At the beginning of a new year and decade, property’s leading lights reveal their hopes, expectations and resolutions for 2020 in the first of a two-part special running over the next two weeks.
Chairman and chief investment officer, Benson Elliot
A return of broad-based international investor confidence in sterling assets in general and UK property in particular is essential if we’re to see a recovery in transaction volumes. It would be especially satisfying to see international investors follow Boris Johnson to destinations beyond the M25, because public sector investment alone won’t be enough to meet the expectations and aspirations of those who live in the regions.
This year will see the trough in retail values, and a clearer sifting between those assets that have no future and those that do with appropriate investment, a relevant offer and sustainable rents. Doubts will start to creep in about whether pricing in logistics has begun to outpace fundamentals and realistic growth prospects. The post-Brexit bounce in office values will occur, but it will disappoint.
Resolutions: Having hit my ultimate running goal last year (sub-1:50 in the Royal Parks half marathon), I’ll be focusing more on cycling and just staying fit.
At Benson Elliot, the focus will be on sustaining investment performance and remaining a great place to work – I’m super proud of the team we’ve built here. Personally, I want to continue to find ways to ‘give back’, whether through public policy work or educating future industry leaders at Cambridge. With three kids in their 20s, 60 or so in the classroom, and an average age at Benson Elliot of around 30, it’s amazing how much I’m learning from those I’m supposed to be teaching!
Chief operating officer, SEGRO
My hope is that we all now pull together as a country and give business the certainty it needs by agreeing our EU exit and a new trading relationship.
I would also like to see politicians concentrate on supporting the high street with specific help and initiatives rather than blaming or trying to penalise the internet for the reality that there are just too many shops. It’s imperative the property and construction industry continues to accelerate progress on reversing climate change.
My expectation is the cohesion of the UK could become the next political battleground, which is an unhelpful and unwelcome distraction. I expect the trends of digitalisation and urbanisation to continue to play through, making urban, last-mile logistics the most exciting real estate subsector across the major cities of Europe.
Resolutions: I’ll steer clear of the usual weight loss and golf handicap resolutions and focus instead on supporting LandAid to unite the property industry in ending youth homelessness. It must be a failure of our society to have young people sofa surfing or, worse, on the street.
Chief executive, Verdion
For our European business, many more opportunities for development and investment are coming forward – especially with potential for value-add – and we’re building our business platform to secure and monetise them quickly.
In the UK, I’m hopeful we can move past Brexit as fast as possible, and focus with much more certainty on the new trading patterns and the opportunities it will bring. Customs arrangements for imports and exports should be a priority for the new government’s first 100 days, together with measures to stimulate new business such as freeports.
In reality, it could be a much slower process as the government grapples with the practical realities of its deal, but now decision-making can start in earnest again markets should begin to move more. Environmental, social and governance (ESG) is going to be much more important for everyone too. Consumers and shareholders will start to require greater steps forward and the market needs to respond.
Resolutions: Travelling is still on the agenda. There is so much about Asian economies that should shape the way we build, invest in and manage logistics properties in Europe – both to respond to new entrants to the market and to adopt better ways of working that everyone benefits from.
Chief executive, Cain International
We hope the government uses its new-found power to accelerate a trade deal and promote enterprise and investment in areas of the country that need it the most.
I would like to see more consistency when it comes to planning decisions from all 39 local authorities in London. The more radical among us would promote the replacement of the boroughs’ planning policies with a single centralised system promoting consistency and fairness. I would hope that all political parties will be far more careful in their use of language, particularly with minority groups to ensure tolerance, as well as the introduction of a post-Brexit immigration policy that reflects that tolerance and encourages migration to the UK.
Finally, I want to continue to see more female empowerment initiatives across the industry, enabling talented individuals to enter the sector and rise to its most senior levels.
ESG will continue to take centre stage. The overwhelming business case for diversity, empowerment, inclusion and social equality will mean that those businesses that fall behind in this measure will be overlooked by investors and the marketplace.
Resolutions: On a corporate level, I want to ensure that Cain International remains at the forefront of social empowerment, diversity and inclusion in the sector, and continues to foster communities that present equal opportunity for all. On a personal level, I would like to travel a little less and enjoy London.
President and managing director, WiredScore
We recognise that despite our occasional political differences, we are much more culturally aligned as a country than others such as the US. Although there are differences of opinion, we agree on cultural and social aspects that allow a society to not just exist but thrive.
My hope is that the increased focus on tech as an engine of growth, and digital connectivity as an enabler of happiness and prosperity for people in their private and professional lives, will be seen through by the government. The fact that none of the parties mention 5G in their manifestos is I hope an oversight.
Understanding privacy and personal data will become even more important to property companies that previously hadn’t considered themselves as being owners of people’s individual data. Information garnered from real estate assets through tools including facial recognition, CCTV and smart buildings is both powerful and dangerous. As such, property companies will need to have a dramatically stronger handle on data expectations than they currently do.
Digital connectivity will become even more important with the rollout of 5G. People’s levels of frustration with poor connectivity experiences will skyrocket; we now know what good looks like and we won’t settle for anything less.
Resolutions: To remember that all of us are juggling five balls all of the time: work, family, friends, physical health and mental health. I want to keep juggling all of those balls mindful of the fact that one of them, the work ball, is made of rubber and will bounce back if dropped, but that the other four are made of glass and may smash.
My hope is that commercial real estate fully embraces that flex is the present, not just the future. Office leasing is no longer a hands-off debt collection business but a fully engaged service provision from an invested partner looking to support the growth of their end consumer.
I expect to see the continued demise of the squeezed middle of the flexible office operator community defaulting on leases as substandard product, mediocre service and bad pricing are rewarded with dwindling sales and occupancy.
Resolutions: Professionally, to continue our US expansion and bring back to the UK new trends, concepts, occupiers and ideas, and personally, to win the Porsche Carrera Cup GB 2020 championship.
Savannah de Savary
Chief executive and founder, Built-ID
I hope that the public perception of the property industry improves as developers continue the move towards prioritising social impact and community in their developments. I expect to see cutting-edge sustainable design become a must-have, expected by communities if a scheme is to be palatable to them.
Resolutions: To gain the skills to work on making my own home more environmentally friendly, so I can practise what I preach.
Chief executive, Apex Airspace
I hope to work closer than ever with the government to create legislation change, ensuring we bring in a PDR on airspace development. This will bring certainty to the planning process and achieve wider recognition of airspace as a legitimate means to tackle the housing crisis.
This year is going to be exciting for Apex Airspace. I hope the launches of our new airspace homes will be successful and encourage other freeholders to realise the potential of their properties, as well as enable local authorities and housing associations to work closely with us as they see the viability of airspace development in helping meet housing shortfalls.
Modular construction was a hot topic in 2019, and I have no doubt that these methods will continue to flourish ensuring the sector continues to innovate.
It is flexible and sustainable and boasts strong green credentials with the ability to produce zero-carbon homes. The use of modular with airspace development has seen improved energy efficiency of up to 40%, which we’ve witnessed first hand at our scheme in south Hampstead with a 50% to 60% reduction in bills for existing residents. Ensuring modern methods of construction thrive is crucial if this government is to deliver on its promises to build more homes and make home ownership a possibility for those stuck in renting.
Resolutions: More disruption. Airspace development has started to shake up the housebuilding industry and this is only the beginning. The housebuilding sector must truly embrace technology and be fearless in its quest to innovate.
Partner, Mishcon de Reya
My hope is that we can return to normality, whatever that is, and deal with the hugely important issues facing us. We have been debating the housing crisis for years, but have made little progress in solving it.
My hope is that the property sector will work collaboratively and creatively with local authorities and the government to build the communities that people want and deserve. These communities need to integrate housing, retail, leisure, food and beverage and workspace and should be close to transport hubs. So let’s stop thinking in silos and create the integrated communities of the future.
We need to stop being complacent about London and start working constructively to ensure it retains its position as the leading global city of the 2020s and that our London mayor will be at Mipim this year to lead the way.
I hope that real estate learns to tell its stories better. We are an incredibly exciting sector responsible for creating the environment in which everyone lives their lives and yet as illustrated by the BPF survey, the public have such a negative perception of what we do.
Although I tend to be an optimist, it takes time to get things built and we will have planning, design, revised safety regulations and other hurdles to overcome. I know that I and my co-collaborators will be working hard to promote London as the financial, tech, cultural, legal and educational capital of the world. Unless we put money into a rebrand for the real estate sector we will continue to undersell ourselves.
2020 vision: predictions for the year ahead
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2020 vision: predictions for the year ahead (part three)