MIPIM 2018 – Plus ça change

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MIPIM. Often derided by people who have never been, who assume that it’s all yachts and champagne, wining and dining, blagging and bragging. After all, there is only one letter between networking and notworking and it’s easy to understand why those who have never been think that notworking is the whole point. But they are wrong.

At its best, MIPIM is a brilliant opportunity to talk to people in your industry in a relaxed way; to pick up the latest intelligence and to see what your competitors are doing. At its worst, it’s a brilliant opportunity to let yourself down in front of your peers.

I’ve been here for the property finance MIPIM. There are lots of MIPIMs happening simultaneously but that’s my corner of the MIPIM universe and I haven’t ventured much outside it.

Despite all the headlines, there are still enough banks and lenders at MIPIM to make it a magnet for those who feed off them, whether that’s borrowers, brokers, lawyers, valuers or monitoring surveyors. We all want a bit of what they have to give. Actually we want a lot of what they have to give. We want to know who’s lending what, who’s going where, and how we can get a bit more of all of it please.

And what is all of it these days? I’m firmly a mid-market sort, meaning that I play in the £1-50m arena. There are a plethora of lenders here in that particular field and many of them aren’t too optimistic. The market is sticky. Deals are taking forever and none of them are straightforward. There is too much money chasing too few deals. London is pretty much on life support.  There are good deals out of London but most of them have warts. And whilst you can’t hide a crap transaction, you may be able to cover it in glitter and hope it dazzles your institutional backer.

Common complaints from lenders:

  • They (insert name of new entrant to market) aren’t here for the long haul;
  • How can crowdfunding still be a thing?;
  • Too many bad deals with good borrowers and too many promising deals with no hopers.
  • I can’t believe that bloke hasn’t been found out yet;

Tack that onto any conversation including Corbyn, SDLT, Brexit, PRS, Permitted Development and #metoo?  Congratulations. You’ve been playing MIPIM Bingo. Full (finance) house!

And what about #metoo, the gender pay gap and the whole President’s Club debate? There isn’t a single encounter that hasn’t involved a discussion about what some regard as militant feminism and others see as a positive shift in attitude. I’m in the latter camp.

As a woman who has worked in the industry for over 30 years I really welcome this discussion, even if I don’t always enjoy it.

Behaviours which were acceptable a few years ago, nay, even a few months ago, are being re-examined.  Consciousness has most definitely been raised, even if many of the red-trousered brigade are mystified and not a little threatened by it.

Some people are viewing past behaviours through the prism of current notions of acceptability and finding those behaviours wanting. I’m one of them.

Most women seem to be  quietly pleased that the industry is waking up to the idea that it may have to change; that opportunity and pay should be equal and that the property industry might be better served by women sitting at the table, rather than serving drinks to it, wearing skimpy dresses.

Not that you’d be wearing a skimpy dress today at MIPIM, not unless you wanted to catch your death. From sunnies to waterproofs in the space of 24 hours, the weather has proved to be the biggest talking point of the conference. Heavy rain and blustery showers is what you expect in Manchester but not in Cannes. Manchester-by-the-sea turned out to be Manchester in the sea as their beachside stand was flooded at the start of the conference. You’d have thought they would have been prepared.

So is it plus ça change plus c’est la même chose or is it really something different?  It feels like the winds of change are blowing through the property industry and not just down the Croisette this year. I do hope so. Despite all the political uncertainty, I’m certain that a more considerate and female-friendly property industry is a positive thing.