Real estate service needs innovators
Written by Andrea Li
Travel to any city in China undergoing redevelopment and you will probably hear incessant drilling. But if this din of construction machinery gets too much, it may be soothing to think of it as the sound of money being made.
Property development projects generally mirror a vibrant economy, and this has been the case in Hong Kong, over the past three years, along with Macau and the mainland.
Such projects need to be marketed and connected with buyers and that is where integrated property and investment management companies such as Jones Lang LaSalle come in.
The company is fast expanding its services to customers and increasing its staff with around 30 to 40 corporate positions, mainly in junior to middle management, expected to become available this year.
The vacancies span many of its services including investment sales, office letting, valuation advisory and property management. Around eight of the roles will be based in Macau or the mainland.
Jones Lang LaSalle's corporate customers no longer simply require assistance with a straightforward sales or leasing transaction. And customers across the board are seeking a one-stop-shop service that includes a range of investment advice, property management and real estate solutions.
This shift has prompted Jones Lang LaSalle to change its approach to recruitment. 'We used to look for people with academic backgrounds related to surveying and real estate management, but we don't do this anymore because the way of doing business has changed so quickly,' said Fung Kin-keung, the company's managing director in Hong Kong.
Customers now want advice on everything from how they can reduce operating costs from a real estate perspective, to an annual valuation of their property, and help with expanding their offices and factories.
'We need a cross-section of people with more diverse backgrounds. It doesn't matter if they have not worked in real estate before. Most important is their ability to think outside of the box,' Mr Fung said.
While there are still jobs that require a qualified surveyor or architect to sign off on specific valuation projects, the majority of positions are increasingly calling on the skills of lawyers and accountants to business managers.
Creativity and innovation are expected to be the company's trump card in future as Mr Fung believes this will distinguish the company from its competitors.
'Our clients are requiring us to think differently,' he said.
Little wonder then that the firm wants creative thinkers who can come up with new ideas, are able to work independently and are team players with integrity and drive.
This goal of providing fresh ideas has been taken so seriously that its Australian operation now has an innovation department responsible solely for devising new products. A similar department would probably be set up in Hong Kong, Mr Fung said.
The need to provide more advisory services and sound solutions has prompted greater demand for people in the business to be multiskilled.
'People used to focus in one department or discipline, but we now need people with good knowledge of different disciplines,' Mr Fung said. 'They don't have to be an expert, but they need to know a little about everything so they are in a position to give better advice. You need to be an all-rounder so you can look at the problem from different angles.'
For example, a fund management company investing in a shopping centre would require support not just on the investment side, but also on how to attract retailers to the mall, how to look after the tenant mix, and promotion and marketing strategies. The company encourages its personnel to rotate between departments and runs an international exchange programme that facilitates secondment requests to offices across 52 countries.
Mr Fung said the firm's remuneration structure differed because it was not based around a hard-nosed sales commission scheme.
'We have a bonus system that reflects your contribution to your department and the firm. It is not only measured in financial terms. You can also be rewarded based on your innovation or team contribution,' he said.
Creative thinkers required to fill junior to middle management positions
Real estate experience not necessary
Diverse backgrounds needed to facilitate one-stop shop solutions and services
Staff encouraged to be well rounded
Remuneration scheme not based exclusively on commission