Its lovely to see the trees and flowers are blooming and spring is finally here. The first part of 2021 has been the busiest period that I have seen on many fronts: consultations, engagement with members, digital transformation and Diversity & Inclusion.
April saw the submission of our response to the Treasury’s Call for Input for a review of the UK Funds Regime. Jacqui worked long hours on our response, running to over 30 closely-printed pages, with significant input from Anshita and Rachel at the IA and from many individual AREF members on the working group and the Public Policy Committee. Many thanks to everybody. There was also a significant degree of collaboration with other trade associations across Europe and across the private markets and real asset spaces. AREF’s top three recommendations were for the promotion of the Long Term Asset Fund, of the Professional Investor Fund, and of changes in the REIT regime.
The other most recent response was to the DWP on incorporating performance fees within the charge cap and the next consultation will be on the Long Term Asset Fund itself, to be launched in early May.
MHCLG currently has open a Call for Evidence on Commercial Rents and COVID-19 to inform their policy with regard to landlords and tenants after the end of the current Moratorium at the end of June. If you haven’t already responded I urge you to do so.
Taken together with recent consultations from the FCA and HMRC on notice periods in open-ended real estate funds, and with the commitment of the Government to have the LTAF up-and-running by the end of the year, there is a tremendous amount of work going on across Government which will have significant implications for the landscape facing investors in UK real estate funds. My hope is that the result will be a regime which makes it as easy for a DC pension fund to invest in real estate funds as it is for a DB fund today. We continue to work with members, with colleagues at the IA and with other trade associations towards this end.
Direct Engagement with Members
I have recently been conducting my annual round of direct feedback calls with members. One of the most consistent pieces of feedback has been the value that members derived from the regular drop-in calls that we started last year. Those for Fund Manager Members continue and are now every other Thursday and, while more sparsely attended than at the height of valuation uncertainty last year, are still a good place to catch up with other members. We also recently held our first “Property Investors’ Voice” call where eleven attendees discussed how AREF may be able to help in simplifying and standardising two important areas: the secondary trading process and the reporting by managers’ of ESG and D&I information, which is in increasing demand by investors.
A recurring theme of recent member and investor conversations has been the inexorable growth in the demand for increasingly granular data on fund managers and their portfolios, be that on investment performance, energy consumption, carbon emissions, corporate diversity or individual building location and flood risk. I and AREF’s Technology Working Group are engaged in discussions with members, MSCI, other data providers, data standards bodies and the IA with a view to developing standard ways of transferring such huge amounts of granular data. The AREF Technology and Working Group are also working on an event and details will be announced on this soon.
Diversity & Inclusion Taskforce
Nileena Premchand of BCLP has recently joined the Management Committee as Chair of the Diversity & Inclusion taskforce. The group is still in the process of being formed and deciding on its priorities. It has attracted tremendous interest from across the membership, for which I’m grateful, and I look forward to working with Nileena and the other members on developing AREF’s contribution to this important field.
ESG & Impact Investing
The AREF ESG & II Committee have had a busy month, preparing and recording their podcasts for the 5 Year Roadmap series. These educational podcasts include six key themes which will affect the real estate industry over the next 5 years. Thanks to everyone involved in this project, which will be launched late May.
Members of our Research & Information Committee have been busy working on a substantial piece of research which we will be publishing early May. The report takes a detailed look at the real estate industry 10 years on from the Global Financial Crisis. Thanks to everyone who has been involved with this project over the last six months.
The FutureGen Committee have been busy organising their educational series for 2021. This year they are focussing on real estate from the investor's perspective. They have a great line up of speakers planned so please take a look and book yourself on.
Education & Training
Lastly, the Education & Training Committee have been working on the next Pub-chat Podcast series, being launched over the next couple of months. They are also working on their next global event, where we’ll hear local experts in real estate from the USA, Asia, Germany and Australia share insights given their recent experiences in the market.
As the vaccination programme continues we look forward to a further easing of the lockdown and social distancing rules. We have been discussing how we want to work in the future, retaining the benefits of flexible working while regaining those things that we have lost through the lack of face-to-face contact. In the next few months we may even see our first in-person member event since last year, although we have no firm plans yet.
I hope everyone is well and enjoying the sunnier weather (although the temperature still has some catching up to do) and I hope to see many of you in person later this year.