“The Bigger Picture” and how everything in the world is connected was the theme for the CoreNet Global Summit in 2016, and a session presented by Spencer Levy (Head of Research – Americas Research, CBRE) delved into how this interconnectedness impacts corporate real estate (CRE) and occupiers.

According to Levy, technology has changed the perspective on everything. However, whether today’s technological advancements are as significant as those that came before is a question that still remains to be answered. “Automation will have a substantial impact on the future, and is already changing things the way we do things. China, for example, is one of the biggest users of automation technology,” he adds. Increased automation has coincided with a decrease in global trade; with increased automation, the need to outsource will decrease, thus leading to reduced global trade.

As we follow this thread, the reduction in global trade and its resulting consequences on markets that rely on global trade is easy to see. Anti-globalization and anti-establishment votes have been seen in Brexit becoming a reality and the rejection of the peace deal with FARC in Colombia.

According to Levy, while generally speaking “globalization has been good for the world, countries do need to diversify their economies in order to succeed.” Countries that are rich in natural resources typically invest heavily in trading those resources, while other sectors of the economy are neglected. This means that they are always at the mercy of international trade winds.

Finally, technology is altering where power sits. Today, 80% of Africans have cell phones, up from 3 percent in 2002. The cell phone is the modern railroad, according to Levy, and it’s changing everything.  Cell phone companies such as Apple are powerful enough to be able to say no to governments when asked to reveal private data.

All of these threads come together in changing demographics and changing demands. For example, there is a higher demand for apartments, from the younger and the older generations, because more stringent loan regulations have made it harder to buy a house. Similarly, with talent being scarce, companies are increasingly catering to what their employees want, including paying attention to infrastructure and transit around their locations. All of these patterns will change what CRE has to do and what will be asked of it. However, for those who worry about what Millennials might want, Levy has some advice, “They aren’t that much different from the other generations. Turns out, according to research, they are just young human beings!”

To access the slides from this breakout session, please visit the CoreNet Global Knowledge Center.