I am sure I am not the only one who flew out to Nice this week feeling a good deal of trepidation mixed in with the usual nervous excitement ahead of Mipim.
As Property Week went to press, no major dirt had been dug by the non-property national journos who joined the industry this year on its annual school trip (or if you’re feeling less charitable, jolly old boys’ club outing). But as I warned last week, you would be naïve to think they’d leave empty handed.
It is not just the exposure of bad behaviour that people should be concerned about; it is how the event appears to the uninitiated. The hordes of Ray-Ban-wearing, blue-suited men (interspersed with a few elegantly dressed women) wandering up and down the Croisette stopping off intermittently to quaff champagne at cocktail parties might look normal to this insular industry, but it sure as hell doesn’t to outsiders.
If the national hacks can’t find evidence of bad behaviour, they will work with what they have got. My money is on stories decrying the ostentatiousness of the event and ‘exposing’ the local authorities ‘splashing taxpayers’ money’ to send delegations to it. They don’t care that said local authorities are forging partnerships with developers that will help tackle the housing crisis or drive regeneration. They don’t care that deals are being done that bolster not only the health of the industry but also the whole UK economy. They don’t care that diversity was higher up the agenda this year than it has ever been. It doesn’t suit the narrative that this is a sleazy, boozy, elitist, male-dominated event and, by extension, industry.
Fortunately, the industry has never been in a better position to challenge this narrative, thanks not to the tech fraternity, for it is largely a fraternity, but the unprecedented number of women in senior positions at the moment, who for once were conspicuous by their presence at this year’s event.
Take Nathalie Palladitcheff, who has just been promoted from CFO to president of Ivanhoé Cambridge; Isabelle Scemama, chief executive of AXA IM – Real Assets; or Catherine McGuinness, the chairman of the City of London Corporation’s Policy & Resources Committee, who underscored to me in red the message that a financial services deal was imperative to a smooth Brexit and said she would be proactively putting the case for London and the UK to our European neighbours over the coming months.
Inevitably, Brexit was a major talking point, with Berkeley Group chairman Tony Pidgley admitting to me he fears both “a very hard Brexit” and the Labour government he believes will go with it. He also noted that at this year’s Mipim,“the debate is first Brexit then property”, a concern echoed by other senior figures from the residential sector at a roundtable lunch I chaired for Property Week’s newly convened RESI Senate. Nevertheless, most were cautiously optimistic about the sector’s prospects, as were most people I spoke to at this year’s event. Indeed, the mood was surprisingly relaxed and upbeat all things considered.
I hope by the time you read this nothing has soured it. We will be bringing you the highlights (hopefully no lowlights) in the next few issues of Property Week. You will also notice some improvements and new additions to the magazine. In this very issue, our new satirical columnist Agent P has his first outing on the Metropolis page, for instance. We hope you like the changes.