Ian Stringer, of GVA Grimley, looks forward to his first trip to the Riviera.
I am allergic to Champagne. This isn’t a fact I casually drop into conversation, but it’s certainly something that springs to the forefront of my mind whenever I think of MIPIM.
Established in 1990, MIPIM is the leading international property conference, held annually during mid-March at the Palais des Festivals of Cannes on the French Riviera. During the past decade it has become the major event on the UK and European property calendar, so much so, that the number of UK companies that attended MIPIM last March (a total of 1,144) was only narrowly surpassed by the host nation. While Cannes is synonymous with the International Film Festival, which attracts A-listers galore, it is in fact MIPIM that is the seaside resort’s highest annual money earner.
Ask my initial view about MIPIM and I immediately think of the excess and extravagance of boom time property markets. It is a showcase for the property world’s unashamed extraverts, but coincidental with MIPIM’s 20th birthday, I am attending for the very first time.
Despite my Champagne allergy, I don’t loathe the idea of whizzing between drinks receptions in glitzy seafront hotels to lavish gatherings on chartered luxury yachts – who wouldn’t after a long UK winter! However, in previous years I simply haven’t felt it relevant to attend MIPIM. As a leasing agent, experience tells me that deals to let office space in Birmingham will not be secured over drinks and canapés in the south of France. This is the fundamental reason why I have not attended previously, but there is a bigger picture to MIPIM and this year it is right for me to sign up as a delegate and commit to wearing out my shoe leather by pacing the infamous La Croisette.
MIPIM provides an unbeatable platform to make and reaffirm major announcements about new development opportunities. The collaboration between developer Argent and Birmingham City Council in connection with the Paradise Circus redevelopment opportunity is a project I have personally been involved with since its inception. Gary Taylor, joint managing director of Argent and Coun Mike Whitby, Leader of the city council, will be promoting the Paradise story on the Birmingham stand and I am eager to be there in support.
MIPIM sees cities positioned in a single arena and offers the ultimate opportunity to communicate city-wide unique selling points and ‘soft pitch’ for serious inward investment opportunities.
Developers, local authorities and regional development agencies can overtly present themselves as a strong force with a united vision and I guess this is why MIPIM has such significance. It is vital that developers with large development opportunities get behind the efforts of their city and ensure its voice is heard.
Another reason for boarding the MIPIM train this year is to fly the flag for GVA Grimley in the region. GVA Grimley has always had a significant presence at MIPIM and with my regional role, along with my colleague Stephen Hollowood, I will be representing all of the service divisions that our 350-strong Midlands team offers.
Being part of a large international organisation adds considerable value to the MIPIM experience. Not only is it a relaxed setting to catch up with colleagues from other offices and regions of the world, it provides the perfect occasion for invaluable cross-firm client introductions. It also appears to provide an excellent platform for investment teams.
Over the years it is generally colleagues from this team who have returned from MIPIM with an impressive list of contacts and opportunities to pursue.
Investment deals happen in a different way to leasing deals and MIPIM provides a unique opportunity for investment agents to get international investors around the table with property owners and developers. Meetings that could take weeks to pull off with overseas travel and diary pressures to consider can happen naturally at MIPIM. I have heard reports of how one investment colleague sniffed out the potential for a deal at a MIPIM breakfast reception, met up with a developer client over lunch and then introduced an international investor to the developer later that afternoon.
Hands were shaken on the principal of a deal and the detail processed during the following weeks. Opportunities like that certainly justify the price of the ticket!
I was initially worried that with this being my virgin MIPIM outing and with the depressed state of the UK’s property market, I may struggle to fill my diary, but my fears have been allayed. If the amount of Champagne flowing is diminished from reports of previous years, then clearly it will escape my attention. However, the number of key contacts for me to meet with has already surpassed my expectations and I am not even there yet.
I suspect that on returning from MIPIM I will still hold the view that quaffing canapés on a large motor boat in the warm French Riviera sunshine will not actually help to kick-start new development opportunities or secure letting deals in Birmingham.
However, I will give 110 per cent to my first MIPIM experience and make sure that I promote Birmingham as a city of opportunity and a great place to do business.
I do expect to return with a better appreciation of the bigger picture whereby developers, the city council, AWM and others all come together to present a united front to collectively benefit Birmingham and the Midlands region on a world property stage.