Photography: Virgile Simon Bertrand
Winnie Che is 32 and lives in Hong Kong. She’s a senior manager, asset management at Phoenix Property Investors. She passed her Assessment of Professional Competence (APC) in July, becoming an MRICS in the middle of the city’s third wave of COVID-19.
Why did you choose property as your career?
I studied hotels management and business, and after graduation I decided I wanted to join a conglomerate rather than just a hotel. I joined the MTR Corporation as a management trainee. It’s the only railway company in Hong Kong and as well as rail it actually has a large property business. To pay for the rail infrastructure it develops the property above stations, and I decided to join and manage its shopping malls.
It went along with my personal interest in shopping, and it’s also about understanding people’s behaviour. A property will only work if the manager of that property understands people’s behaviour. I think that goes back to my training in the hotel and hospitality industry. I see that consistently implemented across hotels and shopping malls and that somehow got me into property without me noticing it.
“I realised you are actually playing a big part in people’s lives and that experience really struck me”
What were your first impressions of the industry?
That it’s very complicated. It’s a mix of art and science. You need good analytical and quantitative skills, but it takes more than that to be good at property. I saw a seasoned manager, back when I was a graduate, who was able to determine which tenant would add value to their shopping mall – that’s more qualitative. It’s a mix of very interesting elements. My second impression was that it takes time to be good at it.
Why did you decide to train as a chartered surveyor?
After about four years of experience, I realised you are actually playing a big part in people’s lives and that experience really struck me. It really confirmed my interest in taking it to another level. I started part-time study at the University of Hong Kong and that helped me build up my professional side and expand my network outside of my first company.
Two years ago you moved from MTR to Phoenix Property Investors, why?
I was approaching 30 and thought I should try to understand how things work in a more commercial setting. That’s why I went to private equity. The business is more about buying and selling and during COVID-19 we’ve had to implement a really effective enhancement strategy to bring up the value.
You took your APC in July – what was that like given the COVID-19 pandemic?
It was nerve-wracking in some ways but not in others. I have nine years’ work experience and I think it made me more comfortable. It was online and I prefer being with people because I think I can convey my message better, but it was a good experience nonetheless.
“Are the ways of getting things done still relevant, can we still keep the rent growing year after year?”
What are your next ambitions and plans for the future now you’re an MRICS?
I want to deepen what I’ve been doing. I also want to get involved in the acquisition and disposal of property. And now I’ve become a member of RICS I really want to contribute back and network with other members.
What do you think are the biggest challenges for the industry?
I think it’s letting go [of the old way of doing things]. COVID-19 makes us ask questions: are the ways of getting things done still relevant, can we still keep the rent growing year after year? I think there will be changes, and it’s up to us to embrace them. It will be tough.