CRE leaders dancing to different tunes

A few weeks ago I spoke at our Not Going to Mipim lunch.  It was a lighter event than my normal speaking opportunities and was played out in front of many of the great and good from Corporate Real Estate (CRE).  I took full advantage to stray away from typical fare.  There were no charts or graphs.  Just 8 slides highlighting 8 themes through album cover imagery.  Oh and there were some high brow philosophical quotes (you can take the man out of the academe…).  But, honestly, where else could you find quotes from Nietzsche and Oogway (the turtle from Kung Fu Panda) in the opening two minutes?!

While my speech was clearly intended as a bit of fun (and I sincerely hope it was received as such) my end objective was a little more serious.  I wanted to test my latest thinking on the challenges facing CRE at this most interesting of times economically, socially, and globally.

Put another way, I wanted to test my hypothesis that the CRE profession finds itself adapting to a new normal with those at the front-line.  I am delighted to say that all of the points raised resonated strongly with the audience.  Indeed, there were more nodding heads than seen in a typical Churchill Insurance advert.  Of course, such a skilled group posited one or two additional issues, all of which were duly taken on board.  But the arguments essentially stood up to expert scrutiny.  Given this, look out for a forthcoming opinion piece on the new normal through the usual channels and, indeed, through this Blog.

But what struck me strongest during a lively post-speech discussion were the comments of one participant who made the simple but highly pertinent and often overlooked point that the changes encompassed with the new normal are playing out differently from sector to sector.  The participant who besides sharing my passion for music, has worked for technology, banking and pharmaceutical companies during his real estate career, pointed to the different status of each sector in its evolution towards CRE outsourcing.  Tellingly, he also emphasised that each sector faces up to fundamentally different pressures and challenges.  For those in the tech sector it is about accommodating a new wave of growth.  For banking it is about dealing with the challenges of regulation and an eastwards shift in the nexus of economic power.  For pharmaceutical companies it is about gaining a foothold in emerging markets whilst dealing with the legacy of R&D infrastructure found in locations that can no longer compete globally as R&D centres.

So in the new normal, CRE leaders will not been dancing to the same soundtrack, but instead will be cutting shapes to an eclectic mix of tunes, each highly sector specific and with differing beat, pitch and tempo.  This variance will be reflected in our research programme for the remainder of 2012 which will deliver insights into trends in the banking and finance, pharmaceutical, legal and technology sectors.  If you have thoughts or anecdotes that you are willing to share then please do let me know.  (twitter: @drcrelee)