Anna Gener Surrell

Anna Gener’s interests go beyond real estate management. The CEO of one of the leading real estate consultancies in our country, Savills Aguirre Newman and member of Barcelona Global, talks to us about the cities of tomorrow.

Anna Gener is also committed to the social, cultural and economic life of Barcelona.

She is a member of the El Periódico’s Editorial Committee, of the MC Mutual’s Board of Directors, of PIMEC, of the ACG Barcelona, of the Board in Spain of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and of the Patronage Council of the Fundación Catalunya Cultura.

She is also a Consultant Member of the Barcelona Chamber of Commerce, member of the Advisory Board of the International UPF Barcelona School of Management and Patron of the Patronage Council of the Fundació Museu Picasso of Barcelona and the Fundación Cares.

The city of Barcelona is one of her greatest passions, which she shares with the liberal arts and economics. All this, together with culture, forms an idea of beauty that she would like to apply to urban planning.

You openly declare yourself to be in love with the city of Barcelona.

Did that have anything to do with your decision to go into property management?

Yes, because our sector is largely responsible for the evolution of our cities. My first contact with the real estate sector was during my time as a financial auditor when I had the opportunity to audit several real estate companies. At that time, the 22@ district was beginning to be shaped and it was very exciting to participate in that urban and real estate evolution.

20 years later, the area has grown from 4% of the city’s GDP to 16%; more than 8,800 companies have set up in the area, creating 93,000 jobs.

At Savills Aguirre Newman we continue to be fully involved in the development of this important area of Barcelona, setting up companies, designing their workspaces and advising on investment operations.

 

CATERINA follows the example of the country’s first woman entrepreneur, Caterina Llull i Sabastida:

Is real estate a profession of tomorrow for women who, like CATERINA or yourself, are courageous and persevering?

There is no doubt that the real estate sector currently offers great possibilities for growth. Our sector is immersed in a process of digitalisation and the incorporation of sustainability criteria in all phases of the real estate value chain.

Since the 2008 crisis, a significant effort has been made to become more professional and international, incorporating multidisciplinary profiles that have given our sector great solidity.

I feel very committed to helping attract the best talent to our sector.

In recent years, the real estate sector has been moving towards greater internationalisation.

Are Barcelona and Madrid competitive concerning other European cities?

Barcelona and Madrid are the focus of all the leading international investment groups in all real estate sectors: offices, logistics, retail, hotels and housing. Malaga is another city that is attracting a great deal of interest.

Barcelona, Madrid and Malaga offer a very attractive risk/return ratio. These are markets with very solid real estate foundations and offer good returns compared to those offered by other markets.

 

It seems that, after the lull caused by the pandemic, business travel is back. In your opinion, is the option of corporate renting a formula that will help to reactivate the arrival of professionals in our cities?

After the pandemic, we will pick up a trend that we have been observing globally for some time; there is a profile of professionals who spend long consecutive stays in different cities.

This transient population normally has a high level of education and a significant purchasing power, which has a very positive impact on the city in which they are temporarily settled because they are users of our shops, our restaurants and the leisure and cultural offer of our cities.

 

Big cities need to reinvent themselves to attract big business. Can Spain position itself as one of the best options?

Both Barcelona and Madrid have been positioned for years as excellent options for companies looking for headquarters in Southern Europe. Naturally, each city has become strong in specific industries: Madrid attracting banking and professional services companies and Barcelona attracting digital and technology companies.

This specialisation by industry is positive in my view, as it helps both cities establish themselves as hubs and send a clear message to the world about what kind of companies and talent they want to attract.

 

Where does the cities’ success lie from a business point of view?

The key is the talent that cities can attract, train and, above all, connect to economic life. Talent is what sets the engine of prosperity in motion because behind it comes business and investment.

However, it is not enough for cities to increase their collective know-how and range of economic complexity, but they must also adopt a humanistic approach that puts people and the planet at the centre, taking into account relevant issues such as climate change and social cohesion.

 

A city model that combines beauty, culture and economy. Would that be the ideal destination for professionals on business trips?

The most attractive cities to talent and investment are those with a high degree of economic, social and cultural dynamism.

A study by Savills Investment Management, the investment arm of Savills, classifies cities into three main groups: “megacities”, such as London or Paris; “lifestyle cities”, such as Amsterdam or Berlin; and finally, “rising cities”, capable of offering a quality of life at very competitive prices, such as Tallinn or Manchester.

Barcelona and Madrid, which compete with all these cities to attract talent and companies, stand out in the ranking of “lifestyle cities” for the extraordinary quality of life they can offer. We should be more aware of this, to take better care of our assets.

In the particular case of Barcelona, it is indisputable that its beauty, sustained by excellent urban planning and architecture, gives it an undeniable singularity.

 

In your opinion, would CATERINA’s corporate housing rental offer include us in the city of the future approach?

New needs are emerging that the real estate industry must be able to meet.

Until very recently, professionals who spent several months moving from city to city only had the option of staying in a hotel, because the rigidity of the rental market did not allow them access to housing.

The corporate housing formula addresses an unmet demand that is set to keep growing.

 

As an expert, what do you think about the future of the real estate market in Spain? Is it heading more towards the residential, hotel, office and retail sectors?

The real estate market in Spain is fully consolidated in all sectors. A socially and economically evolved society requires housing, offices, hotels and commercial premises.

The challenge is to have a healthy housing stock, i.e. a balance between supply and demand, where prices do not fluctuate sharply.

The main challenge is the housing stock in the main Spanish cities; unfortunately there is more supply than demand, which puts upward pressure on prices, both for sale and for rent.

I believe that a large part of the solution lies in setting up a large rental stock at affordable prices; to do this, public-private partnerships are essential.

 

What are your business trips like? Are you looking for a type of accommodation that makes you feel at home?

Even before the pandemic, it was clear to me that business travel makes sense because of its social aspect. After the experience of confinement, I have reaffirmed the idea that most problems can be solved with a phone call or a Zoom, but consolidating a relationship of trust with a client or brainstorming with my colleagues on the Management Committee requires being present in person.

For me, it makes sense to travel if the agenda includes a lunch, a dinner or a meeting where spontaneity should flourish, and collective intelligence should be born from diverse contributions.

As far as overnight stays, I tend to be very loyal to the accommodation I have known for years, precisely because of the “feeling of home” they give me.

 

As a consultant, do you think our target group appreciates the advantages of fully furnished flat rentals for companies?

Corporate housing’s strong point is its furnishings, its service and something that I consider fundamental: having a reliable contact in the city that will host you for several weeks or several months.

Interview by Rocío Corriàs – Writer / Storyteller

 

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