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Interview with Anne Breen, Aberdeen Standard Investments

How do you see the future of office space, the working environment and sustainability?

Covid has accelerated the move towards flexible working by maybe five to ten years. And that’s partly about technology and businesses having to raise their technology offering, but also partly about attitudes and the old school view of presenteeism. We’re starting to see that happen in terms of what is required from an occupier perspective. The wellness theme, the technology, the flexibility, the service provision, all of those factors were already happening but now have accelerated. And we’ve researched into what we call future-fit offices based on flexibility, amenity, connectivity, technology and sustainability.

What do you see as the safe havens for real estate investment in 2021?

I think urban logistics, the last-mile logistics space, is a safe haven, but also the private residential sector. In the UK, for example, residential is still a very underappreciated part of the market and affordability still remains an issue.

The UK has consistently dominated the private equity deal market in Europe over the last decade and even the ambiguity around its future relationship with the EU has not diminished its standing. Moreover, any crisis often tends to push investors and dealmakers towards mature and established markets, meaning the UK should stand up better than other jurisdictions during the Covid pandemic.

What are investors looking for from an ESG perspective?

There’s been a massive increase in focus on ESG across the offer. There’s much more focus on social impacts in the built environment. We’re now talking about purpose built residential schemes that are actually designed with that fully integrated approach to ESG.

Anne Breen

Anne Breen, Head of Investment Strategy (Real Estate) at Aberdeen Standard Investments