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Interview published on February 2024 in the Lettre d’Information de l’École Polytechnique.

A graduate of the class of 1989, Daniel Rigny heads TwentyTwo Real Estate, an independent group dedicated to real estate investment in Europe, which he founded in 2012. A major donor in the second fundraising campaign (2016-2021), he has chosen to renew his commitment to the École Polytechnique and specifically support its actions in favor of diversity and equal opportunity. With this new donation, he joins the Monge Diamant Club, making him one of X’s top 20 major donors.


Could you outline the milestones in your career?

I grew up in a small village of 500 inhabitants in Burgundy, at a time when access to information, particularly concerning higher education, was very limited. Because I excelled in scientific subjects, I headed for a preparatory class. At the time, I didn’t know anything about X and joining it was a great opportunity offered by the French education system. During my studies, beyond the academic side, I got involved in a number of extracurricular projects, taking over the management of X-Passion magazine, which had just been created, and working within the Junior Entreprise. All these projects awakened in me the desire and impatience to enter the world of work, which is why I didn’t do post-graduate studies. In 1993, I began my career with Bankers Trust, an American investment bank, first in Paris and then in London. I was able to progress in various sectors: M&A consulting, capital markets and structured finance. In 1997, I decided to specialize in investments in real assets, in particular real estate, by joining Deutsche Bank. In 2007, I became a Partner at Perella Weinberg Partners, again in real estate, before founding my own company, TwentyTwo Real Estate in 2012.

TwentyTwo Real Estate offers its institutional and private clients investment solutions and management services. Could you tell us more about the group, its origins and activities?

The scale of the real estate sector, although it concerns us all, whether we are tenants or owners, is not necessarily well understood. Yet it represents the world’s largest asset class, with an estimated value of $300 trillion, or around three times that of the stock market. It’s an exciting, complex and multi-dimensional sector, encompassing numerous asset sub-classes (rental housing, offices, warehouses, retail, hotels, healthcare real estate, data centers…). Real estate is, in a way, a reflection of the human economy, of the way we live, work and consume… To invest well, it is necessary to understand how real estate is created, used, owned and financed, and to take all these factors into account with a long-term strategy. When I founded TwentyTwo Real Estate, I wanted to be independent and implement my investment vision by creating a company that we define as an integrated “investor-operator” to master the entire value creation chain. Ten years on, this is what sets us apart from our competitors and enables us to offer our customers both investment solutions and property management services. We invest in all asset classes, tertiary and residential, and today have almost 5 billion euros of assets under management in our investment division. In addition, we manage numerous other properties for third-party clients. We employ 240 people in our 17 offices in France and our 2 offices in London and Luxembourg.

How do you see the real estate sector evolving over the coming years?

We’re entering a new, particularly interesting and favorable investment cycle. Inflation and rising interest rates have had a downward impact on real estate values. This represents an investment opportunity and therefore an acceleration in our business. The sector is also facing new challenges. The first is linked to the evolution of real estate uses, which are correlated with the development of technology – I’m thinking, for example, of work-from-home, which increased sharply after the health crisis. The second is the energy transition, since real estate has a very large carbon footprint that needs to be reduced. At TwentyTwo Real Estate, we have fully integrated these two major challenges into our investment process.

What did X give you and how did the “Polytechnique” culture influence your career? Do you have any particular memories of your student days?

Although I didn’t go into engineering or research after my studies, the École Polytechnique, and more specifically the scientific education I received there, gave me a very valuable culture, values and way of thinking. It gave me a curious, inquisitive and perceptive mind, and an ability to solve problems that are necessary to become a good investor. X is also about life-changing encounters. I remember a course, rather unusual at the time, given by Patrice Allain-Dupré on economic intelligence. This course, and the discussions I had with this professor, awakened my passion for entrepreneurship and helped me understand that you have to know how to take risks and create the right conditions for your projects to succeed.

X is celebrating its 230th anniversary this year. In a rapidly changing world, what role do you see it playing?

Above all, the École Polytechnique must remain true to its founding values and invest in its fundamentals. The major challenges of the coming decades, such as the energy transition and artificial intelligence, are eminently scientific. High-level scientific education, which is the School’s raison d’être, is an essential asset if we are to play a major role in these changes. X can also draw on its values of high standards, excellence and rigor, which are the foundations of the ambition we need to meet these challenges.

You are one of the major donors to the Fondation de l’École polytechnique. What drives your commitment to your Alma Mater?

Through my donations to the Foundation, I want to support the École Polytechnique, which has given me so many opportunities and to which I remain deeply attached. Given my origins, this school was a transformative passage in my life, and I still see it today as a family with values that are dear to me, and which I hope to help perpetuate and pass on to future generations. Giving to the Foundation is an act of transmission to the next generation.

You chose to direct your donations to the SIRTA atmospheric observatory as part of our second campaign, and now to the École polytechnique’s actions to promote diversity and equal opportunities. What are the reasons behind these choices?

The issue of energy transition is a daily concern for me in my line of work, and it seemed natural and appropriate to direct my donations to SIRTA, a cutting-edge tool that is helping to advance research in this field. My new commitment to diversity and equal opportunity is motivated by my deepest convictions and by my personal journey, which would not have been what it was without X. While I’m now keen to pass on my experience, I’m also keen to support young people who need to be informed and guided towards excellence, so that they in turn can benefit from the opportunity I’ve been given. I’m convinced that we all benefit from greater diversity, whether in terms of gender, culture or origin. Within our Group, we are very committed to this issue. We recruit employees from a wide range of backgrounds and profiles, with close to 50% of our managers being women. Our commitment to diversity is also reflected in our support for local employment in France, working with nearly 1,000 craftsmen and small-businesses throughout the country.

link to the interview published on February 26, 2024 in the École Polytechnique Newsletter.