Swiss Life Asset Managers is an established asset manager and leading institutional real estate investor in Europe with over 160 years of market experience and extensive expertise as a risk manager. Here, RLI speaks with Giorgio Engeli, Head Real Estate Portfolio Management PAM Switzerland to learn more about the company and some of the key projects they are involved with.
The business offers their clients and investors a broad range of investment solutions in the fixed income, real estate, equities and infrastructure and multi-asset asset classes. They actively manage these assets in order to achieve sustainable and attractive returns which form the basis for sound, reliable financial planning for their customers.
Historically, the company has been active in their three core markets of Switzerland, France and Germany, but in the past few years, they have launched operations in the UK and Norway.
“Our aim is to support our clients in achieving their long-term investment objectives. We also think of the clients of our institutional investors, for example, pension funds, who are ultimately able to plan their retirement and financial future in self-determination,” explains Giorgio Engeli, Head Real Estate Portfolio Management PAM Switzerland, Swiss Life Asset Managers.
“With our knowledge and our experience, we develop future-oriented investment solutions and invest the assets of our clients responsibly and risk-aware. To this end, we rely on responsible, long-term investment decisions, which naturally also take sustainability aspects into account.”
Engeli explains that the pandemic has been a difficult period of adjustment for companies across the world. Swiss Life Asset Managers stuck fast to their long-term investment strategy and philosophy and they were privileged to enjoy high credibility in the market.
As the business thinks long-term, their focus is on sustainable, steady earnings and from today’s perspective, their real estate asset investment strategy remains almost unchanged with some sectoral shifts from a tactical perspective.
Some of the company’s recent projects include The Circle, which is co-owned with Airport Zurich who own 51 per cent of the site that has a total rental space of around 165,000sq m comprising office, retail, F&B, culture & events, health & beauty, hotel & convention and education.
“We are currently co-developing the Klybeck site together with two other developers and the Canton of Basel, which will be built over the next 15 years. Upon completion, the new development will offer 10,000 people new homes and an estimated 6,000 jobs will be created. A new school is also planned to be located there, as well as sports facilities on a total site space of almost 800,000sq m GFA will be realised.”
They are also building two towers in Geneva near Caserne des Vernets, an approximately 100m high residential tower with around 260 apartments and a commercial tower with around 25,000sq m of rental space for commercial and services usage. They develop and build dozens of new residential buildings every year throughout Switzerland and they are currently marketing around 1,200 new apartments with 7,200sq m of commercial space in the greater Zurich, Ticino and French-speaking Switzerland areas.
In recent years Zurich’s Bahnhofstrasse has developed into one of the world’s most renowned addresses for strolling, business and shopping and over the past three years, Swiss Life has renovated and repositioned various historic buildings.
Bahnhofstrasse 13/17 has been completely renovated with office space on the upper floors whilst the ground floor contains various retail occupants including Rolex, Dior, Yves Saint Laurent and the traditional perfumery Osswald. As for Bahnhofstrasse 62/Rennweg 43, this was completely renovated in 2017 with the new concept housing retail spaces, with Hyundai Motor Sport and Genesis on the Bahnhofstrasse side, while Apple have taken retail space over several floors on Rennweg.
“Meanwhile our recently re-named building Swiss Life Brannhof at Bahnhofstrasse 75/79 is currently undergoing renovation. The building has been used as a department store since the 1980s and after the renovations; the new complex will accommodate a mixed-use space. The areas in the basement, ground floor and first floor will be let as retail and gastronomic units and the upper floors as modern office space,” Engeli commented.
Meanwhile the office spaces within Swiss Life Brannhof can be divided very flexibly, from cell structure to open space; these have already been designed for a wide range of uses. “Interest in office space is already high in the early construction phase and we are confident about letting those. As far as retail is concerned, we aim for a diverse and attractive mix of different retail formats, restaurants and office space.”
Sustainability plays a key role in all of Swiss Life Asset Managers’ developments and as one of the largest real estate asset manager in Europe and private owner in Switzerland they are aware of their responsibilities and actively assume it. With their Swiss Life Brannhof scheme, the revitalisation will sustainably improve the energy efficiency of the property. The building shell will be energetically renovated, listed elements will be preserved, a new inner layer will be created and sun protection will be automated. Upon completion, we aim at the certification with the internationally recognised label “DGNB Silver” by the German Sustainable Building Council.
As the business looks to the future, they want to grow primarily organically and they only make acquisitions if it accelerates their organic growth. “These include acquisitions of Livit Ltd in Switzerland in 1999, Viveris REIM in France in 2011, Corpus Sireo in 2014 and BEOS in 2018, both in Germany, Mayfair Capital in the UK in 2016, Fontavis, a Swiss Clean Energy Asset Manager in 2019 and NRP Norway this year,” says Engeli.
As the interview nears its end we ask Engeli his view on the future of the retail real estate market going forward and he explains that retailers are now more than ever forced to reinvent themselves anew.
“Generally, the structural changes are observed in all sectors: in retail for example it is online shopping, whereas for logistics it’s the challenge of fulfilment of e-commerce. These structural changes are now developing faster than before, and investors will need to adapt as well.”
Supporting the sustainability efforts will continue to be a key challenge for the business and because of this; they will increasingly position themselves strategically in the area of energy efficiency and optimisation in the future.
“Also, digitalisation in the real estate business is a central and strategic area for us and we expect that this will be one area that keeps us busy, Engeli explains.
“We are driving digitalisation with various specific use cases. The focus is on the more efficient use and marketing or rental space as well as the clever integration of technologies and data streams in buildings in order to optimise our offering to tenants.”