Speech: CPA Chair Ross Sayers’ address to the CPA Annual Lunch

17 May 2024

I am hugely honoured as the newly appointed CPA Chair to welcome you to our 119th Annual Lunch in these beautiful surroundings.

It’s without a doubt my favourite event of the year, spending time with friends and colleagues in such an inspirational building. There is so much history in this room,  which has hosted the Lord Mayors Banquet each year since 1502.

This blend of history and tradition, alongside innovation and modernity, really is what makes the City of London so special.

As I start my two-year tenure as Chair, I must say thank you to my predecessor Gareth Roberts, for all his hard work, energy, and professionalism that he has put into Chairing the association for the past 2 years. His drive for continual improvement, never accepting the status quo, has been impressive to watch. He has left the organisation in a strong position.

So while it’s hard for me to say nice things to someone from British Land, on this occasion it is very much deserved. So Gareth…thank you.

Our opening video montage, was the perfect reminder of how great the square mile is.

  • Global centre for business and finance, The City contributes £97 billion in economic output annually and is home to 1 in every 52 British workers.
  • Culturally rich – with the Barbican Centre, St Pauls Cathedral, Livery companies – the new London Museum.. Incredible Roman ruins…need I say more!
  • Its well connected – with 99.6% of all offices in the City within a 5 minute walk of a Tube or railway station.
  • And thanks to the Elizabeth Line, Liverpool Street is now the UK’s busiest railway station

But it does face challenges:

  • As a place focussed so much on business, the impact of covid and the changes to working patterns which followed, have been felt more acutely in the City than anywhere else.
  • And while we are now seeing a strong return to work, the City as a destination must earn the commute of its workers if it is to continue to thrive.
  • It needs to be a destination not just for work, but also for play – and give workers a reason to linger for longer, and others to visit

This is where, under the leadership of Chris Hayward, the concept of Destination City has really taken root – and the CPA is completely committed to this vision.

Indeed, we pioneered the OneCity digital platform in partnership with the City Corporation, which under the stewardship of NLA has grown into London’s most successful place-based social media offering, promoting the City’s increasingly diverse mix of leisure and cultural experiences.

But to drive this forward Destination City also needs to deliver transformative physical change to our streets and open spaces.

The BIDs have an important role to play in this. Its been great to see the Culture Mile BID now up and running and pleasing to see the recent formation of the City River Partnership, likely to become the City’s 6th BID, tasked with helping to unlock the huge potential of the riverside.

As we all know, the last 12 months have been challenging in terms of development economics

  • increasing cost of capital
  • outward movement in yields
  • and further construction price inflation

But even in these tough times, the City has performed well

  • Tenants continue to commit their long term future to the City
    • Deutsche Bank moved in to their new home at 21 Moorfields
    • HSBC, Clifford Chance, Citadel and Taylor Wessing just a few of the major occupiers committing to new leases in the square mile.
    • The Planning team at the City Corporation have been incredibly busy, approving;
      • 1m sqft of cultural, community and education space, and
      • 5m sqft of office space across a number of tower buildings but also through a high volume of retrofit projects. The City approving half of all retrofit projects across the whole of London.

Our joint research last year with WPA, as London Property Alliance, made a compelling case for Retrofit First, Not Retrofit Only:

For buildings to have a long viable life, to always be relevant and adaptable to whatever the world throws at them they need to have “good bones”, solid foundations, structural integrity, decent floor to ceiling heights and be well located.

And while I may be stretching this metaphor a little, when I look at the City, it has all of these fundamentals. With its amazing infrastructure, connectivity and existing building stock, coupled with its track record, reputation and political leadership, the City fundamentally has “good bones” and whatever happens, it will adapt and innovate to always remain relevant.

It is a truly Global City. It continues to a be a world leader in financial and professional services. It has a rapidly expanding tech and creative sector. And as an integral part of central London’s economic eco-system that comprises the Central Activities Zone, it supports social and economic prosperity across the capital and the UK.

It was therefore pleasing to see this recognised by Mayor Sadiq Khan in his election manifesto, in which he made growing the CAZ a priority, setting an ambitious target to deliver an additional 150,000 jobs over the next four years.

So there are certainly signs of positive sentiment as we move into the next 12 months.

As an association we have 4 priority areas:

  1. Promoting the City as a place for business. This is a core focus of Chris Hayward as the political leader of the City, tirelessly traveling the globe promoting the City as The global destination for business. We will support this by continuing to deliver world class amenity rich, flexible, sustainable workspace.
  2. Our 2nd priority is to support the Square Mile’s evolution into a place to play and relax, by delivering world class public realm, inspirational cultural and leisure offers which captivate the hearts of workers. The ongoing evolution of Broadgate, the introduction of leisure concepts like F1 Arcade and Clays are keeping people in the City into the evening and drawing people in at weekends. The amazing reimagination of Smithfield market as the new home of The London Museum will be a complete game changer for the City.
  3. Third, the City needs to be a Place for the Future by continuing to drive towards Net Zero carbon. The City’s leadership on this subject through their Carbon Options Guidance and their latest Sustainability SPD, coupled with our own research and policy submissions, is having a positive impact – but we must not rest on our laurels
  4. And finally, making sure the City is a place founded on equity and fairness by constantly asking “what more can we do?” when it comes to diversity, inclusion and social mobility. And I know this is something the Town Clerk Ian Thomas cares deeply about, and has launched the City Belonging project to drive a more inclusive and connected square mile. CPA Next Gen’s series of guidebooks, “Diversifying Real Estate” cover topics including Faith and Religion, Gender, Race, Sexuality, Social Mobility and Disability. And come highly recommended.

So while there are undoubtedly challenges that lie ahead, with political leadership committed to driving the city forwards, a property industry committed to working tirelessly to leave no stone unturned in the pursuit of greatness and a pipeline of tenants demanding the best space for their people, the future is certainly bright.

And while on the subject of leadership, politics, economics, social mobility, I couldn’t think of a more appropriate guest speaker than broadcaster and journalist, and keen cricket fan, Amol Rajan.

  • Amol’s distinguished career includes
    • Editor of The Independent – the youngest ever for a broadsheet
    • Presenter on Radio 4’s Today programme, and also now
    • Host of University challenge
  • He has interviewed era-defining pioneers, game changers, leaders and maverick thinkers, from Richard Branson and Bill Gates, to Greta Thunberg and Ronnie O’Sullivan.
  • His programme “How to crack the class ceiling” shone a light on the barriers to entry for many when it comes to the workplace.
  • So I am looking forward to listening to Amol after lunch and Amol, if you have any hints and tips to help us navigate this increasingly complex world, that would be much appreciated.

Before I leave you to your lunch, on behalf of the Board, I must thank three colleagues who retired from the Board after serving their full 9 year terms. Past Chair David Ainsworth of CO-RE, Roy McGowan of Momentum and Nathan Watt, from Delancey. Thank you all for your time, dedication and friendship.

Thanks also to the hard working Executive Team, led by Charles, for all their efforts in delivering such a strong programme of research, policy and engagement.

And also to JLL for kindly sponsoring today’s lunch for the 8th year running. A sure sign of their commitment to both the CPA and the City. But most of all, thank you all for coming today, and for your ongoing support as members. Without you none of this could happen. I’m really keen to speak to as many of you as I can over the next year or so. So do come and say hello to me, my fellow board members and the Exec team, and tell us how we can be doing more to drive the City’s ongoing success.

Enjoy your lunch,

Thank you.