JLL is affirming its commitment to a tech-driven transformation with the hiring of venture capitalist Bessie Lee as the property consultancy’s chief executive for Greater China, succeeding KK Fung as he assumes his new role of chairman.
Based in Shanghai, Lee will report to JLL Asia Pacific CEO Anthony Couse, the agency said in a release. After her appointment takes effect on 1 September, Lee will set the strategic direction for JLL’s China business, focusing on growing relationships with domestic and government clients and increasing penetration of the firm’s tech products.
The change at the top, announced Wednesday, comes one month after the appointment to JLL’s global board of Tina Ju, a venture capitalist who helped set up the China branch of tech investment firm Kleiner Perkins. Chicago-based JLL has made tech innovation a priority with initiatives like the 2018-vintage JLL Spark Global Venture Fund, which aims to invest up to $100 million in global proptech firms, and the Propell Asia startup accelerator in Singapore.
“We’re thrilled to welcome Bessie on board in China, which is one of the most exciting and fast-paced real estate markets in the world,” Couse said. “Bessie has an outstanding reputation for building and transforming businesses. Using her varied expertise from outside of the real estate industry, I know she will bring new ideas and original thinking as we drive our ongoing digital transformation journey.”
Lee’s career includes more than 30 years in the marketing and advertising industry at various companies within the WPP group in China. She served as chief executive of WPP China from 2013 to 2017, managing 14,000 employees and over $1 billion in annual revenue.
Lee has been running Withinlink, a venture capital firm she founded, as a full-time job after concurrently leading WPP and Withinlink from 2015 to 2017. Shanghai-based Withinlink is a strategic investor and incubator of marketing technology startups in China.
A graduate of Taiwan’s Wen Tzao Ursula Foreign Language Junior College with a bachelor’s degree in German, Lee also holds a master’s in communication and media studies from Illinois State University. She has served as a non-executive director for Electrocomponents Plc, The a2 Milk Company and biological test kit maker Abcam.
“It’s an exciting time to join JLL as real estate becomes a focus and priority for the C-suite like never before,” Lee said. “The pandemic has accelerated adoption of technology across many industries, including real estate. With its investment in and focus on technology, JLL is uniquely placed to grab the opportunities presented by digital transformation. I look forward to working with KK and the leadership team to take the business to the next level.”
In his 12 years as Greater China CEO, Hong Kong-based Fung led JLL in opening six new offices across the country, developing online businesses and forging relations with large companies and city authorities, JLL said.
Capping a career with JLL and its predecessors that began in 1984, as chairman Fung is set to collaborate with Lee and the leadership team to ensure a smooth transition, working together to advise investor and occupier clients at home and abroad.
“KK has been an incredible asset to JLL over the last four decades and I cannot thank him enough for his dedication, commitment and contributions to the firm,” Couse said. “He has built a high-performing team poised for future growth, pioneered proptech development in China, and continues to lead some of our key client relationships.”