In the latest episode of BossCast, Aviva Investors’ real assets boss Ben Sanderson sits down with Andrew Teacher from Montfort Real Estate to discuss where the sector is headed amidst a challenging economic climate.
Ben Sanderson is responsible for Aviva Investors’ real estate equity fund management business and is part of its real assets senior leadership, overseeing a team of 45 professionals, based across Paris and its London headquarters. Ben is the current chair of the UK Investment Property Forum, and is chair of the IPF international Special Interest Group.
But he’s not had the easiest start to his time at the helm of real estate at the asset manager, as the last twelve months have seen economic turmoil, political uncertainty and geopolitical tension.
Sanderson remains bullish as to the opportunities facing his business, however. “We’re on the front foot – we’ve got liquidity and a great team”, he says. Aviva Investors has a significant war-chest, unlike some of its peers, and has the capital to take advantage of opportunities as the market has faltered.
Prior to joining Aviva Investors, Ben was an executive director in fund management at Federated Hermes real estate, where he was responsible for the global investment programmes made on behalf of its real estate clients as well as overseeing ESG strategy – which continues to be a major theme in his career.
The transition to net zero is particularly important for both Sanderson and Aviva Investors.
“Let’s be clear where we stand as a group,” he says, “we think there’s an important part to play in the transition to a low-carbon economy. As an investment group within Aviva, we think it’s really important to provide solutions to capital to help that transition to a low-carbon economy. In real estate, we are looking to invest in brown assets and help turn them green.”
However, Sanderson argues not all sectors are created equal in the green transition.
“Infrastructure is interesting in the space we work in, and we haven’t found much evidence of mispricing in the infrastructure equity space including renewables, which is very much an in-demand sector which hasn’t repriced at all following the crisis in 2022.”
But Sanderson is keen to ensure the social and economic aspect of the transition to net zero is managed effectively for the livelihood of local communities. His own upbringing in a deindustrialising Lancashire gave him an eye for ensuring communities and professions are brought along during the process.
Sanderson also highlights the need for greater public-private collaboration to help the real estate and infrastructure market counter the current challenging economic situation. “If there was a way of putting a government guarantee around schemes and ideas, a government could step in at scale to address the market failure where land values have not fallen to a value where you can regenerate effectively,” he explains.
“It would be a really significant positive impact on private capital, because private capital has got to be part of the solution to solving these problems – due to the lack of capital in the public purse.”