A drink with…

Dr Walter Boettcher

Dr Walter Boettcher is Chief UK Property Economist at Colliers International. Dom Millar caught up with him for a drink and a chat at the famous Dukes Bar in London’s St James’s.

A drink with…

Dr Walter Boettcher

Dr Walter Boettcher is Chief UK Property Economist at Colliers International. Dom Millar caught up with him for a drink and a chat at the famous Dukes Bar in London’s St James’s.

Walter, what are you drinking?

We’re in Dukes Bar where Ian Fleming used to dream up James Bond’s exploits so it’s got to be a Dry Martini…

Is that a Texan drawl I detect? How did you find your way into the UK property scene?

My folks were both New Yorkers who grew up in Harlem as first generation Americans. They escaped to Texas where I was born. I must have picked up a bit of Texan along the way, but I think my accent is increasingly mid-Atlantic.

I finished a PhD at University College London in 1991 when the UK economy was firmly in the doldrums. I had a few tech skills, and got offered a job in GIS and database marketing. Part of the job was servicing the West End property consultancies. One thing led to another and here I am.

What do you miss most about the US of A?

Family, wide-open spaces, baseball, Tex-Mex food and, above all, margaritas.

So, aside from Brexit, what are main topics you’ve been focusing on this year?

Cross-border investment. Colliers has been weaving together its international investment advisory business, and given that the UK is a key global market for most cross-border investors, I find myself producing and delivering narratives about why the UK is a good investment - despite Brexit.

'A Conservative outright majority outcome, would see sterling strengthen as investor confidence returned.'
'A Conservative outright majority outcome, would see sterling strengthen as investor confidence returned.'

And having mentioned the ‘B’ word, what do you think would be the best outcome for the property business?

A hung Parliament would leave us in limbo, perhaps a more benign limbo than before, but limbo nonetheless. Not much would change.

A Conservative outright majority outcome - which according to the bookies is as likely as a hung parliament, outcome - would see sterling strengthen as investor confidence returned.

A Labour outright majority has raised questions about UK financial stability, especially whether a run on sterling would follow. It’s often said that commercial property usually benefits by movement, but I’m not sure that this is the sort of movement I want to experience, especially after having experienced the great financial crisis as an economist.

You’re an avid promoter of UK regions. What should we be doing to stimulate investment and development?

The main game is getting local stakeholders together to concoct local development and infrastructure plans of scale, and then putting them in the same room with representatives of domestic and international institution funds who have the need and the capacity to do the financial heavy lifting.

The political structure is already in place, especially with the formation of the new mayoral-led combined authorities. I think though that the new local mayors do not recognise the potential power they have in pushing this agenda forward.

People want you to predict the future. What’s the best piece of crystal ball gazing that you’ve done?

I predicted the Conservative majority at the 2015 election.

And the worst?

I predicted that the EU referendum would result in a two-third majority to remain.

Who do you think will be the UK Prime Minister and the US president in a year’s time?

I think Boris - either through an outright majority or a minority with some new confidence-and-supply agreement - will still be in No.10.

Across the pond, I would have said Trump, but after seeing him booed by most of the crowd at a World Series game in Washington recently, I would say that it is the Democrats to lose

If they put Biden up to bat they may lose again - and possibly to a President that has been impeached! But I understand that Michael Bloomberg, who was once a Republican, may enter the race as a Democrat. If so, this could be very interesting!

Dukes Bar

Walter and Dom met in the legendary cocktail bar of the Dukes Hotel. its dry martinis have been hailed by the New York Times as ‘one of the world’s best’ and it’s where Ian Fleming invented the Vesper Martini

dukeshotel.com

Dukes Hotel
35 St James’s Place
London SW1A 1NY

Different Magazine | Issue 14