The continued confusion in the UK because of Brexit aside, Mark Preston, chief executive of the Grosvenor Group and chairman of the Urban Land Institute (ULI) conference in London this month, sounded a note of optimism.
Indeed, Preston pointed out the irony of London hosting the ULI Europe conference in the year of the UK’s departure from the European Union.
‘There’s remarkable resilience in this country to get beyond these issues and to use an economic expression – to “mean revert”. I think this country does have an enormous ability for mean reversion. I am confident in the long term that we will look back at this and see it as a badly organised, badly run period. But we will get through it. The strength the UK has is enormous – its creative, cultural, intellectual and legal presence will help.’
Preston told the ULI audience the industry will have to work a lot ‘harder and cleverer’ to produce anything like the same returns investors have been used to over the past few years.
But as for the potential for a property crash, Preston did not think this would be a likely outcome because players in the market are very well capitalised. That said, he added there were other challenges to face head on.
‘Capital markets are difficult to predict but I think what one can say is that there are trends that are certain to affect the economics of the property investment world,’ he said, pointing to environmental and social politics as well as tax policies.
Despite the surplus of capital to invest, he said the years ahead were not a time for ‘Johnny-come-latelys’ and that only long-term investors would thrive in the industry at a time when the topics of social value and disruption were vital to the future of the property sector.
He warned the property industry had to work hard to rebuild public trust in businesses and dispel the belief that all shareholders are only in it for the short term.
‘The political and social environment now is such that there is no long-term future for those who choose to make a quick turn and leave nothing of value for the community. There will be an increasingly handsome dividend economically, reputationally and recruitmentally [sic] for those who embrace the delivery of social value.’