I can tell it’s been a successful and event-packed day at Mipim as I’m writing this blog in the early hours of the morning! We have just concluded our Tuesday night Mishcon de Reya client dinner at La Petite Maison, which has become something of a tradition. As always, it is packed with an amazing cross section of real estate personalities who join us to enjoy the ambience and live music. I think that the food, when it arrives, is the best in Cannes.
It’s been a very long day. I started early in the morning on the London Stand, which was packed with delegates and exhibitors. It seemed busier than ever before and the London model seems to get bigger and better each year. I made time to visit Paris and Istanbul, which seemed to be less busy than London, I’m pleased to say. I also had a quick tour of the main Palais exhibition area. You do need a map these days – I thought I would never find my way out. I didn’t manage to find the Innovation Centre.
Next up was an interesting Knowledge Economy panel on the London Stand. Deputy mayor Jules Pipe (who was everywhere yesterday) detailed the impressive number of London knowledge clusters. Katherine McGuiness, flying the flag for the City, made the point that as Londoners we undersell ourselves, quoting Deloitte as rating London as “the number-one city for fintech”. There are 60,000 people employed in the city in that sector alone, she says. Panellist Jo Negrini, chief executive of Croydon council, announced a collaboration with London South Bank University, explaining that the learning economy is at the heart of its regeneration plans.
I then moved on to a fascinating panel on investing in the UK in the UK government pavilion. It was chaired by Mark Slaughter, DIT director-general, investment, and included Avison Young chief executive Mark Rose (soon to move to London with his wife and dogs), Battersea Power Station chief executive Simon Murphy and Grainger chief executive Helen Gordon. All the panellists felt the government could do more to back the property sector and were concerned about the apparent disconnect between the Treasury and other departments. Hopefully the comments will be channelled back to the government.
At this point, the day began to go wrong! I was invited to three lunchtime events that I was very keen to attend, but as I was chairing a panel session at 2pm this presented a logistical problem. I made it to the London Chamber drinks reception, which was a final chance to say farewell to retiring chief executive Colin Stanbridge and to hear from Jules Pipe again. Then I cantered over to the Westminster Property Alliance lunch on the sunny Majestic Hotel terrace. It was very well attended and I would have loved a relaxed lunch in the sun in such illustrious real estate company. Craig McWilliam (new WPA chair and chief executive of Grosvenor GBI) welcomed guests and Ben Rogers from Centre for London talked about their new research ‘London: HQ City’. The report will explore London’s role as the hub for global and European headquarters; how HQ jobs help drive the capital and country’s economy; and how to maintain London’s HQ City role in the future. I look forward to hearing more. Sadly I had to leave before the food was served!
I’m not complaining as I very much enjoyed chairing the proptech panel in the government pavilion. My excellent line-up included Oli Farago, chief executive, Coyote Software; Gabrielle MacMillan, chief executive, Equiem; Sally Jones, head of strategy and investments, British Land; Guy Grainger, EMEA chief executive, JLL; and, joining us from New York, Aaron Block, co-founder and managing director of MetaProp.
It was great to meet Aaron for the first time in real life having often conversed on social media and to be presented with my signed copy of his newly launched book, Proptech 101, which I can’t wait to read.
They were a terrific panel with a wealth of proptech experience. As well as being the 30th anniversary of Mipim, it’s 30 years since Tim Berners Lee set up the World Wide Web, which opened a whole new world of connection. There is no shortage of tech-driven disruption in real estate. Everywhere you look the sector is affected, whether it’s how property is built, how it’s managed and the relationship with our customers. The panel gave us a great opportunity to discuss the impact of all this disruption, and how as a sector we are responding to and embracing the challenges. Aaron remarked on how the UK is one of the great global hubs and is way ahead in terms of enthusiasm for proptech. MacMillan felt that the UK was a good place to do business and that deals get signed up quicker here. There was a suggestion that Europe should be more joined-up in its approach to tech so as to compete better with the US and Asia.
Aaron had to leave the stage promptly to sprint over to his next proptech event on the other side of the Palais. I joined him there subsequently and was delighted to meet some of my other virtual social media pals in the world of proptech – Adam Balsam and Angelica Donati to name just two.
Then back to the London Stand opening party and then the City drinks reception, which left just minutes left to change to go to the FTI drinks reception, which was already in full swing. Access was circuitous as the Croisette was closed off for the opening party at the Carlton. Then it was on to our dinner with which I started this piece. I still hadn’t had lunch by this time and it was approaching 9pm.
I have already identified a structural problem with my Mipim itinerary. Keeping up with the real estate circuit, as well as getting to the proptech-focused events and social gatherings, is proving quite a challenge. The upside is that I haven’t had a moment to consider the implications of the unravelling Brexit saga.