When I got asked to interview Paul Bashir for the launch of maniF3sto, I wanted to call the story “Former Flanker Flying with Harrison Street”, but the editor wouldn’t let me. Not one to ever be bridled, I get to say it here. Because let’s face it, he is.
“I loved my experience as President and at Round Hill Capital,” he says as we head to the first tee. (He’s very good at golf too, I’m yet to find an Achilles heel…)
“It was a big decision for me to leave Round Hill, I loved everything about the firm, but the Harrison Street opportunity is one that comes around once in a lifetime – so that was something I just couldn’t pass on. Harrison Street is a wonderful business and we have ambitious growth plans in Europe powered by a market leading team and excellent best of breed partners.”
A great platform is like calling Paul’s first drive average – 300 yards, straight at the pin. Harrison Street is a leading investment management firm exclusively focused on alternative real assets. Headquartered in Chicago with an office in London, the firm has more than 160 employees and approximately $27.3 billion in assets under management. Clients of the firm include a global institutional investor base domiciled in North America, Europe and Asia.
Paul is now CEO of the European business. A natural progression, obviously, for a former back-row forward with Newcastle Rugby. Which isn’t to take away from his B.A. in Accounting and Financial Analysis from Newcastle and ACA qualification or that while at Round Hill Capital, he managed a business with an $8+ billion portfolio as well as a team of 260 people across 15 offices in 14 countries. He has overseen investment and development projects, regulatory approvals, complex re-financings and capital raises in multiple European locations across a wide array of real estate asset sectors including retail, commercial, residential and student housing.
And now he’s sinking a birdie putt on the first. Some days you really can have it all.
“Harrison Street came into Europe in 2014/15,” he explains, “the initial drive into Europe was through student accommodation where we are market leaders in the US – so Europe was a natural stepping stone for this investment thesis. Students will continue to be central to our business in Europe but we have already started to expand our platform here into life sciences, healthcare and alternative residential sectors such as build to rent and co-living.
“Our business is centered on creating strong partnerships with best of breed local operators in our target sectors and we are proud to have some of the best partnerships in Europe.”
Harrison Street’s investment strategy in Europe, led by Bashir, will also be looking to expand deeper into Central Europe and to expand to the Nordics, with a continued focus on expanding their network of operating partnerships.
“Our success is driven by the selection and support of our partners and we have some of the best in class partnerships to build our strategies, models and execution with,” he continued.
“ Our partnership philosophy extends both sides of the Atlantic and is core to our business principles and performance.”
Which is firmly backed up when one reads the raft of interviews given by the firm’s Founder and CEO, Chris Merrill in Chicago. Best in class partners, innovative strategy, outstanding performance returns.
But what of Covid? I ask, hoping to distract an obviously very expensive back-swing.
“Understandably our partners have been very focused on shoring up their business and protecting cashflow,” he explains.
“The sectors in which we tend to invest have residents and these need to be cared for, so there is a very strong focus on providing a safe and secure environment for residents as well as protecting the underlying cashflow of those businesses in these uncertain times.
“The capital markets in Europe literally paused for several months. Business stopped while people were uncertain about the market response and the world was reacting to an ever changing environment on a daily basis. It was a completely unprecedented time. Covid does not seem to be going away unfortunately. It looks like we will have to live with it for a long time, so we need to figure out how we can get back to a more normal working environment as quickly and as safely as possible. We, along with everyone else, are trying to figure out how best to do this!
”Sensible words, as I’ve come to expect from a man whose decisions have helped shape that normal in our sector.
“We are fortunate to be investing in sectors where there are strong underlying fundamentals – sectors such as healthcare, student, life sciences and rental accommodation.” He continues.
“Why? Because there are compelling macro-strategies and structural supply and demand imbalances across those sectors. I expect Q3 and Q4 to be very busy as activity picks up and people return to work.”
So how is Europe dealing with Covid? I ask.
“The consensus of expert opinion is that Europe will emerge out of the crisis in a better state and quicker than the US. Within Europe there are also markets that will be more attractive than others too. Investor activity for example is up in Ireland, the Nordics and Germany. All markets which we are heavily focused on.”
Moving our discussion closer to home and Central London’s permanent sense of being stuck in a Sunday these days, Bashir is equally Bullish.
“Central London in the long term will not change. It will remain the epicentre of business and life in the UK but what we will see is certain trends created by the current environment remaining and changing how we do things. It will be interesting to see how these trends evolve and which ones lead to permanent shifts in consumer habits. One thing is for certain – Covid-19 has accelerated the adoption of technology across our lives – which can only be a good thing.
“People still need places to sleep however, no matter how much technology they consume. The type of accommodation that people want may change however, but they will still need somewhere to sleep. We have seen trends of people wanting accommodation with more in-house amenities and outside space. They will want to be able to work remotely but not necessarily from the confines of their 35sqm studio apartment. Remote working facilities in residential buildings I think will become common place and increasingly sought after. People, I believe, will start to become much more interactive with the buildings where they live.”
And then of course there are our discussions around the fu3e.digital platform, partly my excuse for 18 holes on the golf course.
“I said fu3e.digital was a game-changer when I was Round Hill Capital.” he adds. Another hole up.
“And I’m saying it too at Harrison Street. For an investor to instantly know their position through one dashboard, with clarity and absolute up to the second accuracy mitigates our risk and allows us to deploy our funds quickly and with qualification. Like I said, we only work with best in class partners. It’s a game-changer.”
Delighted as ever to share time with a real force in our industry, sadly mine didn’t over the 18 – not a great day for me over the remote, fairwayed office.
Exciting times all round though. Speaking of which…. ours awaits in the 19th hole and a definite expected improvement on my backswing….