President’s Address at
2021 Annual General Meeting
Ian Marcus OBE
Fitzwilliam 1977 It has been an extraordinary and tumultuous year for us all personally and professionally with much sadness and strive for many. But your society, I am proud to say, has not only weathered the storm but reinvented itself and I believe come through the enormous challenges facing our members, notably the student body, stronger and better positioned to add value in this rapidly changing environment of real assets, when social as well as economic returns and responsibility have become paramount. CULS has adapted remarkably well to the world of zoom and teams, and we have successfully held a series of well attended and innovative events. In broad terms we have held 14 virtual events including an Asia-Pacific gathering and the everpopular University challenge competition. Congratulations to the winners who were Murray Edwards, but it may not be a good omen for tonight that my college lost in a sudden death penalty shootout. We also held two very successful virtual career events brilliantly arranged by Louise Sherwin, and APEC forum endeavouring to do whatever we could to support the students in these challenging times. In addition, The Whitehall Group held a further 11 events, expertly choreographed by Colm Lauder and featuring some exceptional speakers including Lord Adair Turner and Sir Vince Cable; Although we were unable to host our regular lunches, the silver lining was that these talks were very well attended allowing us to reach beyond our traditional membership. I would like to formally acknowledge the huge support provided by Goodbody stockbrokers in hosting these lectures and to Fiona Jones for all her hard work in ensuring the Whitehall Group continued to prosper.
A special mention also to our Honorary vice president, Douglas Blausten, for arranging, co-ordinating, and hosting our ninth annual Whitehall Group lecture given by Professor David Runciman.
We also initiated a series of sustainability lectures in partnership with Savills; this initiative led by Ami Kotecha attracted literally thousands of attendees to discuss topics as diverse as rewilding and carbon capture. Such was the enthusiasm for the topic of ESG in all its forms, we have decided to create a new sustainability forum which I am delighted to confirm that Ami will chair, and Savills have offered to continue their financial support for a further series of lectures.
Recognising the obvious uncertainty the pandemic has created, your board have been very focused on ensuring CULS’ financial viability. We have been hugely grateful for the continuing overwhelming support of both our members and sponsors in renewing their financial commitments. I would like to thank: Europa Capital, Tishman Speyer and Orchard Street for their support of the website The Monday Charitable Trust for their donation towards our educational activities Savills, Apache capital, Howard ventures and Mills & Reeve for their sponsorship of the magazine British Land, Eastdil Secured, Savills, Knight Frank, Bydall, Capco, Carter Jonas and CLEAB for their underwriting of the careers fair Carter Jonas, Dorrington, and Great Elms for supporting the Whitehall lecture alongside individual donations from our valued members, Chris Bartram Aubrey Adams, Roger Madelin, and Douglas Blausten. Finally, Denton’s and Bath Publishing for sponsoring the National Planning Update.
Although hugely appreciative for the financial support offered by all those mentioned (and some I have probably rudely forgotten) I wanted to particularly thank Erik Ruane for his excellent stewardship of our finances. I am thrilled to report we remain not just financially viable but well positioned to continue to offer modest support to the Depts of Land Economy and Architecture as well as individual students and hope to be in a position shortly to revisit how we can best allocate surplus monies. In addition, we have continued to support the fellowships of Professor Franz Fuerst and Dr Carolin Schmidt, as well as a series of Tripos prizes. The annual magazine, 2020 titled: “Real estate in a post Covid world – from resilience to re-imagination”, gave a fascinating and insightful perspective, offering very personal stories of the impact of the pandemic. It was magnificently choreographed by Werner Baumker and is a fantastic calling card for the society.
Once again, I am grateful to our honorary secretary, Lauren Fendick, for keeping us on the straight and narrow and ensuring that the rules and regulations that bind our society are enforced, maintained and where appropriate updated. The review of our articles of association which I promised last year has been deferred for obvious reasons until we have total clarity on our financial stability.
With regard to board membership, we have formally said our farewells from the committee to Martha Grekos and James Shepherd, chair of the Rural Forum. I thank them both for their marvellous contributions over many years. I am delighted to welcome Oliver Harwood as the new chair of the Rural Forum and I’m pleased to announce Dan Nicholson‘s appointment as senior vice president of the board, in anticipation of him succeeding myself as president of your society this time next year.
Yet again, I must emphasise that CULS would not be the success it is, nor be able to function without the unstinting support of our two executives, Ali Young, and Fiona Jones. The way they have embraced the technology and remained resolute and focused in this virtual world is the main reason we have come through the last 12 months so well.
We are very grateful indeed for the strong engagement of Land Economy Department Head, Professor David Howarth, and been delighted to welcome to the board Dr James Campbell, head of the Department of Architecture, strengthening the links with this faculty.
Despite the arrival of “freedom day”, I think we are all aware that the pandemic has not gone away, and we will need to continually adapt to this changing environment. However, I am confident that CULS will continue to thrive and its purpose of promoting and supporting the depts of Land Economy and architecture, educating our members and providing a network of contacts has never been more important. Very soon I hope we will be able to revert to live events and do what we do best, which is to enjoy each other’s company first-hand.