The property industry is going to be under the spotlight this week at the annual MIPIM conference in Cannes. Now in its 29th year, the property industry get-together has become famous as much for its extravagant beach parties and luxury yachts as being one of the best networking opportunities in Europe.
Following the revelations of bad behaviour at this year’s now infamous President’s Club dinner, which was attended by an uncomfortably large number of property folk, MIPIM has already made headlines in the mainstream media for all the wrong reasons.
Even my wife fired a warning shot across my bows having listened to a Radio 4 programme about MIPIM in the car on the way home from work. “Tell me, why exactly do you have to go to MIPIM every year?” and “Who are you going with?”. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one to have been questioned in this way!
On the way here rumours of undercover reporters being tasked by their editors to seek out and report inappropriate behaviour were rife among the UK attendees. Indeed, it appears that many companies have been briefing staff and issuing codes of conduct in an effort to ensure they behave, well, normally! Indeed, a few have even pulled out altogether.
As is generally the case in these matters, the behaviour of a very small number of individuals will inevitably set the tone for how this MIPIM is remembered, but for the 23,000 or so other attendees from 100 countries around the world who are here to make new contacts and do deals, time is short and the diaries are filled with back-to-back meetings.
After the first day, the atmosphere is optimistic. There is an acceptance that the financial and real estate cycle has entered a new phase where returns from European real estate are likely to be lower but less volatile and more suitable for longer-term investors, which is proving attractive to international investors from Asia and North America. Those that prosper will inevitably be the ones with boots on the ground and experience of managing real estate across borders and through the investment cycle.
This year technology is everywhere. You can tell the tech people apart; they stand out a mile from the property folk. The language, the approach is all different. It’s almost impossible to have a conversation with someone about the future of the property sector without mentioning blockchain. In the past, people’s eyes would glaze over, but this year it has become more tangible. The tech events are packed with property people, both young and old, keen to hear about all the possible applications and how they could be used to speed up processes, harness data and aid reporting.
As for Brexit, one of the main topics of conversation last year, it now only seems to merit a passing reference as UK and European investors focus on the opportunities that it might throw up.