C&W looking to make waves all across Asia

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C&W looking to make waves all across Asia

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David Cain

Project management providers may be a less familiar business among Korean companies, but it is a century-old business that has been helping multinational companies set up or relocate branch offices to any part of the world.

Cushman & Wakefield (C&W), a global real estate services firm headquartered in New York, with 253 offices in 60 countries, now wants to make a high-profile debut in Asia as it has recently acquired Project Solution Group (PSG), a leading project management business in Singapore.

In Asia alone, C&W has more than 300 clients that the company provides with commercial real estate consultant services.

In an exclusive interview with the Korea JoongAng Daily, David Cain, executive director project management for North Asia said, “PSG brings a new service offering for our clients in Korea, with the ability to offer full design and build solutions via their turnkey contract model.”

“This provides our clients with procurement transparency while removing the contractual risk to their projects, a benefit that we’re seeing more and more of our occupier clients across the region take up,” he added.

PSG offers professional interior design, project management and construction services to over 40 multinational corporations across the Asia-Pacific region, while C&W has been focusing on project management consultancy only.

“Our clients have always been interested in having a project management firm that can provide one-stop solutions, in which clients can see us complete the whole project in one contract without the need for them to go out and find architects and construction companies separately,” Cain explained.

With the latest acquisition, C&W has been able to provide professional one-stop services from interior design to construction for companies that plan to move or downsize their offices.

Many western businesses used to have in-house project management teams but more recently, for more than 20 years, they have been outsourcing project management, because they renovate or relocate once in a couple of years. Most companies choose to outsource with downsizing and cost-cutting efforts.

“There are two main benefits of outsourcing project management. The first one is that most organizations don’t have in-house construction teams to build or relocate offices, and secondly, we can offer transparency in terms of procurement, so we provide clients with a selection of different vendors on the market, and we analyze quotations coming back from those vendors and recommend which companies our clients should work with,” Cain said.

For example, C&W works with many U.S.-based companies that don’t understand the Korean market, language and government regulations.

The company consults and guides them through the process when they want to open offices here.

Korean companies are even more conservative about outsourcing such work because of the lump-sum payment of costs, but, Cain says, outsourcing is actually costless.

“Part of our role is to manage the project budget. When they work with a client, part of the fee comprises savings we might add to the budget. Since our clients are not construction people, with our expertise we help manage procurement and reduce costs,” he said.

In terms of renovation, Cain explained, there are two new trends many corporations pursue these days in Asia.

“One is sustainability, which means we help make companies find and engage environment-friendly contracts and architects as they become more conscious about the environment, and the second trend is alternate work strategy (AWS). Companies ask us to analyze and help them determine whether each staff needs their own desk or not, especially in expensive markets like Hong Kong and Tokyo.”

Desk-sharing, part of the AWS trend, has been seen as a strong fad in Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore, but in Korea, Cain said he doesn’t see much of such a change yet, citing some cultural differences.

Both political and economic changes can affect the project management market, he suggests.

C&W expects an increase in demand in the Korean market with the new government’s policy focusing on boosting IT and software firms.

Since the Singapore-based PSG’s main clients include Facebook and Google, C&W expects more of such high-profile IT firms to become its clients in Korea, too.

The company has lately helped Seoul-based Microsoft sign a contract to relocate its office from the southern to the northern part of the capital.

Last year, the company worked with more than half of American law firms based in Japan moving to Seoul with implementation of the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement, according to Cain.

Despite the continuing slowdown, C&W saw an increasing demand for project management services from a number of western companies operating in Asia, as those organizations wanted to downsize offices by moving from large areas with high rental fees to smaller areas with lower rates to reduce costs.

“If the economy is strong, we would definitely expect more demand, but there has always been some demand even during the weak time,” Cain said.

BY SONG SU-HYUN [ssh@joongang.co.kr]

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