Recap: ULI Europe Young Leaders Forum 2017

The ULI Europe Conference took place in Paris on February 7th and 8th. In keeping with tradition, the Young Leaders Group, Chaired by Clarissa Alfrink, Head of Business Development International Real Estate at Apleona in Frankfurt, opened proceedings on the first day.

Now in its fifth year, the Young Leaders Forum brings young real estate professionals from throughout Europe together to discuss topics ranging from capital markets to place making to trends in occupational markets. 76 young real estate professionals from 15 countries participated in the day-long conference, which blended key note speeches with a site visit, panel discussions, a speed dating session on career development, catch-ups and first-time meetings.

In the twelve months since the young leaders last gathered in Paris, political events have overtaken economic indicators as the anchor to discussions across European real estate markets. Given this backdrop, the organizing committee, chaired by Emilie Walker from Grosvenor in London, chose ‘change’ as the theme for the conference.

After a tour of Clichy Batignolles, 54-hectare residential led mixed-use project in the 17th arrondissement in northwestern Paris, delegates returned to The Westin, by the Tuileries Gardens in central Paris to hear from Marion Waller, an adviser to the Deputy Mayor of Paris. Marion advises the Deputy Mayor on urban planning, architecture, the Greater Paris projects and ‘Reinventing Paris’.

‘Reinventing Paris’, launched in November 2014, is a public sponsored competition, which asked firms from developers to architects and planners to team together to submit regeneration proposals for 23 publically owned sites across the city. Marion gave an up-to-date overview of the project, its structure, timelines and details of 22 of the 23 projects where winning proposals are moving to the next stage.

In the afternoon, delegates heard from three panels. The first on property technology and innovation, moderated by Tim Stonor from Space Syntax in London, included speakers Gensler, JLL, VMI Studio, and VTS. Themes discussed ranged mobility to datamining and management to virtual reality and evolving investment-underwriting standards given the pace of technological change. As technology embeds itself into all aspects of real estate, the panelists debated the timing of major changes and concluded that artificial intelligence will change some part of everybody’s job in real estate sooner than many people think today.

Delving into capital markets and how investors are underwriting value and risk for 2017, Anoushka Gohil from SVS Real Estate in London moderated a panel of five pan-European investors from AXA, ECE, Hines, LaSalle and TH Real Estate. While interest rates remain at record lows, growing inflation expectations led some panelists to take a cautious view on the outlook for European monetary policy. Echoing trends across the investment market, niche sectors were in vogue while the stabilisation within peripheral markets has removed some of the beta upside within investor models. Mindful of the preceding panel on technology, panelists concluded that disruption to retail investment strategies will continue. In particular, panelists noted that the integration of stock inventory data by Amazon and Google would lead to the next great change in retail investment.

Five professionals with backgrounds in banking, design and masterplanning, listed and direct real estate, academia and start-ups joined Ray Crowley from BCP Asset Management in Dublin to discuss their career paths, how they overcame down markets to progress their careers and the skills that young professionals need to thrive in today’s real estate economy. With delegates arranged into five groups, panelists then spent 10 minutes with each group engaging in one-on-one speed dating session on career development.

A long day hadn’t quite yet finished as Lucy Barratt from Grosvenor in London organised the evening’s activities where discussion, good wine and food flowed freely.

The ULI Young Leaders Forum 2018 will take place in Berlin on 30 January. For more information, please visit