Justin O’Connor, chairman and global CEO of Savills Investment Management, is relocating to Hong Kong to serve as CEO Asia Pacific, as the UK-based real estate specialist shakes up its senior leadership team.
O’Connor, who joined the firm in 2004 and has previously been based in London, will aim to drive growth in the Asia Pacific region for the company with 16.6 billion euros ($20.6 billion) of assets under management. He succeeds former APAC chief executive Michael Flynn, who is being promoted this month to Global Head of Product Development and Innovation, a spokesperson for Savills IM told Mingtiandi.
Flynn, who has served as Asia Pacific chief since mid-2016, will focus on launching new products as well as “tackling critical success factors facing our business and turning them into competitive advantages” in the new role, according to the representative.
Savills IM Reshuffling Global Leadership
“Our strong growth over the last five years… has led us to broaden our senior management team to promote continued global expansion,” commented O’Connor in the statement. “These changes will allow us to further build on our strong global platform and I look forward to leading the next stage of the development of our business.”
Savills IM has grown from eight offices and 4.2 billion euros of assets under management in 2013 to 18 offices and over 16.6 billion euros of AUM, according to the 30-year property investment veteran, who was appointed CEO of the firm in 2006.
Closer to home, the London-based firm is also reshuffling its European leadership. Nick Cooper, who joined the company last year as Senior Advisor, has been named Deputy Chairman, in which role he will oversee relationships with clients including top investors and consultants.
In tandem with the move, Giuseppe Oriani, currently Head of Italy, takes the reins as CEO for Europe. New Head of Country appointments for the UK and Germany have also been announced.
Focussing on Japan and Australia
Savills IM chalked up a record 1 billion euros ($1.2 billion) of transactions in Asia Pacific last year, including 845 million euros ($1 billion) in Japan, out of a global total of 5.5 billion euros ($6.6 billion). The sale of two significant office assets in Tokyo helped make Japan one of the firm’s top three markets alongside the UK and Italy in 2017.
As part of a ramping-up of its activities in the region, the company announced last February it had won two mandates totalling $600 million to invest in Japanese real estate, after it had raised its first Japan-focused investment vehicle the year before. Savills IM has also shown a particular interest in Australia and Singapore.
Last October, the real estate firm’s chief investment officer Kiran Patel voiced scepticism about the upside of investing in Hong Kong, telling Bloomberg that “Hong Kong is highly, highly expensive. Even with the lowest cost of capital, it is hard to justify today. We don’t think you can keep going up one year after another.” The fund manager added that LaSalle IM would focus on Japan and Australia for investment opportunities.
Simultaneous to its other leadership announcements, the firm has also appointed new Heads of UK and Germany. Harry de Ferry Foster, Fund Manager of the €1.4 billion ($1.7 billion) Charities Property Fund of the real estate firm, and Jon Crossfield, Head of Strategic Partnerships in Europe, have been appointed as Co-Heads for the UK in addition to their current responsibilities. Carolina von Groddeck, who oversees liquidation of the €6.8 billion ($8.5 billion) German SEB mutual funds, becomes Head of Germany.