INREV Annual Conference 2020

Business Interrupted: Building resilience for the new norm

Between 28 and 29 September 2020, we held the Annual Conference in a hybrid online setting from the #INREV Live Online Studio. Around 620 members logged into the online platform from 27 countries around the globe, to hear 15 speakers across 10 sessions discuss topics related to the overarching theme of, ‘Business Interrupted: Building Resilience for the new norm’. 

An online Annual Conference may not have been the number one choice but it did bring some silver linings, for the first time we were able to open the doors to all our members from young professionals to those based outside of Europe.  For 39% of the delegates this was their first Annual Conference experience and we hope there will be more to follow. 

To open the conference, we invited Yanis Varoufakis, former Minister of Finance, Greece to present on the global and geopolitical impact of COVID-19 – a strong sense of unity and togetherness was expressed by Varoufakis as a requirement to overcome the challenges that we are set to face as a result of the pandemic. Varoufakis paid particular reference to the real estate industry as a driver of recovery – when asked if he sees a role for Real Estate and the built environment he replied, ‘Absolutely – We need buildings that promote social cohesion and a sense of belonging. Real estate has to be part and parcel of the Green recovery’.

We need buildings that promote social cohesion and a sense of belonging. Real estate has to be part and parcel of the Green recovery - Yanis Varoufakis, Former Minister of Finance, Greece

Following the first keynote of the conference, delegates were invited to join a hosted breakout session on sector specific topics each hosted by an INREV member sponsor. The groups talked sectors through the lens of COVID-19, concluding that the pandemic is not a game changer as such but rather an accelerator or trends already gaining traction – investors in long term real estate are not impacted heavily but sector trends are moving indeed at a fast pace. 

The second keynote presentation was delivered flawlessly via videolink by Lise Kingo, Former CEO of the United Nations Global Compact sharing anecdotes and insights into leading a decade of action in sustainable finance. Kingo shared some rather cutting figures with the online audience, likening the built environment to a sleeping giant for climate action, accounting for 40% of GDP, 220 million jobs, with $4.5 trillion invested annually. Kingo urged the audience to consider ESG as a fiduciary duty in the 21 century and cast an eye to millennials and the continuation of the younger generation sharing, ‘millennials are 2x as likely as the overall investor population to invest in companies targeting social or environmental goals.’

After Kingo, an esteemed panel of investors joined the virtual Live Online stage to share insights on how COVID-19 has impacted their investment activities. The panel shared that while video conferencing is a solution for the present situation, it shouldn’t be adopted as a long term strategy for meeting stakeholders. The culture of teams and investment partner relationships needs to be nurtured and protected and video calling alone won’t cut it.  A quick poll to the audience during the panel found that when asked which markets have become more interesting in the last 12 months, the audience voted 27% for the Nordics, 22% for DACH region, 11% UK, Southern Europe 9%, Benelux 7%, all of them 14% and none of them 9%. Back on the panel, Udo Schaffer commented that in terms of interesting avenues to explore in Real Estate, a bottom up approach should be adopted, looking more to finding the right partners to exploit the many great opportunities still in the market. 

The culture of teams and investment partner relationships needs to be nurtured and protected and video calling alone won’t cut it

Following the panel, members were invited to breakout into topical discussions hosted by INREV focused on Diversity and Inclusion, Technology, ESG or Young Professionals depending on their area of interest (and age! No over 36er’s in the YP breakout). 

After a lunch break in the comfort and safety of their own homes and offices, delegates came back together in the live online studio to hear the third keynote presented by Co-Founder of Doctors Without Borders, Dr. Bernard Kouchner who discussed the advent of increased political tensions in light of the COVID-19 pandemic sharing that populism has become an easy choice for some due to the lack of answers or solutions to overcome the pandemic. 

INREV member Keith Breslauer, Managing Director of Patron Capital came together (at a safe distance) with Andrea Carpenter for the Keynote Interview sharing anecdotes of his ‘Adventures in Property’. It soon became evident that culture has always been at the heart of Patron with Breslauer proudly declaring that ‘we purpously created Patron Capital to have a wide range of people – we have 22 nationalities with three distinct characteristics – smart, ambitious and intellectually curious.’ In relation to impact, the online audience heard how it’s a central theme at Patron, with Breslauer citing measuring the impact as an obstacle requiring further exploration. 

The conference began to wind down with breakouts for delegates to explore the different focus areas of INREV as well as the global alliance initiatives. Following the breakout, the audience came back together for the final panel of the conference focused on the ‘beds’ sector. The panel agreed there is a lot of untapped potential for the sector, itself not exempt from the impact of not only the pandemic but also the accelerated trends as a result of the pandemic. While the appetite for the residential / beds sector remains high, new formats are expected to emerge but lack of supply are key issues. The big question mark was left hanging over what exactly the future of offices will look like and what is the most optimum route to adjusting existing office environments into the office of tomorrow. 

Did you miss the online annual conference this year? You can catch up online and view the presentations here