers crossed that we’re in a more certain place by Mipim 2018.