'Making the Modern City' at abrdn PLC's London head-quarters


Bow Bells House Cheapside, City of London (designed by David Walker Architects with HOK) - location for 'The making of the modern city' and Christopher Wren's St Mary le Bow Church


Future Cities Forum is delighted that two senior directors from abrdn PLC's real assets team will join our January forum at Bow Bells House, City of London - 'The making of the modern city' where we will discuss new models for workspace, retail, residential and entertainment in city centres.


abrdn PLC, formerly Standard Life Aberdeen manages and administers £532 billion of assets for clients, employs 5,000 people and has over 1 million share-holders (as at 30th June 2021). abrdn contributed to our May 'Future High Streets' report, as it owns and manages a large portfolio of shopping centres across the UK including Brent Cross (with Hammerson), Churchill Square in Brighton and Gallions Reach in Beckton, East London.


Neil Slater is Global Head of Real Assets at abrdn. Neil joined the firm in 2011 and has held a number of key investment and leadership roles. Neil joined to lead a multidisciplinary team responsible for product structuring, tax, legal and debt for SLI’s real estate business, whilst supporting product financing across asset classes. He developed and fund managed abrdn's Real Estate investor debt platform and had responsibility for circa GBP 600m of capital across mandates. Between 2015-2019 Neil was Chief Executive Officer & Representative Director of abrdn's Japanese business, having moved to Tokyo in 2015 to open the then SLI office as the first official employee. Previously, Neil spent over 6 years in Switzerland with Man Group where, as Head of Product Finance & Risk Transfer, he had responsibility for a multi-billion USD debt book in addition to leading the team structuring Man’s equity derivative products & OTC derivatives, fund financing and custodial structures. Neil is an English qualified solicitor. Neil received his MBA (Finance) with distinction from Manchester Business School in January 2007 and has a Master’s degree from St. Andrews University (1999). Neil completed MIT’s Advanced Management Programme in February 2019.


Anne Breen is Global Head of Investment Process and Strategy at abrdn, and she is a member of the Real Estate Investment Management Committee. Her role is to define and articulate the investment approach for real estate business. This will include a Global view to support real estate investment allocations relevant to all investor outcomes, as well as the tools and strategic insights to deliver a strong long term risk adjusted track record for clients. Anne also oversees the Listed Real Estate Team as well as the real estate ESG team. Previously, Anne managed the output of one of Europe's leading Property Research teams at Standard Life Investments. Her team also provides strategic input for all of the 60+ funds under management, including investment in listed and co-mingled property vehicles as well as the tactical use of global derivatives.


In June 2021, Future Cities Forum asked abrdn's Head of Asset Management (UK real estate), Simon Moscow, about how investment is being used to secure prosperity and to re-purpose shopping centres and malls. Simon commented:


'At the start of the pandemic we were continuing to reduce our exposure to UK to retail. We held a number of shopping centre investments but with the structural shift in retail we have been looking to sell some of these to re-deploy the capital into other sectors. For some time there have been headwinds in the retail sector as a result of challenges in areas such as business rates, CVAs, over supply of floorspace and a general shift in shopping patterns. The pandemic escalated the challenges and fast tracked the changing landscape.' 'We have recently sold a couple of town centre schemes - Edgware and Wimbledon - both are well located and close to transport hubs which will help with the new owners' plans to re-purpose some of the retail space. For the schemes we are retaining we have large scale projects in city centres looking to utilise some of the unwanted retail space to convert to alternative uses such as residential, dark kitchens, leisure uses and offices. 'Whilst re-purposing will be essential, as responsible owners we do not want to turn our town centres into bland zones of use classes. It is important that uses are blended in to ensure we have vibrant destinations for both day and night time economy.'

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