Career Path

Macro-managers find themselves hot property

by Edward Chung

Property Management
Spencer Pang
Executive Director
DTZ Debenham Tie Leung

Property management has changed dramatically over the past couple of decades according to Spencer Pang, Executive Director of DTZ Debenham Tie Leung. Since the days of simply sorting out the garbage collection and setting the watchman roster, property management has become a huge multi-disciplinary business.

Mr Pang joined the industry nearly two decades ago after deciding to switch over from a promising career in construction.

"At the time, the construction industry was particularly active, but entering the profession was far from simple," he recalls. "Even with a Polytechnic diploma, it was difficult to get a good foothold."

About that time, in 1982-1983, the local property market suffered some turbulence, which set the young Mr Pang thinking about alternative career routes. Some friends who were already in property management had good things to say about the field, so he decided to switch.

"I've never been a company hopper, and I'd advise others not to follow this method either. This way you can build up trust and earn loyalty and eventually earn your rewards"

A growing skill set

Since then, he has accumulated 18 years of professional experience in building construction, design, project management, facilities and property management. Mr Pang was a Senior Associate Director of Jones Lang Wootton before joining C Y Leung & Company - which merged with DTZ and Edmund Tie & Company to form DTZ Debenham Tie Leung in 2000.

"Since I started out in the business, property management has changed radically, encompassing a broad knowledge of research, valuation, property investment, management, interior design, building construction management and facilities management activities," says Mr Pang. "In the early days property management was just about organising the watchman and the cleaners, but in modern buildings there is a plethora of facilities such as clubhouses and shopping centres. As a result, clients demand a greater range and higher quality of services."

Property management is highly regulated, and coupled with the multidisciplinary demands of the industry, Mr Pang decided to undertake an MBA course to complement his associate memberships of the Chartered Institute of Builders, the Hong Kong Institute of Builders and the Hong Kong Human Resources Management Association.

"In this business, many senior professionals are qualified chartered surveyors and also members of the UK-based Chartered Institute of Housing (Member of Institute of Housing - MIH)," notes Mr Pang, who opted for the MBA route of self-improvement, as he does not fulfil the MIH's entry requirements. "One of the great benefits of getting an MBA was that it gave me a better overall view of how businesses are run and helped me to understand companies' and customers' needs."

Attitude and aptitude

Knowledge will become an increasingly important factor for property managers in the future, and Mr Pang notes that post 1997 the government has ushered in new requirements for public sector housing management. On-site managers now need to have MIH membership and be Chartered Surveyors whereas previously, strong working experience and good industry references were sufficient. Mr Pang notes that these increasing levels of regulation simply reflect the nature of the modern property management.

"To be successful in this field you need a wide knowledge base and be able to handle both the frontline and backroom aspects of the job," he says. "From an administrative perspective, a property manager must pay close attention to detail when setting staff policies, safety precautions and supervising frontline staff, but should also remember that this is a service role above all else."

On a more general level, Mr Pang believes that years of economic prosperity in Hong Kong has resulted in a generation of workers with a more cynical attitude to the workplace. He counsels those entering the profession to be patient, continue learning and improve their competencies to gain long term rewards.

"I've never been a company hopper, and I'd advise others not to follow this method either," he says. "This way you can build up trust and earn loyalty and eventually earn your rewards. The current attitude tends to be that workers want rewards before they put in the effort, but the market doesn't always operate like that, especially in times of economic difficulty. If a worker can prove his worth first, he is in a much stronger position when it comes to negotiating his own package."

China Opportunities

Mr Pang believes, China is clearly the way to go with its huge geographical area and volume of business, and this will lead to an associated demand for skilled management professionals.

He says: "Now 70 per cent of our property management operations are in China, and a particularly attractive point from the property management perspective is the sheer size of properties we can manage. In some cases the developments can reach 500,000 square meters and combine a wide range of facilities, ranging from shopping to leisure, office, residential and serviced apartments - this is very rare in Hong Kong."

Pang identifies a strong command of Putonghua and familiarity with local laws and regulations as major advantages in operating on the mainland. He notes that in many areas there is a completely different regulatory structure to Hong Kong; hence on-site staff must have the relevant licences for their locality, which can range from fire safety, electrical issues and even the collecting of management fees.

Figures provided by
Levin Human Resources Development Ltd.

Taken from Career Times 27 September 2002, p. 28
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