The BPF's Expo Real 2018 review

By Drew McNeil - Wednesday, October 10, 2018 13:52

The UK stood out from the crowd at this week’s Expo Real real estate finance conference in Munich, writes Drew McNeill of the British Property Federation (BPF). So what were the key takeaways and their implications for real estate.

Another year, another Expo Real – yet, not just another property conference. For the first time in Expo Real's history, both the UK Government’s Department for International Trade and Homes England attended the conference and, together with the BPF, we worked in partnership to showcase UK real estate to the global investment community.

Without a doubt, the UK ensured it was seen and heard – not an easy feat, given the conference’s size, but with investors from as far afield as the US and Asia, we were not going to let the opportunity pass us by.

UK Government backs real estate industry

The UK Government’s presence at the conference was hugely significant, and it signalled the strength of support for our sector.

This is a reflection of the importance placed on housing and infrastructure investment by our Government, and its recognition of the impact this investment has on productivity, economic growth and communities.

What’s more, this demonstrates our Government’s understanding that effective partnership, between the public and private sectors, underpins success.

While Brexit negotiations continue to rumble on and many of us continue to highlight the detrimental side effects of uncertainty, we should be reassured that our sector remains high up on the Government’s agenda.

UK in the spotlight

We partnered with the UK & Ireland stand at EXPO REAL this year to further support the UK-wide contingent at the conference. In the four years I’ve attended the conference, I had never seen such a coordinated approach from the UK.

With a larger than life space in the middle of one of the halls, with a packed agenda of panel debates, the stand brought industry leaders from around the world to share and learn from one another.

The UK certainly achieved its goal of presenting a united front on the global stage, making sure our presence was known and that everyone was listening.

At a time when confidence is perhaps more critical than ever before, our sector’s belief in the UK’s fundamental attributes – and the characteristics that have made the UK a world leader – is vital.

At Expo Real, this belief in the UK’s future was truly sincere. And, rightly so. UK universities regularly lead the global university league tables. This year is no different, we have three of the top 10 universities in the World University Rankings 2018 – including the first and second on the list, Oxford and Cambridge respectively.

Also this year, the UK has secured fourth place in the Global Innovation Index and, for the first time, has topped Forbes’ Best Countries for Business survey – climbing five places since the 2017 survey. Plus, the UK has always ranked in the top ten in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index.

The UK is a world leader in innovation, education and business, and this is not going to change any time soon.

Driving effective partnership

At the BPF-Carter Jonas lunch seminar at the conference on Monday, Sir Edward Lister, Senior Advisor to the Capital Investments Team at the Department of International Trade, expertly chaired our leading line-up – Nick Walkley, Chief Executive, Homes England, Katharina Von Schacky, Global Head of Shopping, Commerz Real AG and Ronald Huikeshoven, CEO, AM.

The debate focused on ensuring the built environment remains fit for purpose, enabling sustainable communities and business competitiveness through the physical fabric we create.

When discussing key learnings to import to and export from the UK – Nick praised the UK’s rich cultural diversity and entrepreneurism. On real estate specifically, he highlighted the hugely influential impact entrepreneurs and their creations are having on places and communities across the country.

Katharina suggested that the leasing market in the UK must be simplified, pointing to the retail market, and Ronald noted concerns around the construction skills gap and that governments must ensure our sector can deliver – otherwise wider economic and social objectives will not be met.

We also partnered with CREFC Europe this year to hold a dinner for our members on the Monday evening. This gave us an opportunity to hear from government representatives on national and regional ambitions over the mid and long term, and on perception of our sector’s role in supporting them to achieve this.

Needless to say, partnership sits at the heart of this and, regardless of global politics, people and businesses will still need access to high-quality housing, offices that can inspire innovation and places in which to meet and relax. Our sector plays a leading part in the success of this.

Drew McNeil, BPF

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