Property / Construction

Built to manage

by Charles Mak

Cliff Wong, chairman, External Affairs Committee, The Hong Kong Institute of Housing

As the property market begins to pick up pace, property management is taking on a more important role in the ways people live day to day. For some, it is also generating exciting career opportunities

Despite the rather moderate near-term growth foreseen by leading industry players, the general outlook in property management for the years to come remains optimistic. Cliff Wong, chairman of the External Affairs Committee of The Hong Kong Institute of Housing (HKIH) says a single medium-size project may offer only one or two managerial positions. However, the number of frontline employees such as customer service officers, security personnel and others in close contact with clients is more likely to increase.

"At the moment there are signs of growth and expansion in the property management industry and we are quite optimistic about the future development of the business environment. The property market is steadily regaining strength and we will keep our fingers crossed," he says.

Incorporated in 1988, HKIH strives to protect the interests of housing management service practitioners, monitor their conduct and ensure a healthy environment for development. The institute also maintains regular contact with the Chinese authorities for the long-term promotion of professional property management in mainland China.

There are expected to be enormous opportunities in the China market even though current developments seem to concentrate mainly on coastal cities. Mr Wong believes that, as the market develops inland, Hong Kong based property management companies should be able to get a bigger slice of the business. As he notes, "CEPA has just opened up new business opportunities on the mainland. In view of the tremendous potential and the eventual demand for business development across the border, there is undoubtedly a bright future for companies and individuals who wish to take that important step further into mainland China."

It has become a trend that more and more companies target fresh graduates

Fast growth

The property market in China is developing rapidly. With land available and opportunities to explore, property management companies and the associated professional services will be in high demand. "In September last year, the nation-wide Property Management Ordinance was amended in China to formalise the major functions and define the roles of property management companies and owners of properties. We can see the potential in the China market, give it time and we will get there," says Mr Wong.

The business of property management is not as straightforward as one might imagine. To become a qualified professional manager requires a lot of common sense as well as specific business knowledge. Fresh graduates usually need to start at a more junior level because they are short of practical experience. To advance to the level of a registered professional housing manager, they need to accumulate work as well as social experience. The business requires a great deal of customer service knowledge and managers need to know how to react to and handle different situations. "Solutions may not come from books. It has a lot to do with interpersonal skills and effective communications," explains Mr Wong.

Property management is all about people and the job requires a high level of self-motivation, anticipation and practical knowledge that changes with time. Having been in the business for over 25 years, Mr Wong is highly experienced. "As management professionals, we are involved in all aspects of our clients' daily lives. There is a lot to see and far more to deal with. We are expected to be knowledgeable, resourceful, considerate and, most of all, patient, because we are there to satisfy our clients' needs. We must be well prepared to undertake a great deal of stressful [work and] keep ourselves up-to-date with all the new developments. If you're not prepared for a highly competitive working environment, you'll only lag behind."

Starting out

Mr Wong emphasises that companies in Hong Kong do prefer and are willing to recruit fresh graduates. "When they start out, management trainees are offered appropriate, intensive and comprehensive training. It has become a trend that more and more companies target fresh graduates, helping them build a solid foundation in preparation for a professional career."

Fresh graduates are not expected to know everything about the job but they have to be ready to adapt to any situation and the demands of clients. To have more control over where their careers are heading, graduates are advised to pursue further education and study for a professional certificate or a Master's degree, which may take two to three years on a part-time basis, and which will supplement in-house training programmes.

A comprehensive training programme for management trainees may last as long as two years. However, according to Mr Wong, promotion opportunities can come much earlier, all depending on individual performance. "For fresh graduates, the job will bring a monthly salary of around HK$7,000. For the smart and determined who are willing to work hard, it is a path leading to a promising and rewarding professional career."

Taken from Career Times 13 February 2004
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