REAL ESTATE MARKETS in big mainland cities are experiencing an unprecedented boom, and that is good news for Hong Kong professionals working in the sector. Chiu Kam-kuen, executive director at property adviser DTZ Debenham Tie Leung, said there were numerous opportunities and great prospects for career development. DTZ has been hiring in Hong Kong for mainland-based positions in areas such as valuation, property management and research and development (R&D). The company is keen to maintain its pace of corporate expansion in fast-growing markets such as Shanghai, Shenzhen, Beijing, Guangzhou and Dalian. 'Expansion is especially rapid in Shanghai and Beijing,' Mr Chiu said. 'We have seen more whole-block deals in the past year than ever before.' He said the total headcount in the firm's Shanghai office had grown to 611 from 400 about this time last year. DTZ operates nine mainland offices and is considering opening two more. Because many of the firm's clients on the mainland are multinationals, DTZ tends to appoint Hong Kong-trained professionals to many of the senior positions. 'Even though mainlanders are steadily improving their English language skills, we still find Hong Kong employees are better at using English in a business context and are therefore more suitable for dealing with multinational clients,' Mr Chiu said. 'Our experience also shows that Hong Kong recruits are hard working and have just the kind of attitude we need.' That includes the ability to train mainland colleagues to handle transactions with a wide range of clients. Those interested in joining DTZ should be prepared to travel a considerable amount. 'We are active in more than 20 Chinese cities and cannot have people stationed permanently in all of them,' Mr Chiu said. 'We have regional offices, such as the one in Shanghai, and from time to time someone based there might have to go to neighbouring cities like Hangzhou.' Even staff assigned specifically to one city should expect to spend a fair proportion of their time out of the office meeting local clients. Although the firm puts a premium on experience, it is keen to attract fresh graduates with degrees in surveying for positions in the mainland. Such graduates would work first in Hong Kong for at least one year to obtain a professional licence (surveying graduates should not think of taking up a mainland post immediately after college). Surveyors must pass licensing examinations. Fortunately, since last November, professional bodies on the mainland and in Hong Kong have agreed on the mutual recognition of each other's property surveyor licences. Despite the range of job opportunities, hiring for mainland positions is not always easy. 'For family or other reasons, some qualified people are not interested in relocating to the mainland,' Mr Chiu said. 'But, we always point out that whether you are in valuation, property management, business development or other areas, the rapid growth of the overall sector is likely to mean good chances for promotion in the next few years.' Clearly, there are some things a Hong Kong professional contemplating a move should be aware of, such as that business on the mainland is heavily based on relationships, more so than in countries that follow clear systems. 'Of course, DTZ uses practices that are on a par with international standards, but in the China market we have to make allowance for local differences,' Mr Chiu said. Staff who relocate should give themselves time to adjust, and be willing to learn. Passing along experience Hong Kong professionals with experience in the property sector are needed on the mainland, particularly to work with multinational clients. Job responsibilities generally include training mainland colleagues and passing on knowledge and experience. Most positions require regular travel either locally or to other mainland cities where the company does business. Qualified surveyors are also in demand and opportunities for Hong Kong-trained surveyors may increase with the agreement on the mutual recognition of licences. Individuals moving to mainland cities should be aware of the importance of interpersonal relationships in doing business and should be willing to learn.