Chance encounters, digital transformation and umbrellas – Interview with Susan Freeman, Partner at Mishcon de Reya
Susan Freeman, otherwise known in the digital world as @Propertyshe, gave us her thoughts and insights into MIPIM and what challenges and opportunities are for the real estate sector.
What are the most exciting changes taking place in real estate right now?
In terms of how MIPIM has changed, a lot of young people are coming in on the PropTech agenda – this is an increasingly important part of MIPIM that we wouldn’t have seen 10 years ago. It’s an exciting opportunity to find out what is happening in technological innovation.
What’s really exciting is that we’re able to match up tech with the industry. With the British Property Federation’s Technology and Innovation Working Group we are trying to do just that. There are some great tech ideas out there but not necessarily of interest or value to the property sector. We embrace tech and seek to understand how it can be made truly relevant. Greater collaboration is needed between real estate and technology to understand what is going to work.
With real estate we have a sector that is not known for change intersecting with a younger, more disruptive tech sector that wants to make change – getting those cultures to work together can be difficult. But change is unavoidable – you’ve got the Sidewalks labs project which is effectively a development by a tech company, Airbnb is moving into the business booking sector and workspace providers are selling space as a service – these are opportunities that the traditional property industry haven’t thought about. It’s been a wake-up call, but the property industry is ready for change.
Digital transformation is incremental – but from our point of view as property lawyers – we use AI quite widely now on large property acquisitions. That will only increase and change the way we work in future.
More broadly, the IPSX [The world’s first regulated securities exchange dedicated to commercial real estate] has just got its FCA approval and that is a potential gamechanger. It’s a first for the UK – hopefully the IPOs will start coming through in the near future.
Are there any companies, organisations or individuals who are leading the way?
I’m excited that Brendan Wallace from Fifth Wall Ventures is coming to MIPIM for the first time. He is not often in Europe so it’s a great opportunity to hear from one of the leading a venture capital firms focused on technology for the built environment.
The UK government support for MIPIM is a very good thing and the “GREAT” campaign is a very positive influence for the British contingent at MIPIM.
I’m always really keen to meet overseas investors looking to invest in the UK and there are people from over 80 nationalities attending.
This year is MIPIM’s 30th edition. What have been the highlights for you in past years? How has the show evolved?
Well, there is nothing quite like MIPIM… but the first year I went I saw a lot of people that I already see in London – so why come to Cannes? As one property agent I spoke to commented – it’s a bonding experience and you can build connections in a different way than you could have in London. The relaxed and informal environment creates a better basis on which to do business.
MIPIM is always good and every year is different – you always meet someone unexpected or have a chance conversation you weren’t expecting to have.
I remember the Boris Johnson visits – one particular year Sir Michael Bear, then Lord Mayor Lord Mayor was due to speak and looked very impressive in his diamond encrusted mayoral regalia but the French crowd were extremely disappointed as they had come to see “the yellow haired mayor?”.
It used to be much smaller and everyone was in the Palais. It’s become bigger, with younger generations now coming through and it’s very international. There aren’t many events you can go to with people from all over the world talking about real estate. In recent years the women in property groups have been set up and that has helped to bring a lot more women delegates to the event.
What advice would you give to someone going to MIPIM for the first time?
In my experience you need to leave time for the unexpected. Don’t pack out your diary with meetings and make sure you have time for chance encounters.
The weather has also become less predictable – pack for all seasons and bring an umbrella!
Listen to the Propertyshe podcast, where Susan interviews an eclectic mix of property personalities on everything real estate related.