Louis-Simon Ferland, founder and CEO of pan-European real estate investment manager Boreal IM, speaks to Montfort’s Andrew Teacher to discuss the opportunities in logistics, the challenges of starting a business, and why ESG isn’t just a nice-to-have but plain business sense.

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Since Louis-Simon Ferland started the business in 2022, Boreal has already deployed almost €1.5bn across Europe.

With an initial focus on logistics via a €3bn joint venture with Cadillac Fairview, the real estate arm of Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, Boreal is now contemplating an even more compelling investment opportunity resulting from the market repricing.

“Our immediate focus is on growing our logistics platform, but over the midterm we expect to branch out into new asset classes. What’s going to be key for us as a business is to find the sectors that play to our strengths .”

Ferland reflects on the logistics market’s competitive nature and how it will continue to perform well compared to traditional asset classes.

“Over the last few years, the market has been going up and up, so it’s been quite difficult to get it wrong,” he argues. “Back in 2021, it felt like you needed to buy today because it’s only going to be more expensive tomorrow or in three months from now. This was a very uncomfortable environment for an investor.”

“We want to be investing in 2024 because we see the opportunity to access high-quality assets that would not normally be for sale. In environments where you have less liquidity, this is historically where the best investments are made”.

Ferland has high ambitions for Boreal. “We’ve grown the business,” he points out. “We started with four guys and two laptops between us.”

To ensure success in this endeavor, Boreal relies on its continuously growing team of seasoned and young investment professionals with experience across Europe.

“It’s much easier if you speak the language and know the culture,” he says. “I think we have around nine or ten nationalities in an office of 23 people.”

From the start, Ferland has made a nurturing work environment that encourages development and growth within the team a central pillar of the business.

“We wanted to create a different business with its own unique culture,” he explains.

Ferland is looking beyond just financial returns from real estate as Boreal grows, to social and environmental impact.

“We truly wanted to have a diverse business and that’s not easy in real estate, to be transparent. But today we’re 40% women at Boreal and we’re trying hard to get more socioeconomic diversity.”

“Obviously, the importance of everything ESG-related has taken a massive step change, and we’re seeing it everywhere now,” he points out. “That’s something that, as a business, we have tried to jump on very quickly.”

“We’ve built a lot of know how in terms of what it took to take a brown asset and transform it into a future proof asset, and the cost of doing that. There’s still a lot more to learn.”

Ferland has some words of advice for those who might be tempted to follow suit and start up their own business.

“It’s something that is very difficult to do. You have to have strong desire and conviction to want to get there because there will be lots of ups and downs along the way.”

Starting his career as an attorney, Ferland moved into real estate finance and investment when he completed an MBA .

After learning the nuts and bolts of real estate, he transitioned into the investment world, first at Merrill Lynch, and then at Blackstone, where he would spend the best part of a decade, driving the growth of its €12.5bn pan-European logistics platform Logicor from 2013 to 2017.

Given the caliber of Blackstone’s workforce, Ferland was able to work with heavyweights within the industry.

“It’s a hard place, there is no doubt,” he points out. “But it was also an amazing place to be from 2010. It was in growth mode in Europe, and I’ve been part of that journey.”

The firm’s headcount is now around 10 times what it was when Louis-Simon joined in 2010. And Ferland’s plans for Boreal are no less ambitious.

He credits a lot of his success to the people he met along the way, particularly his three partners at Boreal – James Farmer, Nikos Koulouras and Peter Bingel.

“I was at a point in my career where I wanted to work with people I respected, people I liked, people that, frankly, I could learn and be inspired by. And that’s what I have now with my current partners.”

In joining forces with them, Ferland has strived to create an inclusive, collaborative and hard-working environment. He mentions a piece of advice that he received from one of his colleagues at Blackstone, something that he will continue to carry with him as Boreal grows.

“To be an entrepreneur, you’ve got to be a glass half full kind of guy,” he said. “Otherwise, it just won’t work out.”

LISTEN to this podcast via Apple, Amazon, Spotify or SoundCloud (and many other platforms) or just use the player above.