It’s all about investing in relationships. At least that’s what Capital Markets and Investment Services’ Russell Lam believes. The decline in face-to-face activity hasn’t limited his ability to nurture a relationship, it’s triggered him to be creative and innovate in finding new ways of working. Sitting with Russell, in the now busy Colliers’ office, we take 5 minutes to discuss how he’s focused on accelerating his relationships into business partnerships.
Russell, can you share a little bit about yourself?
I’m from Hong Kong and have spent most of my life living and working here. In my teens, I discovered Australia over a couple of summers and studied for my master’s degree in New York. I’ve turned my hand to golf in recent years, which is an all-consuming game that has synergy with brokering real estate investment deals; mental strategy mixed with ability (with some underlying frustration).
I’ve found inspiration in Silicon Valley investor, Peter Thiel. I encourage people to read his book, Zero to One, on entrepreneurship and consider his perspective on how to view your own business. His presentations are concise, well-reasoned and I’ve tried to carry that into my work.
How long have you worked in real estate and how did you get involved?
I’m eleven years into my real estate career which began with the Lands Department. To have started there was valuable. It has provided me with a strong understanding of how Hong Kong real estate works throughout the life cycle of multiple assets - very helpful when working with investors. However, chance had a big hand in how my career has developed with a couple of outcomes and conversations at the right time leading me into brokerage; you could say serendipity was at play.
How have you reacted to the market in 2020?
This year has been one of the most volatile I’ve ever experienced. The events that are shaping the way we work have been unprecedented. From an investment perspective, it’s created a lot uncertainty and that’s where I’ve tried to become consistent and visible to my clients. Investors still need to deploy capital and sell assets; all done while trying to figure out the market. My role is to be there for them, invest my time and listen to what they have to say offering up-to-date data that helps them understand where they are in the current market cycle.
Where should investors focus their time and resources?
I’ve been asking clients to monitor sectors where demand has virtually dried-up. This includes assets that have been impacted by the decline in aviation and tourism as these offer the potential to rebound fast when it’s safe to travel again.
I’ve also been working closely with clients as they navigate the market. While they are not busy transacting, there has been a great opportunity to take relationships to the next level and transition to business partner, sharing useful market intelligence and navigating the turbulence together.
What opportunities have driven you this year?
Data Centres. In a shrinking market, they offer a promising rental outlook. The market has converged across a few trends that are driving demand for data: the rise of e-commerce, working from home and the rollout of 5G technology to name a few. It’s exciting as there is limited physical space to build them (as always in Hong Kong) but demand is high, so the search for space to develop data centres is creating a buzz in the market.
Residential sites are also interesting. This sector could be a major beneficiary of the work from home trend brought about by the pandemic, potentially creating a paradigm shift from purpose-built buildings, to multi-purpose assets.