When they aren’t working on deals, it seems like commercial real estate executives are out attending a conference or special event hosted by one of the myriad of real estate associations. Given all that the likes of REALpac, BOMA, NAIOP and Informa’s Real Estate Forums, is there enough time and attention to for another real estate group?
Queen’s University believes so. The Kingston-based school recently launched the Queen’s Real Estate Roundtable (Q25). The 25 refers to the number of “leading companies across the spectrum of the Canadian commercial real estate sector” it expects will fill out its membership roster on an invitation-only basis. It currently has six member companies.
For those in the CRE space who look on the entry of another group clamouring for attention with an eye roll, Queen’s says that its Roundtable has been structured “to complement, rather than compete” with other industry organizations and is modelled after real estate programs run by top U.S. universities, where this sort of project is well established.
Queen’s effort to make a splash in commercial real estate will never be confused with the mega-conferences held in the bowels of Toronto’s Metro Convention Centre and elsewhere that attract upwards of a thousand participants.
Queen’s uses the words “exclusivity,” “collegiality” and “seniority” to describe a select group of Q25 Roundtable members who will be comprised of one or two senior executives of each member company.
The exclusive component is an outgrowth of Queen’s Executive Seminars on Corporate and Investment Real Estate, which the university introduced in 2004. Those seminars feature prominent speakers in relatively small forums (less than 100 participants). The Roundtable plans to continue to offer two executive seminars each year but they will now be part of an expanded slate of activities and events from the organization.
Participants urged Queen’s to do more than provide small, high-level events, said Queen’s real estate professor John Andrew. “They said, `Why don’t you expand this into more of an industry organization where companies come and join?’ Something very, very different from most of the other industry organizations that are very large.”
Besides small, intimate meetings, the Queen’s group wants to focus on high-level research which will be conducted by its faculty or doctoral students. “There is a need for high-quality, applied research that is quite different than the stuff that the brokerage houses are doing, for example,” said Andrew.
“Where we can tackle a very specific question in a very methodologically sound way but also relatively short term and where those results are directly applicable to the member companies.” He expects Queen’s to conduct shorter (less than three month) studies as well as longer-term research, and using U.S. university-based real estate groups as a model.
What Q25 will not be is a networking platform, in part because the school does not yet have a real estate program (so no large alumni base), its exclusive format works against it and, truth be told, because there are organizations out there that already fill that need. “So yes there is a networking component to it, absolutely, but the focus is really more on executive development and applied research,” Andrew said. “We are not a lobby organization, that has always been the strength of REALpac and they have done that very well.”
“It is not just REALpac, it is NAIOP, everybody has kind of carved out their own niche,” he said. “I have gone around and consulted with all the other industry organizations and been very careful to make it very clear to everybody – and frankly to get feedback from them on what they are trying and not trying to do – so that we could fill a gap that everyone agreed was there.”
Plenty of ambition
A Queen’s document states that one long-term plan is to develop the Q25 Roundtable into a “Queen’s Real Estate Centre” and offer diploma and certificate programs. Queen’s School of Business intends to also develop real estate programs over the next several years and create linkages with those programs.
Ideas include providing member executives with the opportunity to be a real estate Executive-in-Residence and providing customized training for employees of specific member firms. “It is not going to appeal to everybody,” explained Andrew. “We are really only seeking 25 leading companies and we don’t want everybody in there.”
Queen’s call for semi-exclusivity means that it will limit members by each service provider category such as engineering and construction companies. It wants just three accounting firms, for example, and Q25 already counts KPMG and Ernst& Young as early members. Torys is its first law firm member “and we have got two others that are very, very interested that will probably join in the next few weeks.”
From the pension fund ranks, PSP Investments (Public Service Pension Plan) has joined, along with Dundee REIT and Morguard Investments, which was the first organization to join the Queen’s group.
Annual fees per Q25 member company are $9,800 per year. What that will buy, over time, according to Queen’s, includes:
· Participation in a one-day, summit-style annual retreat for members.
· Introductions to, and networking events involving Ambassadors to Canada from 20 Asia-Pacific countries and other senior foreign government officials (through the Queen’s University’s Ambassadors’ Forum founded in 2003). The nations represented are: Afghanistan, Australia, Bangladesh, Brunei, China, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, New Zealand, Pakistan, Philippines, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Vietnam.
· Participation in several members-only networking events each year.
· Attendance at our Distinguished Leaders series – executives, entrepreneurs and other leaders in the industry and related fields speaking to Roundtable members.
· Exclusive access to publications written by a select group of experienced researchers working on current and emerging real estate issues chosen by members. The focus will be on producing research findings on key emerging issues that our members may apply to their business operations.
· Access to ancillary opportunities offered by Queen’s University, e.g. recruiting graduates, hiring summer interns, guest speaking opportunities, consulting, etc.
· Receipt of a regular e-newsletter containing interesting articles, research findings and news from member companies and the industry.
· Attendance at approximately two Executive Real Estate Seminars each year.
· Advertising privileges at seminars and other events.
· Participation in the governance of the Roundtable and direct input on all aspects of its operation (e.g. topics for research and seminars, etc.).
· Exclusive, password-protected access to an online portal to research products, publications, an industry database, newsletters, etc.