Property / Construction

Staying the course

by Colette Wong

Andrew Lee, managing director
Sunbase International Properties Limited
Photo: Nolly Leung

As the property management industry becomes more competitive, creativity and resourcefulness are expected of professionals in the field

Due to the diverse nature of the property management industry which covers a wide scope of issues and concerns, companies across the board are looking for graduates from various disciplines.

It is hard to determine which quality Andrew Lee amasses in greater measure —r esilience or patience. The real estate veteran has definitely needed large doses of both to withstand the peaks and troughs of the Hong Kong property market.

Over the last two decades, Mr Lee has never lost faith in his chosen career. When property prices crashed in the early 1980s, Mr Lee, who was a few years into his employment as a housing officer in the Housing Department, weathered it well. Then came the 1997 financial crisis, the 2000 dot-com collapse and SARS epidemic in 2003 which left the battered property market in even worse shape.

Instead of buckling under the weight of those precarious times, he survived and thrived. Today, Mr Lee is the managing director of Sunbase International Properties Limited, one of the largest property management companies in Hong Kong.

Concrete gains

Mr Lee's story began at the humble abode of the territory's Housing Department in the early 1980's. Hired as a housing officer, Mr Lee was provided with ample training opportunities to acquire professional qualifications and saw his skill set quickly expand from housing management to include property valuation and development, among others.

In 1994, Mr Lee decided to capitalise on the booming property market and joined the private sector. "The move brought me into contact with a much wider range of clients, properties and institutions. It also broadened my professional horizons," he recalls.

Three years later, Mr Lee joined Sunbase International Properties Limited and quickly moved up the ranks. He is now in charge of the fortunes of the company's portfolio of 160 properties and 2,000 personnels in Hong Kong and on the mainland.

With this growth came multiple management responsibilities. In addition to being responsible for operations, business development, recruitment, human resources and budget control, Mr Lee pays regular visits to the company's properties to review staff performance, provide guidance and implement policies to suit the changing market sentiments. Meetings and social gatherings with colleagues are also on his agenda, as Mr Lee serves as the bridge between the board of directors and employees.

Part of Mr Lee's most important tasks is to increase growth for the company, expand the company's client base and explore potential services it can offer in the future. He also contributes to the healthy development of the industry by sharing his professional knowledge and experience with industry members. This, he notes, has always been a priority —h e is involved in numerous professional property management institutions and associations in Hong Kong and China, seeing that those associations will hep him to keep abreast of the latest market developments.

Personal touch

When assessing potential staff, Mr Lee emphasises individual candidates' personal attributes. "The key to success is the ability to see things from the client's perspective," he points out. "It will take time, but newcomers should learn to anticipate clients' needs and to pre-empt problems. Our job is much more than property maintenance; it is to build a comfortable living environment and to enhance the value of client assets which in turn adds joy to their daily life."

Mr Lee notes also that patience and good communication skills come in useful. "It can be daunting to meet property owners who are caught up in heated disputes, but it is rewarding when you are able to help them solve their problems and in the process win their trust," he says. "Adding a personal touch to the job is the gist and the most satisfying aspect of my work. There have been many obstacles along the way, but I've never given up on solving problems and meeting my client's needs. Client appreciation is my reward," he notes.

Faced with the rapid changes in the industry, Mr Lee states that continuous education is crucial for practitioners who want to qualify for advanced positions with more responsibilities. Promotion opportunities can be accelerated with professional diplomas in housing management and surveying, and master's degrees. Since the industry is heavily regulated with standardised practices, practitioners will do well if they equip themselves with the latest knowledge of the industry.

For all the challenges, Mr Lee remarks that the property sector offers long-term prospects for candidates of the right calibre. As the property management industry is fast developing in mainland China, there are also excellent career development opportunities for people who want to further their careers across the border. "Managerial candidates with broad skill sets are in high demand," he says. "In light of this, younger candidates should keep abreast of the mainland market development and prepare themselves for a future move."


Taken from Career Times 19 September 2008, p. B4
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