Rolf Buch, CEO of German listed residential investor Vonovia, aims to reinforce the principles of sustainability and social responsibility within the EPRA network in his new position as EPRA chairman.
Buch takes over the position from Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield CEO Christophe Cuvillier at EPRA's annual conference being held today in Berlin.
Since joining Vonovia in 2013, Buch has overseen strong growth in the company in Germany and, more recently, in other markets, which has helped put a large European listed residential real estate sector on the map of global investors for the first time. In an interview with EPRA Industry Magazine, Buch discusses his key priorities in his new role as EPRA chairman.
How do you see the role of EPRA chairman?
First of all, I am excited to have the opportunity to become the chairman of EPRA. As a former vice chairman, I already know EPRA well and, as CEO of Europe’s largest listed residential real estate company, I am fully aware of most of the challenges our sector faces. As chairman, I would like to provide input and advice, contribute to EPRA’s agenda and help identify what really matters for the future of our business.
What do you expect your priorities for EPRA to be in this position?
As a European association, we are very close to developments in the European market, not only with regards to the economy but also environmental and social agendas. Residential companies are traditionally very close to their own markets, and we need to have a very local focus. But, in my opinion, we also have to widen our horizons, particularly when Europe could be facing a major future crisis due to political and social developments across a range of countries. I would like to achieve a better sense of cooperation and communication between EPRA members and other market stakeholders. Sustainability and social responsibility are very important for the way we do things at Vonovia, and I would really like to help reinforce these principles within the EPRA network.
The listed residential market has only emerged as a major new real estate investment class in Europe in the past five years or so, due primarily to the success of Vonovia and the other German companies. Do you think this will give you a different perspective from your predecessors at EPRA, who have generally come from the traditional office and retail specialist sectors, and, if so, how?
First of all, I think the major challenges we are facing are much the same for companies across property sectors. Digitalisation, migration and demographic change, for example, have a direct impact on the way we do our business. As a residential housing company, we have a close relationship with our customers and so a deep understanding of our social responsibilities. I think this could be an interesting perspective to share with other sectors as well. At the same time, we can also learn from other businesses, and I am really looking forward to this exchange of views.
What would you like to see changed in the European listed market, if possible, during your tenure as chairman?
We are at an interesting point in time in the housing markets with a lot of growth opportunities but also many challenges, such as the changing political landscape across Europe. Vonovia is looking for interesting investment opportunities in selected markets outside Germany, and that is why I am really interested in a pan-European perspective. I think we will see a lot of interesting developments in housing markets within the next few years. By working together we can actively help shape outcomes instead of merely reacting as they emerge.
This article first appeared in the EPRA Industry Magazine.