Dramatic shifts in the geopolitical landscape, all of which are impacting corporate real estate – from America First to Brexit – provided key talking points during the first day of the’ CoreNet Global 2017 Summit – EMEA in London (12-14 September).
Opening speaker Linda Yueh (University of Oxford and London Business School) explored several possible scenarios, including how the focus of ‘Trumpism’ would have a significant effect on the U.S. role on the world stage, with the priority on the domestic economy leaving little scope for global trade. She also predicted that a ‘hard Brexit’, with no new trade deal with the EU, will be the most likely outcome for the UK’s withdrawal process; and that businesses will need to focus on alternative WTO rules as an urgent priority. Other impacting factors covered by Yueh included the rise of a dominant global middle class, and China’s need to rebalance its economic growth drivers.
Fellow keynote Johan Norberg, author, lecturer and documentary filmmaker, added that the global economy currently has both the best and worst of circumstances simultaneously. He identified three mega trends that are converging: globalisation, digitisation and individualisation, all of which open up access to opportunity for more people than ever but also make it more competitive. Touching on the rise of populist and powerful world leaders threatening both liberty and globalisation, Norberg argued that rumours of the ‘death of globalisation’ were widely exaggerated, and that away from the campaign trail it is difficult for politicians to stop the progress of established economic opportunities, as nobody will want to give up easily the benefits and privileges they have, whether that is access to healthcare or trade.
Exploring the theme Blurring the Lines: Transcending Boundaries, the 2017 Summit has welcomed more than 600 delegates from 32 countries. Following a welcome from Ben Johnson, UK Chapter Chair, Kate Langan, CoreNet Global’s Chair addressed attendees, noting that the world is more connected than ever, whether through globalising markets, shared risk, or technology, and that business needs to respond.
Angela Cain, CoreNet Global’s CEO, then confirmed that CoreNet Global currently boasts 10,300 members from more than 50 countries, and noted that the new Future Forward 2025 research initiative will focus on ensuring a shared vision for CoreNet Global’s future that will best meet the members’ needs.
Highlights of the first day’s programme included several presentations focusing on the newest workforce generation, new ways in which people are working, and the impacts on the workplace.
Focusing on ‘Generation Z’, Kay Sargent of HOK noted that when developing workplaces, there is a tendency to focus on technology, sustainability, globalisation, and reducing real estate costs, which risks overlooking that buildings are designed for people. As such, the question of what the workplace of the future will look like becomes moot: what will the future workforce or individual worker look like is the more pertinent question. The requirements of Generation Z will be critical to this question, and many find common workplace formats chaotic. Businesses will need to be responsive.
Sargent also noted that today we have an ecosystem of many workplace environments, with the emphasis on agile working, a topic that was also explored by John Williams of the Instant Group in a panel session on the Contingent Worker. Williams stated that the rise of co-working has seen ever more diverse agile, flexible and transparent working options, seeing the growth of niche co-working spaces, ranging from female only spaces to “bro-working” formats and technology accelerated “rocket space” with landlords and operators meeting the requirements of different interest groups with niche products.
Meanwhile, the dynamic discussion “AI and machines: curse or blessing?” centred on whether artificial intelligence would “outpace the human race” or could be used as a platform for co-existent productivity, with the panel leaning firmly towards the latter. ProvidensAI CEO Roksana Fasovska detailed how “we produce every 7 hours as much data as we had in total until 2003,” positioning the ability of artificial intelligence in property-tech to organise this data as a challenge worth embracing. However, potential for new technology requires a supply of capable talent to work alongside the bots, working alongside technology to extract valuable data to revolutionise real estate decision-making.
Finally, Westpac Group’s ‘Corporate Concierge’ provided a dose of Australian hospitality, detailing how their alternative approach to delivering operational functions befits their vibrant workspaces. Built around property trends towards enhancing the employee experience, their bespoke service declares “workspace improvement as an agent for corporate change.” With 100 employees across 8 locations, their integrated ‘concierge desks’ are designed around a comprehensive interactions audit which reports 51% improvement in employee experience and 26% higher productivity.