The expansion of the finance, insurance and technology industries in Asia-Pacific has triggered a massive influx of overseas investment, which has boosted demand in the property field, including investment properties involving volume transactions.
CB Richard Ellis Limited (CBRE) is a global integrated real-estate services company with about 24,000 employees worldwide. Since its establishment in Hong Kong in 1978, its local business has grown and is currently supported by over 500 staff. The company offers customised and multi-disciplinary real-estate portfolio solutions.
"We provide professional advisory and brokerage services and capital solutions to accommodate our clients' investment strategies on development and redevelopment sites, en-bloc and strata-title offices, commercial buildings, industrial buildings, warehouses, hotels and serviced apartments, residential developments and houses," says Henry Lam, executive director, investment properties, CBRE Hong Kong.
A single investment-property transaction usually involves between HK$100 million and several billions of dollars. The high turnover in this division makes it one of CBRE's most important arms. It is therefore essential to employ high-calibre professionals that are capable of fuelling the business further in order to meet the continuous expansion of the team.
With nearly 20 years' experience in investment property, Mr Lam notes, "The market competition is extremely strong in our industry, while the job itself is very demanding." Although the only prerequisite for an investment property professional is a property broker's license, individuals working in the field need a number of important qualities in order to succeed.
An investment property professional must have extensive knowledge of all sectors of the market, from a fundamental understanding of properties, their usage and any special conditions, to the financial, legal and accounting formalities that such transactions involve. Strong market acumen and an ability to cope with fast market changes are indispensable.
"You need to be really smart about where the market is going and have a distinct sense of the potential value of properties. We aim to provide the best advice to local and international buyers to maximise the returns on their investments. When you work in a highly competitive industry such as ours, it's results that determine success."
Headed by Mr Lam, CBRE's Hong Kong-based 10-person investment-property arm has an impressive track record. Numerous high-profile transactions include 1063 King's Road in Quarry Bay, the major portion of AXA Centre in Wan Chai, Tins Plaza in Tuen Mun, the Kar Shing Building property and four storeys of 8 Russell Street in Causeway Bay.
Closing a deal involves lots of effort, time, brainpower and skills. When the team was closing the deal on the 17-storey Tung Ying Building in Tsim Sha Tsui, challenges included the fact that there was a high degree of marketing transparency and extensive market coverage surrounding the property, but at the same time the team had to avoid leakage of information. The transaction was eventually successfully closed for HK$1,106 million in 2003.
Given the high transaction volume and strong rivalry in the market, any mistakes or slow responses can cost both the customer and the company.
Just as in any other high-pressure business, passion and devotion are key drivers to keep investment-property professionals going.
Nurturing a positive attitude is as important as increasing professional knowledge. "We need people that are committed, hard-working, careful and attentive to details. However, professionals in this field should also be brave and resilient enough to accept failure and learn from experience," Mr Lam says.
"In addition, presentation and communication skills, excellent client-servicing and interaction techniques and negotiation skills play a core role in a broker's life. Being alert, responsive, smart and diplomatic definitely increase the chances of closing a deal successfully," he notes.
As a veteran, Mr Lam sees every day as a new learning opportunity and he encourages his staff and new recruits to keep up with changes and constantly upgrade their knowledge.
CBRE offers monthly in-house workshops to promote information sharing. At these occasions, division representatives take turns to chair meetings to provide updates on market trends and the latest developments in their respective specialties.
In addition, the company offers a two-year trainee programme to assist fresh graduates to get used to the new environment, acquire professional knowledge and identify their areas of strength. The trainees rotate between jobs in different divisions. Once they have completed the programme, they are assigned to the team best suited to their expertise. Working up the career ladder, employees have the opportunity to move through the levels of officer, manager and director, depending on performance and capability.
Mr Lam suggests that newcomers to the field should consider the size, reputation, background and customer portfolio of the companies they join, in order to evaluate growth potential and learning opportunities for long-term career development.