Celebrating EPRA's 20th anniversary - A trip to the past

EPRA's journey began 20 years ago when a group of investors foresaw the need for an umbrella organisation to represent the need of the small, but growing, listed real estate sector. EPRA met with Patrick Sumner (formerly at Henderson), Willem de Geus (formerly at Morgan Stanley) and Bernard Cardon (formerly at Cofinimmo) to hear about what made them so passionate in setting up EPRA.

Patrick Sumner: “Over a drink in a cafe in the Piazza Navona quite late at night, four of us had this idea of a common interest group. The idea was to create an umbrella organisation that did a couple of things: to make sense of the indices and to establish common accounting and reporting standards in order to create an environment where investors can understand the sector.”
Bernard Cardon: “We wanted to promote full transparency and corporate social responsibility among each other; rules that I believe are still at the core of EPRA’s work.”
Willem de Geus: “Back then, there was no central database with all the companies, company transparency wasn't always that great, and there wasn't a lot of research. We felt it would be good to have an association that would give more access and transparency about the European market to attract more capital to the sector.”

Inaugural EPRA Conference, Barcelona, 2000

Founding father Patrick Sumner (right)

Patrick Sumner: “We grew from an initial 25 or so members – mostly real estate companies – to the current number of more than 275 members; a majority again of real estate companies but also including everybody who's involved in the sector from investors to fund managers to consultants to research organisations. The fact that everybody thinks it is indispensable to be a member of EPRA and to produce EPRA-compliant reporting and accounting is really a huge achievement.”
Bernard Cardon: “I think the goals have been reached and EPRA is continuing what we decided collectively at the beginning. However, the world is changing; one big reason being climate change. I believe this is something crucial to EPRA’s agenda. There will be a cost associated with improving and adapting ourselves to a future without carbon emissions, but it is part of our responsibility towards society. EPRA should continue to put forward the European listed real estate sector’s role and success on this front.”
Willem de Geus: “EPRA is the undisputed leader and champion for the public sector in Europe. I think what is still missing is a more pan-European capital market for REITs. This would make investing in the sector easier and would attract larger pools of capital.”
Patrick Sumner: “In the end, I believe the ultimate aim is to bring more investors into the sector and grow the sector. So, the investor outreach initiatives are where EPRA needs to continue to push.”
EPRA News Issue 1