EUROPE – Distinctions between "dull" institutional investors and the rest of the property industry belie significant similarities in approach to innovation and risk, according to the head of an insurance subsidiary.
Legal & General Property (LGP) managing director Bill Hughes told a British Property Federation/Movers & Shakers event earlier this week that it was a "mistake" to believe institutional investors prioritised risk above all else.
"There's more overlap than people make out," he said.
"I take issue with the term 'institutional' because it comes with negative connotations. I'm not ready to be institutionalised – though if you mean by 'institution' a big financial organisation with the influence to effect change over the long term, that's different."
But Hughes defended what he described as "patient capital" capable of taking a long-term view without undue short-term scrutiny.
"Assembling land and a team, developing and letting takes time," he said.
"If you have to be accountable to investors on a short-term basis, it's like a clock where the hands don't move because you haven't looked away long enough.
"In a five or 10-year time horizon, you can do something with the cycle. It's rare that I'll accede to being culpable for anything less than three years. You can't do anything in less than three years."
David Marks, managing partner at Brockton Capital, claimed the definition of investable real estate had changed in recent years.
"If it's bolted to the floor and capable of generating a return, it's real estate," he said, citing acquisitions as diverse as data centre development projects and "living, breathing" Camden market, which has only around 50% secure tenancies.
"The definition of real estate as an institutional asset class is widening," he said. "Our job is to fix it and chuck it down the risk curve to institutional investors such as sovereign wealth funds to own for the long term."
Meanwhile, British Land chief executive Chris Grigg said the REIT would be willing to quit property development if it made sense to do so.
"Development is a good and important part of the business, but it won't be there forever," he said.
"If conditions change, the business model allows us not to develop."