When it comes to real estate, the adage of “location, location, location” still speaks volumes. But so does timing. This couldn’t be truer for Ophelia Chan, CEO at Infinia Capital Partners, a fund and asset management firm with a focus in real estate.
Deciding to return to Hong Kong after years in Toronto, Chan’s greatest challenge came when a Chinese conglomerate approached her to help set up their first real estate private equity arm, with a mandate in China. “It took almost six months to hire all key department heads to kick-start the operation, and least expected, when the team was ready, the subprime crisis hit in 2007, on a scale that no one expected,” she recalls.
The timing could not have been worse. Chan had a tough decision to make, whether to continue to raise funds despite a lack of clarity in the financial market, or throw in the towel. She and her team decided to go ahead and they were able to raise in excess of US$850 million for two funds. That was the start of Chan’s leadership as chief operating officer and chief financial officer for the next five years in which she and he and her team raised more than US$1.8 billion in funds.
Educated in Canada, Chan’s career goes back to 2000, when she joined a Canadian real estate investment trust (reit) as an asset manager. “At that time, I managed around 12 million sq ft of retail real estate assets, which was about one-third of the reit’s portfolio,” she says, which provided her with vast knowledge of the North American and Chinese real estate markets.
Chan’s priorities have changed remarkably little over the years. Work, family and friends remain equally important, and when it comes to work-life balance, exercising and organising gatherings with friends and family at least once or twice a month is a must. Her perfect day off involves a sunny day, meeting with friends and their children, and cooking.
“I think staying focused is the most important aspect of time management, Chan says. “I don’t have an intricate system for time management. I just make a list of things which need to be done during the week, business or non-business related, and tick them off as they are done, and I’ll make sure that they are done. I don’t like to leave things lingering.”