Only four more sleeps and the new LOBBY magazine will be available. While we wait to hold it in your hands, perhaps at our forum on June 6, we continue to bring you this special real estate issue, which promises to be... very rich!
In this issue, dedicated - as you're beginning to know - to "Revolutions and Innovations in the Real Estate sector", we'll be interviewing a host of experts to enlighten us with their knowledge. Among them, Stephan Sonneville. And if we tell you that he's been CEO of Atenor since 2005, you'll know who we're talking about.
With Atenor and Sonneville, we're talking about a veritable saga: the company is now present in 10 countries and 16 major cities. And Stephan doesn't stop there: as a director at BECI and Up4North, the man is a hyperactive type. And as if that weren't enough, last March he was elected to head UPSI, the Union Professionnelle du Secteur Immobilier (Professional Union of the Real Estate Sector), which brings together most of the major players in the sector in Belgium (promoters, developers, investors, etc.).
Our man has arrived on familiar ground. Indeed, he knows the UPSI well, having been its vice-president and head of the Brussels branch for six years prior to his election.
With regard to the possible conflict of interest between Atenor and UPSI, our interviewee is quick to reassure everyone. For him, the two missions are rather complementary: "The question has to be asked, but it's easily answered. As President of UPSI, my job is to convey a message that synthesizes the expectations and problems - in other words, the ambitions and pragmatism - of all real estate players, including Atenor. Atenor's interests are defended on a daily basis by my colleagues, which enables me to stand back sufficiently when I take on the role of President of UPSI."
What are the UPSI's means of action? Is it a powerful organization? What credibility and impact does it have with politicians? Are we talking about a sounding board, a think-tank, a counter-power, an advisory body, a pressure group, or something else? Apart from those in the know, we know very little about this organization. "Over the years, UPSI has established itself as a center of expertise, bringing together and synthesizing the know-how of all its members. This is a far cry from a navel-gazing, Manichean defense of a profession's interests. Real estate plays an important role in the economy, and the UPSI analyzes any measures and their consequences that might be taken by political and legislative powers. The UPSI comments, informs and, when called upon to criticize, proposes alternatives. It is therefore in a region's best interest to have a real estate sector that functions and meets demand in terms of quality and timing. In recent years, the changing context - by which I mean the climate crisis - has reinforced UPSI's role as a think-tank. Real estate is responsible for +/- 40% of carbon emissions. The Green Deal, which originated in Brussels, is the European Commission's green pact to steer financial flows towards a low-carbon economy by 2030 and 2050. Yes, in this way too, we maintain a constructive and proactive dialogue with politicians, and we are listened to". In short, the UPSI is not there to oppose everything, all the time (it's not a trade union), but to improve things in its sector, in good consultation with all the players concerned.
Finally, when it comes to innovations and revolutions, one question naturally comes to mind: how does the UPSI fit into the future of its sector? "UPSI, through its broad representation and the work of its multidisciplinary commissions, is the beating heart of the sector's future. We believe that the business world is often more nimble than regulatory developments, as soon as a clear political message has been delivered. This is the case for real estate with regard to sustainability at European level. Is Sonneville trying to send a message? If not, it sure sounds like it...
In the meantime, I have a personal message for you, dear readers: thank you sincerely for reading me so faithfully. When I see the success of our events and the quality of the speakers and sponsors, I realize how lucky I am to be able to address you throughout the year!