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Real estate investment managers experience mixed recovery from COVID-19

Wednesday, October 20, 2021
Opalesque Industry Update - The 2021 Global Management Survey, published by NAREIM, INREV and Ferguson Partners, paints a varied picture of real estate investment managers' recovery from COVID-19. In terms of 2020 financial performance, 38% of respondents recorded a 10% increase in EBITDA, while 32% reported a 10% drop.

The median firm in the survey recorded net AUM growth of 6%. While still positive, this reflects the first year of slowing growth since 2016. The survey reports 29% of respondents recording a year-on-year fall in AUM - up from 21% in 2019.

Unsurprisingly, employee numbers were impacted during the pandemic. In 2020, headcount either fell or stayed the same for 42% of respondents, versus 26% in 2019; and the number of investment managers who decreased headcount grew from 17% to 27% over the same period. However, in a sign of growing confidence, 77% of market participants expect to increase employee numbers in 2021, with 44% looking to raise that number by 5%. Furthermore, 80% of respondents expect their 2021 acquisition activity to surpass that of 2019.

This positive outlook echoes findings from broader market data, such as the Global Real Estate Fund Index, published by INREV, ANREV and NCREIF. The Q2 2021 edition of this index reports global non-listed real estate vehicles recovering to pre-pandemic levels from a material dip in Q2 2020, with a total return of 3.5% - the strongest result in 15 years and well ahead of the 2.1% quarterly average for 2015-2019.

Other findings from the 2021 Global Management Survey, highlight investment managers' increasing focus on the importance of ESG, with 50% of respondents leveraging insights from their ESG-focused committees to drive key initiatives. For many market participants, sustainability is a significant priority with many firms hiring dedicated sustainability leaders and enacting sustainability committees to tackle pressing challenges related to net-zero carbon performance, energy efficiency, green building certification, and tracking and metrics.

INREV: "These findings reflect the realities of a global economic aberration prompted by the pandemic. As with other asset classes, real estate investment managers witnessed varied fortunes in 2020. But the industry shares a resilience of spirit - glimpses of which are already flowing through to performance, indicating a probable healthy post-pandemic rebound," commented Lonneke Lo?wik, CEO of INREV (the European Association for Investors in Non-Listed Real Estate).

NAREIM: "Real estate investment managers, like all businesses and communities, faced unprecedented challenges during 2020 and 2021. However, we saw an industry come together, adapt, innovate and grow through crisis. As we look ahead to 2022, there is a sense of optimism among managers globally - not just in terms of deals, capital raising and AUM but in terms of employees and operations," said Zoe Hughes, CEO of NAREIM (the National Association of Real Estate Investment Managers). "Talent underpins every firm's success and with the vast majority of organisations expecting to grow their employee base in 2021, we look forward to what that will mean for performance."

Ferguson Partners: "In times of uncertainty, access to information is key. The 2021 Global Management Survey continues a tradition of providing real estate investment managers with unique insights as to financial performance, organizational trends, and key operational benchmarks that spans more than a decade. This year's expanded effort represents our most comprehensive initiative to date, incorporating submissions from over 70 firms from across the globe. We couldn't be prouder to partner with INREV and NAREIM to bring these findings to the industry," commented Erin Green, Managing Director of Ferguson Partners

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