Property / Construction

Property management services branch out

by Nicole Wong

Beatrice Wong, director, human resources, EastPoint Property Management Services Limited

The strength of the reviving market creates enormous business opportunities

With stricter regulations being laid down by the government and higher expectations set by owners' corporations, it has been necessary for property management companies to increase the range and standard of services they offer. This had led to a greater need for both new recruits and more experienced managers, and to a clearer focus on the measures required to develop talent within the industry.

EastPoint Property Management Services Limited, with its emphasis on comprehensive training for staff, is an excellent example of this trend. According to Beatrice Wong, the company's human resources director, the property management business has evolved in recent years from concentrating mainly on the security and maintenance of buildings to providing value-added services for higher customer satisfaction. For this reason, newer employees receive extensive on-the-job exposure and regular rotations, so that they can learn the full scope of the business.

"For example, the skills required to manage residential or commercial buildings differ, and there are many specific procedures to follow in managing a public housing estate," Mrs Wong says. "Having a broad range of experience equips people for future career progression, so we expect all our more senior managers to have gained solid experience in overseeing all kinds of property."

While the practical knowledge to be applied will depend on the type of development, certain personal attributes are required of all new recruits. In particular, Mrs Wong highlights the need for an analytical mind, a proactive character and a genuine interest in customer service. Good communication and interpersonal skills are also essential because the work entails frequent exchanges with a wide number of contacts.

"For instance, our managers may have to discuss maintenance issues with owners' corporations, comply with government procedures over regulatory issues, and manage junior staff at the same time," Mrs Wong says. This means a high level of emotional intelligence is also vital for managers, who have to resolve complaints, queries and conflicts on an ongoing basis.

Professional licences

The company welcomes applications from graduates in property management and other disciplines, and reminds all candidates that advancement and long-term career development depend on obtaining mandatory licences and professional qualifications. "It is a heavily regulated industry," Mrs Wong explains. "Companies and individual members of staff must have the necessary licences to operate." While most professionals can obtain these qualifications within a few years of working in the industry, many also choose to attend additional courses or pursue Master's degrees in housing or property management.

Recent graduates looking to get into the field usually begin with EastPoint as assistant property officers with a starting salary of HK$8,000 to HK$9,000. Actual income and duties will vary, depending on the type of property they are assigned to manage. However, those who do well can expect to move up in a structured series of five promotions to the position of senior property manager.

While the relative strength of the current market is creating a wealth of business opportunities, it is also providing new challenges. Especially, Mrs Wong notes that the competition for talent is intensifying as the number of graduates in property management from courses run by the City University of Hong Kong and the University of Hong Kong is limited. The need to pay higher average salaries and to keep up with customer expectations is also contributing to increased costs and lower profit margins for most companies.

Big investment

"With over 300 property management companies in Hong Kong, we are operating in a highly competitive environment," Mrs Wong admits. "Both quality control and talent development require a substantial investment of time and resources, which is hard to make when we cannot raise our management fees."

These challenges and opportunities have caused industry professionals to recognise the importance of self-development, training and further formal education. Mrs Wong points out that the younger generation is now expected to acquire essential technical and legal knowledge and to have academic training to back up their practical experience.

To encourage continuous professional development, most property management companies now run trainee programmes for new joiners and provide ongoing courses for other staff. "As the industry continues to evolve, there will be a period of constant change in areas such as insurance, legal regulations and labour ordinances," Mrs Wong adds. "These will obviously have an impact on the market, but we intend to keep abreast of all the latest trends and maintain our high level of professionalism."

Response to changing needs

  • The property management business is evolving to be more responsive to owners' corporations and client requests
  • Recruits are taught to manage different types of property and given broad professional exposure
  • Tighter regulations mean that both companies and individuals must be qualified to hold all relevant licences
  • Professionals in the sector realise the growing importance of continuing education

Taken from Career Times 15 July 2005
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