Up close with Simon Robinson of BNP Paribas Real Estate
Please introduce yourself
I am Simon Robinson, head of Midlands and South-West region at BNP Paribas Real Estate. I am responsible for 120 employees in our Birmingham office and 30 in Bristol. In additional to this, I am also part of the Birmingham Investment Agency team involved in the sale and purchase of commercial investment properties for UK and foreign investors.
What does your company do?
We are a full service real estate consultancy, part of BNP Paribas Group. Our services cover all aspects of commercial and residential property, including leasing transaction, investment, consulting, and property management. Our offices in Colmore Row are situated at the thriving hub of the Midlands property market.
Is Brum a good place to do business?
Yes it is. Birmingham has the youngest population in the EU and due to the 18 universities and higher education colleges within one hour’s drive, Birmingham provides a diverse and well-educated labour pool in the financial, business and wider economies including the advanced manufacturing industry centred on the automotive sector.
What are your biggest gripes with it?
Up until recently, our city could have fairly been accused of being a little ‘half empty’. Given all of the public and private sector activity, we must learn to show enthusiasm for Birmingham and really sell it!
How do you feel your clients see the city?
Much improved! The city’s image has been given a big boost by the development of New Street Station, the arrival of the new John Lewis store and so on. And then there’s the city’s ranking as the sixth most ‘investable’ city in Europe which highlights how incredibly positive outside investors are about Birmingham.
Does Birmingham offer any particular advantages as a destination for business?
Yes, it’s now a very viable, cost-effective relocation option – as evidenced by the HS2 project and the likes of HSBC choosing to locate in Birmingham.
What should our priorities be as a city?
We must really sell the benefits of Birmingham in terms of its cost-effectiveness compared with London and the South East. We need to promote a much-improved cultural and residential offer in Birmingham and, in particular regard to housing, promote our region as an attractive low-cost alternative.
If you had £1bn to spend on improving Brum what would you do with it?
I would improve the housing stock. The city centre and fringe housing stock is in many areas somewhat secondary in nature. As we are attracting new entrants in the form of HSBC and HS2, the weekday/city central offer does need to be improved, provided they are developed with quality in mind. A new wave of Private Rented Sector residential development may help achieve this. On a personal level, it would also be nice to find a new owner for Aston Villa FC who’s prepared to invest in a team to help the city compete with Manchester on a sporting level.