The Cannes do attitude

MIPIM. A gigantic corporate jolly or ‘The world’s leading property market’?

Now in its 28th year, Le Marché International des Professionnels de l’immobilier, or MIPIM for short, has become the premier networking event for property professionals from over 90 countries. The official delegate count for the 2017 event was 23,000 but the total number of developers, architects, financiers, surveyors, material suppliers and other associated property professionals who descended on Cannes for the second week of March was probably closer to 35,000. For although the main exhibition hall of the Palais Des Festivals is home to over 2600 trade stands plus the usual expert speaker slots and round table events, those in the know will tell you that the real business of MIPIM takes place in, or outside of, the hundreds of cafes, bars and restaurants which line Cannes’ harbour, beach and attractive back streets. You don’t need a delegate pass to get into those.

[color_quote]UTB have sent representatives to MIPIM for the last three years and 2017 saw the Bank’s largest delegation to date, comprising three people from the Development Finance team and three from Bridging. We talked to three of the UTB team who went this year. Gordon Robinson is a Property Development Director in the Development Finance division and this was his fifteenth MIPIM.[/color_quote]

“Anyone who tells you MIPIM is just an excuse to top up your tan and your expense account probably hasn’t been. Not in the last ten years anyway.” He explains. “There was a time when MIPIM was seen as a jolly for company directors and the top sales performers but nowadays it’s exhausting. Having said that, I wouldn’t miss it. For me it’s the best networking event on the calendar.”

Jo Edwards, UTB’s Business Development and Marketing Director, agrees.

“This was my first MIPIM, but I had a good idea of what to expect from talking to the guys who’d been before. The population of Cannes increases by around 50% for MIPIM week and there’s a big UK contingency. In every bar, restaurant and café, from breakfast time to late night drinks, there are people talking about every possible aspect of the property industry. Developers, architects, planning consultants, lawyers, agents, valuers, lenders, building material manufacturers, kitchen and bathroom designers; Whatever part of the construction and housebuilding supply chain you’re interested in, there are literally hundreds of people who want to talk to you. It’s excellent for broadening your contacts in sectors you wouldn’t usually mix with.”

Jo continues. “The other thing you notice is that the conversations tend to be about strategy rather than the minutiae. For example, how will working together help both of us to grow our businesses? Or, this seems to be an opportunity or a challenge, what can we do about it? Meetings are about the bigger picture, growing connections and looking to the future.”

Noel Meredith, Executive Director of United Trust Bank, is also a MIPIM convert having attended the last three. He believes that the combination of prearranged meetings and chance encounters with developers and other property professionals are an extremely efficient means of getting together with potential customers and business partners. “So many of the people I want to meet up with are in Cannes for those few days and I can have more meetings in three or four days in France than I can arrange in three or four months back in the UK.” He explains.

Noel also agrees with Jo that there’s a ‘MIPIM mindset’ which often makes the time spent there more productive than the usual broker or client visits.

[pull_quote]Those who attend MIPIM are there for the same reason. To develop their networks and to develop their businesses. They go with an open mind and are happy to devote time to discussing their longterm plans and projects with parties beyond their usual circle. A conversation which might be viewed as a distraction when they’re busy managing their office workload, is warmly welcomed over a drink in a harbour-side café.[/pull_quote]

With so many influential UK property professionals meeting on the continent a fortnight before Article 50 was triggered, one might have expected Brexit to be a hot topic. “Actually,” said Noel, “although it was mentioned now and then, the general feeling was that Brexit is just something else the industry will deal with but is not unduly concerned about. From my conversations, the consensus was that the UK property market is in pretty good shape and there’s plenty to be positive about.”

A good measure of the success of any event is whether you’d go again. We asked MIPIM newbie Jo Edwards if she planned to return to Cannes next spring. “Definitely.” She said. “And if it was up to me there’d be an even bigger UTB presence at MIPIM in 2018.”