James Turner, Managing Director, Balmain Asset Management

After co-establishing Westfield’s European operations in 1998, James Turner went on to launch Balmain Asset Management with a view to bringing high-quality shopping centre asset and investment management to a tier of assets that had previously been lacking. Today the Balmain Group includes a multi-asset-class advisory business (BSC Real Estate Advisors) and employs around 120 people covering asset and property management, leasing, marketing, office, industrial and investment advice.

James Turner, Managing Director, Balmain Asset Management

What are the few current real estate trends that you see as being important at the moment?

The technological impact is the most significant whether it is Airbnb in the hotel sector, WeWork or just the general development of AI and the effect that will have in the office sector, or online retailing and logistics. Then, of course, there is blockchain around the corner. The interaction between retail and logistics/distribution is an interesting one for us and we see the CEE region creating new models. Pop-up shops and micro-space letting are other disruptive trends that technology brings and should be embraced.


What do you believe are the key challenges in commercial real estate across Europe?

Again, I think these are technology-led for the reasons above. There is also, Al, OST to consider.


Is there a real estate sector that you think will change and prosper in the future?

I really do think that retail is still the future, but not necessarily in the old format. We are seeing a much greater integration of technology in physical stores and innovators creating new models. Tighter integration and closer proximity of the storerooms with the retail stores themselves are evolving. In Poland, we are seeing two of the largest French hypermarket operators implementing till-less operations and in shop touch-screen ordering with home delivery in 30 minutes. This is the future and retail is adapting.


What is driving your decisions for expanding into new locations?

After assessing an economy, political stability and range and depth of advisor quality, we tend to look at the triangle of demand and supply. The questions tend to be - do occupiers want to be there, do investors want to be there and are sufficient lending banks active in the area. Often only two out of three are active at any given time but that is generally the way of the world when all other factors exist.


How do you see Brexit changing European real estate market?

Probably at the margins really. Pure British investors tend not to be continental European investors (as opposed to fund managers based in London with a multi-national investor base). Investment in London will remain strong as there is a natural hedge with the Sterling and historically strong real estate market. Outside London will suffer disproportionately to any reduction of investment from British Property companies into Europe.

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