Cycle to MIPIM: mixing fundraising, friendships and business benefits

The annual Cycle To MIPIM, sponsored by Legal & General Real Assets, is primarily about raising much-needed funds for important causes. And while this year is no different – the ride should break the £1m barrier for its principal charity, Coram – the 1,500km cycle from London to Cannes is also about networking. The event has cyclists from across the industry taking part and has been the birthplace of many a business relationship and more. Here we ask some riding duos how they met and what benefits their cycling relationship has brought

Bill Hughes, head of real assets at Legal & General Investment Management; Mike Axon, director at Vectos. First met: 2016

Bill Hughes

As head of real assets, I am responsible for all the investments made into real estate and infrastructure by LGIM, which is approaching £24bn in value. My cycling journey started with a JLL Property Triathlon a few years back. After that, I quickly decided that cycling was more fun than swimming or running.

I rode my first Cycle to MIPIM last year, which is when I met Mike. I took one stage out, and enjoyed the rest of the ride all the more for removing the pressure to complete every stage. Mike and I kept each other going through some inevitable dark moments. We both decided to prove that age is in the eye of the beholder, and that we could ride pretty well in spite of appearances. Cycle to MIPIM is undoubtedly an ordeal, and riding it with someone breaks down barriers and you quickly end up with a shared history.

Since then, Mike and I have met socially on a number of fronts: he has put me up on his climbing wall a few times, and we have also been doing training rides together ready for the ‘grand depart’ this year. Commercially, I think his ideas about how to adapt developments to be more energy efficient and appropriate for the 21st century have every chance of gaining traction at L&G.

Mike is incredibly modest about his position in the industry, while being hugely energised about it. Above all else, I admire the way that he challenges convention. Since I met him, my view of Mike has not really changed that much. He is incredibly generous with his time and actions, exactly as he was on the ride last year.

Bill Hughes and Mike Axon
Bill Hughes and Mike Axon

Mike Axon

I’m a transport planner. Mainly that’s about finding, designing and promoting transport strategies that deliver new development and growth, as well as strategic and specific transport and traffic design, giving evidence at public inquiries and tribunals, and influencing policies. I also take part in European Union think-tanks as part of research and demonstration mobility and social science projects, and introduce these ideas and results to projects in the UK.

I got into cycling as a way of getting to school. Twelve years ago, I took part in the Extra Mile Challenge charity rides. My cycling was intensified significantly by the need to ride Cycle to MIPIM, which I did for the first time last year, when I met Bill. I admired Bill and his inability to stay off the bike: he really couldn’t not ride. I distinctly remember him powering up the last few hills on day six, finishing in Cannes looking fresh as a daisy and launching straight into his post-ride speech duties!

Since then, we’ve been indoor rock climbing and cycling many times. Bill was new to rock climbing, but attacked it with his customary matter of fact “I’m sure I can do this, so I will” approach.

There’s something about the shared pain and determination of Cycle to MIPIM that establishes strong respect and friendship. Cycle to MIPIM has been the catalyst that sparked the rock climbing and the bike rides. Bill travels up from London for our Milton Keynes training rides for this year’s MIPIM, so we cycle together regularly.

Joe Morris and Nick Searl
Joe Morris and Nick Searl

Joe Morris, founder and managing director of Duggan Morris Architects, and Nick Searl, partner at Argent. First met: 2013

Joe Morris

As managing director I have a range of responsibilities; from daily design input through to financial forecasting and business strategies. Without doubt, my biggest career achievement has been forming and evolving the business from a fledgling studio in 2004 to a respected and award-winning architects’ practice of almost 60 skilled staff. This has enabled me to work with many of the leading organisations within the UK construction industry.

I have always cycled, for as long as I can remember, both competitively and for leisure. I see cycling as a hugely influential aspect of one’s life. It has social, emotional, and physiological benefits. It also influences the way in which you read a city.

This will be my 10th Cycle to MIPIM. Nick and I met in 2013, when we discussed the possibility of our businesses collaborating on part of the King’s Cross site. Nick and I and our teams have worked together for four years on the design of R7, a mixed-use office scheme as part of the King’s Cross regeneration project.

Nick has always demonstrated a desire and an energy to seek excellence. Working with Nick and his team, I have been privileged to work alongside many of the most informed people in my career, resulting in a landmark and career-defining building in R7. Nick has always been humble, approachable and friendly but with a determined focus. His outlook on life, work and leisure has inspired me. He is driven, committed and generous.

Without Cycle to MIPIM, Nick and I may never have worked together. It is difficult to tell. Having the opportunity to share life experiences for a number of years, in the saddle, definitely opened up the opportunity for us to explore ways in which we might work together, which we have done for several years.

Nick Searl

I am one of eight partners that run Argent with a specific responsibility for the commercial offices and retail components of our developments. I also spend considerable time contributing to design and marketing initiatives.

I got into cycling slightly by accident. After being a distance runner for 20 years or so, back surgery meant I had to get off my feet and onto two wheels. It wasn’t an immediately natural transition but I’ve come to love it. I’ve ridden Cycle to MIPIM four times and I met Joe in 2013. He is a big character on and off the bike. He’s relentless in the saddle: he has ridden the whole distance at least five times, but when he gets to the hotel, he’s the first to the bar every night and the last to leave it. He clearly doesn’t need sleep like the rest of us mere mortals.

Joe and I are working together on the R7 building at King’s Cross, which is a 150,000 sq ft commercial office building that invites the public into its ground floor where there will be a three-screen Everyman cinema, a restaurant and areas for curated artworks and displays.

It’s been a pretty amazing process, with Joe and his team bringing fresh thinking to a building typology that is generally defensive and unwelcoming to those who do not work in it. In this case R7 will be quite the opposite: a contributor to the public realm experience.

Emma Long and Sarah Jenkinson

Emma Long, UK distribution manager at LGIM Real Assets. Sarah Jenkinson, associate at Tibbalds. First met: 2016

Emma Long

I’m responsible for distributing real assets products to our UK client base, working closely with our investors and their advisers to understand their specific investments goals. Recently, we have secured the capital to launch our UK Build to Rent Fund, our first residential investment pension product. I’m really excited about what this initiative will deliver both in terms of a long-term investment solution for those clients but also in creating a new model of housing provision.

I bought my first road bike in November 2015, allowing myself just a little over three months to train for Cycle to MIPIM 2016 trip from a standing start – and I felt every moment of it! However, I’m back again for another year and it might be rose-tinted vision but I’m strangely looking forward to it!

I really got to know Sarah properly during last year’s Cycle to MIPIM. I will be forever grateful for her enduring patience as I struggled up what can barely be described as an incline on the first day of Cycle to MIPIM.

We connected on the work that both our organisations are doing in thinking about how our built environment impacts community and wellbeing – particularly in the context of the build-to-rent sector, where there is a real opportunity to break the mould and deliver schemes that build cohesive communities. Understanding both Tibbalds’ and Sarah’s perspectives has been really interesting and certainly introduced me to some wider context.

Sarah Jenkinson

My role currently focuses on design management of estate regeneration projects in London, putting together, leading and coordinating large design teams in the provision of new housing. I need to be able to balance the requirements of the client, planning policy, existing residents, design quality and cost. It focuses on a topic that I have been really interested in for my whole career – I am really enjoying it.

This will be my third Cycle to MIPIM. I met Emma last year, on the 2016 ride. We had met a few times before that on the training rides before the event. We got talking about the challenges in London to open up new routes for procuring housing. With Emma’s position at L&G, it is something we have spoken a lot about since. We both cycled on pedElle 2016 in Italy too, and so the has dialogue continued!

It has been brilliant getting to know someone who is very capable in the finance and investment side of property, but with similar interests in the end product. We have very different skills but a similar approach to business. I like to think that Tibbalds, like Legal & General, is a forward-thinking company, so I hope we will be able to join forces as we continue to discuss new ideas.

Pete Gladwell and Christian Spencer-Davies

Pete Gladwell, head of public sector partnerships at LGIM Real Assets. Christian Spencer-Davies, managing director of AMODELS. First met: 2016

Pete Gladwell

My role involves investing Legal & General’s capital into partnerships with government, local authorities, housing associations and community groups. My biggest career achievement to date was probably investing more than £250m into more than 4,000 social homes spread out across the UK. And winning “Best Bum in the Cycle to MIPIM Peloton” last year.

I got into cycling through work. Bill Hughes may have had some influence: he’s into cycling, he’s my line manager, he decides my salary. Need I say more? So far, I have only ridden Cycle to MIPIM once: the gloriously sunny ride of 2016. I actually met Christian on my first-ever practice ride; by contrast, a cold, dark 7am start in Regents’ Park. I knew nothing about cycling, and as it happened, the only other person on the ride that morning was John Forbes. Only many months later did I realise that my first practice had been with the two fastest cyclists in the industry!

Christian’s and my entire relationship was created and supported by Cycle to MIPIM. We didn’t need to schedule meetings – we’d just talk as we rode during training and then down to Cannes. Fresh air and country lanes beat a meeting room any time, in my book.

Christian is fantastic at listening to communities and representing their interests to “the industry”. We are currently analysing a couple of potential investments in London and Nottingham, where he’s doing precisely that. Unfortunately, he takes “local” representation very seriously: insisting that most of our briefings are over a pint or three in his local. That said, I genuinely admire AMODELS. It clearly hasn’t sold out, but remains true to its roots. I think and hope that way of thinking will come back to many high streets and industrial areas across the UK.

Christian is highly memorable for a variety of reasons. Some, such as the orange hair, matching bike and outfits are immediately obvious. Others, such as his delight in “subtle” match-making, reveal themselves over time.

Christian Spencer-Davies

I am responsible for interpreting client briefs and managing the AMODELS team. I’m proud to say that we have survived 20 years doing this.

I got into cycling when I commuted to college 25 miles each way. I’ve now ridden Cycle to MIPIM eight times; 2017 will be my ninth, unless you count the return trip I made to celebrate turning 50 in 2014.

Pete and I met last year. He won the “Best Bum in the Peloton” competition, which included the ladies. I might have made up the award and the result just to tease him, but please don’t tell him that. He’s still proud of it. We are working together on a significant and unique community-led development project, which I am heavily involved with and which Pete is supporting.

I admire Pete because he has stayed where he is for a long time and has a very good relationship with the people he works with. My impression of him hasn’t really changed since I first met him either: he is still informal, thoughtful but fun to be with. He’s a positive spirit. Doing Cycle to MIPIM together helped develop our relationship because it involves spending a lot of time together, battling through some tough situations and looking after others: that environment makes it clear when you get on well with someone.

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