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Brexit – impacts on real estate investment since the vote and predictions for the future

Greg Comer

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One of, if not the most prominent topic of discussion in UK society currently is Brexit and how it impacts all of us, in all aspects of our lives. As a recruiter here at Cobalt working with multi £bn equity & debt funds, bulge bracket banks and other major institutions, all within Real Estate, I thought best to share my view on how I've seen Brexit shape the hiring, at both junior and senior level, I've been involved in since June 23rd 2016. I will also give a brief view on my prediction for the future.

It is worth taking into account that the firms I will make reference to here are typically global or at least pan-European players, in terms of their investment focus and it is perhaps for this reason that I have not experienced the doom and gloom some predicted in the immediate aftermath of the vote. As one would expect, in the weeks that followed the decision each and every meeting I had began with a discussion on Brexit and how it would potentially shape investment patterns going forward. The feedback from the vast majority of my clients was, as it is now. We have capital to deploy, we have investors expecting us to draw value from our investments and we will continue as we have been doing.

The businesses I make reference to are all operating out of London, with assets across Europe and with a broad ranging appetite in terms of asset class and geography. Brexit may have required them to act in a slightly more entrepreneurial way, or to focus attention more on mainland Europe but this challenge has been met with enthusiasm and most importantly, success. I've worked with a number of funds who have gone through extremely successful fundraises and placement agents who have been inundated with clients looking to increase capital to go out to market with. The message here is that funds have adapted and thrived, as one would expect from businesses comprised of some of the best and brightest minds working in the UK. 

With steady investment in property, comes steady hiring within funds and just as importantly a steady flow of advisory work for banks and other institutions to occupy themselves with. As long as the institutional investors, family offices, high net worths and public sector officials out there keep faith in the capability of Real Estate funds they back, property investment will continue to grow and the messages I've received are that there is no reason for this faith to dwindle. 

The clear question now of course is, what happens when Brexit is triggered and we officially leave the European Union? My comments here are in relation to Real Estate hiring in the UK specifically. Will we now trigger a situation where-by exceptionally bright individuals from France, Germany, Spain, Italy, The Nordics etc have to go through an arduous, drawn-out process to come and work in the UK? My assertion here is of course open to debate, but it is the following. It would be economic suicide for our government to cut any sort of arrangement which would inhibit Europe's elite coming to London and the rest of the UK to work and contribute to our economy. We simply cannot afford to lose them. In turn, I do not have any confidence in assertions that London could be replaced by another one of Europe's major cities. London has so many redeeming qualities which have been shaped over decades. It is a cultural hot-pot and quite frankly a magnet for people of all nationalities throughout Europe. I'm sure, like me and all of my colleagues here at Cobalt, Theresa May and all those supporting her can see the value of Britain in its current state and the employment deal we cut will facilitate, with ease, qualified professionals from all over Europe basing their career in London and the UK beyond. I prefer to situate myself in the camp of optimism, but this is not based on fantasy, rather the messages I've taken from Real Estate professionals in the market since the vote took place. Pan-European investment operating out of London, will stay in London and we will continue to draw the best and brightest from across our continent. It has been a busy 2018 so far for us and we have no reason to expect any change.  

Article written by Greg Comer, Real Estate Private Equity & Capital Markets Recruiter at Cobalt Recruitment

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