Our reflections on the annual Clearbell Investor Day.

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For many, January is a dry month they just want to get through. Christmas spirit is long gone, daylight hours are short, and it feels a long way since payday.

But January is always a month we look forward to, as it’s the time that we host our Clearbell Investor Day — one of the most exciting days of our company’s calendar.

Now in our sixteenth year, our Investor Day brings together those from across our investor community, as well as our trusted partners and other key relationships, as we look back at what we’ve achieved in the previous twelve months.

This year, we made significant headway against our sustainability goals, working on a mixture of 14 light and deep retrofits across UK properties under our management. This includes six office retrofits, five industrial and retail retrofits, and a further three retrofits on properties within our operational joint ventures. In addition, we have increased our rent roll with twenty new leases and successfully exited our mixed-use Amber portfolio, among many other achievements.

Through our patient and considered approach to investment, we have been able to actively move ahead with projects like these, as well as capitalising on other opportunities in the market despite challenging economic headwinds. It’s something we as a team, are very proud of and remain committed to.

So, what’s next?

For me though, it’s the looking ahead that is often more important and this day allows us to reenergise and refocus as we head into a new year full of new opportunities.

As a business we have made significant progress, but we are constantly looking at ways that we can drive forward positive change while also making strong returns for our investors. This was never more evident than through our ‘Responsible’ session of the day where we focused on the changes that need to be made if we are to continue providing sustainable and social value, alongside capital returns.

The two things are by no means mutually exclusive, they’re just a little harder to get right. Fortunately, we’re not scared of taking the road less trodden and we have big plans for the year ahead, which will be delivered by our proactive asset management team.

And I’m also particularly excited to see our development into some more nascent sectors. At a trip to our lab-enabled office asset, 85 Gray’s Inn Road, we heard from Emma Goodford, head of UK life sciences and innovation at Knight Frank, that while Boston, Massachusetts, has 32 million sq ft of lab space, London only has 8 million – so there’s clearly scope for progress in that sector, and we’ve already made good headway.

We also headed to Tradestars, our co-warehousing community in Hackney Wick that launched late last year and is proving to be a successful concept. We will develop the platform further with additional sites, including Islington which will open in H2 2024.

At the same time, we’ll continue to explore areas like single-family rental, affordable student accommodation and multi-let logistics. For all these strategies we have identified the opportunity to exploit cyclical and secular tailwinds into drive the next phase of successful aggregation.

Overall, though, I am pleased to see that there is still as much enthusiasm and appetite for growth and change in the sector — and particularly across our client base – as there has been since we launched Clearbell sixteen years ago. I have no doubt that 2024 will be our best year to date.

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