Olga Yung is a regional director at Michael Page Hong Kong in charge of the legal, technology, and property & construction practices.
Heading homewards: With the regional real estate industry shifting its focus back to Hong Kong, leasing executives, environmental specialists and property managers are in demand
Property players have traditionally grounded themselves in Hong Kong, seeing it as a stable base for expansion into the rest of China. While the mainland China market has boomed in recent years, the property scene slowed considerably mid-2015. This drove developers to refocus on Hong Kong, which has seen robust activity since the start of 2016.
The market is also fostered by the Hong Kong government, which welcomes new initiatives and investments that are pro-business. With developers now shifting focus back to Hong Kong, their strategy centres on their existing real estate and improvement of those buildings. To maximise current development, companies have launched a good number of leasing and asset-enhancing initiatives to strengthen their portfolio.
As a result, there has also been a rise in the number of Chinese property developers establishing footholds in the Hong Kong land market to soften the impact of the market slowdown. These leading Chinese property developers are actively bidding on projects to take advantage of falling land prices in Hong Kong.
As part of this facelift, property developers are turning to Hong Kong’s retail scene as a first order of business. In the past two years, the majority of Hong Kong’s retailers consisted of luxury brands. The drop in consumer spending from mainland Chinese tourists has pushed shopping malls to revise their strategies and focus on domestic shoppers.
In a drive to attract footfall in their shopping malls and buildings, developers are bringing in new restaurateurs and F&B brands that they hope will give consumers a new reason to visit. Landlords have also brought in fresh brands to invigorate the retail scene and bring their malls to the forefront of shopper’s minds.
Creating a compelling retail offering is the top agenda for property developers and the key hires in this field are leasing executives. Standout professionals will be creative enough to take on new directions or set a trend for their malls.
While F&B leasing is a hot topic at the moment, leasing executives have to be familiar with the competition, identify tenants who can plug consumer gaps in shopping malls and entice tenants to set up shop.
In this challenging landscape, the ideal candidate will have international experience, and thereby be able to introduce retail concepts and trends from key markets in the United States or Europe – as well as successfully adapt them for the domestic Hong Kong audience.
Apart from industry knowledge and strong networks, leasing executives with good negotiation skills are in demand – as this is key to managing rental pricing.
Meanwhile, to further differentiate themselves, property developers have over the last two to three years introduced environmentally friendly building policies. As such, companies are positioning their buildings as energy efficient and environmentally friendly to add value. Jobseekers with the Building Environmental Assessment Method (BEAM) or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) professional accreditations will therefore have an advantage.
Experienced architects and building services engineers are also in constant demand by property developers that are looking to support sustainable development.
In particular, there is a rise in demand for engineers in data centres. Talent in this area is scarce as professionals need to be highly technical and specialised to manage information-critical facilities. Property developers who can deliver are seen as premium providers, thereby strengthening their standing.
In line with the demand for increased quality in property development, companies have strengthened their focus on technical services and facilities management.
Whether in residential premises, commercial buildings or shopping malls, property management professionals are required to maintain all facilities to ensure seamless daily operations. This includes making sure lifts, escalators and air conditioning units are serviced and working well to meet industry standards.
Roles in this area are typically less affected by market conditions, as landlords constantly need such specialists to maintain the building’s health and enhance asset value.
This article appeared in the Classified Post print edition as Heading homewards.