Day 3 and final food for thought

 Jeremy Sheldon

I have now arrived back from Dalian and what an interesting and exhilarating few days it was. The world is certainly optimistic but it does seem that there is a lot that still needs to be done before it can be described as steady.

The Meeting’s ‘innovation’ theme was evident at every juncture. There is no doubt that the early adopters and adapters of technology will reap benefits from this approach, however innovation is not just technological; sometimes it is simply about outsmarting the competition.

The discussion I led on the Emerging Trends in Asian Real Estate was extremely interesting. The Planning Director for Dalian made a very compelling case for China’s continued growth, as did the Singaporean professor on the panel. Interestingly no-one had a contrarian view until the subsequent session on financing. Very little is known about how much exposure local China banks have to real estate and infrastructure, except that it is substantial. It is this that is proving the biggest concern for the finance community in the short term – not the rapid speed of building that is so often referenced.

In the breakout session, we discussed technological innovation for individual buildings. While we are now starting to see actual returns on investment from sustainable development, we need to ensure that national governments implement a more robust set of regulations to help drive these efficient technologies. We also need to see a greater partnership between building owners – it was here that Singapore was mentioned.

I spent the remainder of the day attending various discussion sessions and one-on-one meetings which all continued along the same theme and re-in forced my view that real estate is a hot topic and it is extremely rare to be the only “game” in town.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the Forum and have made some great contacts for the future. As the WEF has recently declared its intent to increase the profile of the Real Estate forum, we are uniquely positioned to help drive the agenda. What an excellent and exciting position to be in!

 

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Day 2 in the city that never sleeps!

 Jeremy Sheldon

Thursday was another interesting day that started a little slower, but certainly no less insightful.

First up was a session on the truth behind tweeting which was fascinating. Considering I am somewhat of a dinosaur (I admit that I do not even have a Facebook account) I have definitely been persuaded to sign up for a Twitter account. The power of these social media forums is truly immense.

One of the most interesting and insightful discussion sessions of the day was on the topic of European growth involving a discussion between various European Prime Ministers. The panel agreed on so much throughout the debate that it gave me a real sense of fellowship and commitment within the Eurozone. The implementation of policy is where their views diverged but, even then, not as much as they might have. After the session was over, I was struck by the camaraderie between them – perhaps the cynic in me is being tamed.

While there have been a few principle concerns expressed over the potential impacts of China’s slowdown, this has to be set against yesterday’s address by Premier Li which seemed to be very well received. The open nature of his thoughts on the reforms and changes that need to take place in order for China to get where it needs and wants to go has definitely been the highlight of the forum so far.

I also met with quite a few media throughout the day. Before I arrived, CCTV had already completed 42 interviews and I think the interviewer was actually more worn out than me. The schedule was so busy that we actually ended up filming outside the door of the studio. Next up was the BBC who requested that we film outside the forum to give a real sense of the venue’s scale. Later on in the day I spoke to the French press, Les Echo, La Monde and La Tribune all as one, and then finished off with Thomson Reuters – I can only hope my spokesperson training has paid off!

The official “soiree” last night was hosted by the Mayor of Dalian. The local cuisine, especially the dumplings and buns, were absolutely delicious – I may need to find an excuse to visit our Dalian office on a monthly basis in the future!

Friday will see another early start as I am due to lead a discussion session at 7.30am which will be followed by a couple of client chats. All in all, Dalian should be “twinned” with the City that never sleeps – even the Meeting’s venue changes colour during the hours of darkness!

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Day 1: A baptism of fire!

 Jeremy Sheldon

Well, as the title suggests, the first day was definitely a baptism of fire!

As I said before, our strategic partnership status certainly offers opportunities. In fact, late on Tuesday night, the WEF team decided to introduce a section on ‘Cities and Society’ to Wednesday morning’s Plenary session, ‘Challenge and Innovation solutions”, adding to the existing schedule of Resources, Power, Health, and Technology. I had the privilege of co-facilitating this section of the Plenary – an exciting start to my first day. The session discussed what challenges are being faced by cities around the world and what changes and innovation are required to meet them. After a very lively debate, the room came to an interesting conclusion; that while challenges are being met by the technical innovations, it was actually the “systems” innovations that are not keeping up.

For the remainder of the day I followed a packed schedule involving discussions sessions and meetings with contacts, old and new – there is an interesting number of developers currently looking for ways into the Asia Pacific markets.

I would say that the mood from the first day is one of optimism for the future. Slowing economic growth is certainly a feature but one discussion I witnessed on how to re-invent growth models was very interesting. While debating issues such as human capital, technology and overall openness, with the focus on re-establishing global trust in all areas, there were certainly some interesting reactions given that the room included senior Turkish, Finnish, Russian government officials alongside an Australian CEO and Swiss financier.

This is my abiding impression from day one of this conference: heartfelt debate, in whichever session you choose participate in; no holds barred and no sacred cows!

This event obviously means a lot to Dalian. Over the course of yesterday evening I attended four events and, in all cases, the hospitality, care and attention shown by the people of Dalian in and around the conference has been remarkable. Even the cab driver this evening: he started laughing at me as I came to pay “…very cheap, huh?..” as I handed over my cash. This was followed by “…thank you, have nice sleep…”- something which I have not heard in Hong Kong in a very long time!

Fantastic venue, fascinating people and a lot of chat…I am in my element. More tomorrow!

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Expectations .vs. intial impressions: Landing in Dalian

 Jeremy Sheldon

The World Economic Forum Summer Davos: Annual meeting of the New Champions 2013. An inspiring title to say the least and, so, as I boarded the plane yesterday afternoon, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. With all the interviews and sessions planned, I certainly knew it was going to be a very busy few days. I suppose I was imagining it to be like a larger version of the US ‘Academy’ real estate conferences,  but one at which I didn’t know many people –  bearing in mind the attendee list runs to 56 pages of delegates!

However, when I arrived at the hotel, I was blown away by the scale of the event and realised that this pre-conception had been ‘a bit off’ – the venue is incredible, very impressive indeed.

Our presence as a supporting organization of the World Economic Forum, at both Global and regional meetings such as this, is certainly impactful and I felt the implications from the moment I registered. From tentatively placing a couple of meeting requests on the strategic partners’ site, I have received a fairly constant flow of requests to catch up for lunch or coffee with all manner of companies and potential clients which I am very much looking forward to. With these meetings taking place alongside the packed program of sessions centred on the theme, ‘Meeting the Innovation Imperative’, coupled with my participation in Friday’s panel session on ‘The Future of Emerging Trends in the Asian Real Estate Market’, it certainly promises to be an interesting three days.

On yesterday’s China Airlines 106 flight out of Hong Kong, I could not help but notice the sheer number of “suits” throughout the entire plane. Not a family or accompanying spouse in sight! Obviously something significant is going on in Dalian, and with the buzz around the hotel, I have a feeling that my initial pre-conceptions will be “some considerable way off” – I look forward to updating you over the next three days and sharing some of the major themes and discussions originating from the Meeting sessions.

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