• Knight Frank appoints Piers Brunner

    3 February 2016

    Leading international property consultancy, Knight Frank, recently announced the appointment of Piers Brunner as chief executive for Greater China. Based in Hong Kong, Brunner commenced his new role on 28 October. A 26-year veteran in the real estate industry, Brunner will have the responsibility of developing Knight Frank’s business in Greater China.

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    PRC Magazine spoke with Brunner about his hopes for the company under his stewardship and the current state of local and international real estate markets.

    “I am excited to be joining Knight Frank, a business with a strong reputation and worldwide network. Knight Frank is highly regarded for its professionalism, long-term perspective, innovative research and excellent client services. I am optimistic about the opportunities in the real estate markets in Greater China and look forward to working with my new colleagues to pursue those opportunities with energy and determination,” he says.

    Brunner, rejoined Knight Frank last year. Most recently he was the chief executive for Colliers’ Asia, managing 30 offices in 14 countries. He is enthusiastic about one area of the firm’s business which he sees as being superior: client services.

    “Knight Frank is set up as a partnership, and I see that this gives it an edge from other corporations. All the people in the business have grown up through the business, all contributing by taking care of their clients directly, even the most senior executives. This ensures that Knight Frank’s personnel take a longer term view on building relationships. Of course the company’s brand also stands out strongly in the professional area,” he adds.

    “The people here are seen as a particularly trustworthy group to do business with.”

    Brunner has a wealth of experience in tenant representation which is one of the most important growth areas for Knight Frank’s Greater China business. Having advised business transactions across Asia Pacific, Brunner won corporate accounts with big guns such as Procter & Gamble, Reuters, Alcatel and EMC, and managed corporate accounts including ACNielsen and ABN Amro.

    “There is a great deal of loyalty in these relationships,” Brunner says. “I think real estate services companies, or professional services companies should be partnerships because you’re naturally aligned in generating the revenue base to the clients rather than simply looking at making a profit.”

    Having lived in Hong Kong for the past 16 years, Brunner has an extensive understanding of Chinese culture and brings with him deep-rooted client connections in the region’s real estate sector. Before moving to Hong Kong, Brunner spent four years in Jakarta with Colliers International where the Indonesian business, remained profitable under his leadership throughout the 1997-98 Asian Financial Crisis.

    Looking at the Hong Kong market, Brunner notes that the Grade-A office market is still firm, particularly in Central which currently has vacancy rates of just 1.4 percent. In turn, this keeps the pressure on rentals and rental growth. Demand also comes from mainland securities companies, asset management companies and fund companies who often look to take up from 5,000 to 15,000 square feet of space, often whole floors. “These are the demand drivers whereas the supply drivers will all be on Kowloon side, at least in the near term.”

    He notes that a frustration in the local market is in how slow it has been bring Kowloon East into the picture, commenting that in a place such as Singapore it would have been brought fully to market by now. He says there is quite a lot of office supply coming forward in Kwun Tong and Kowloon Bay, but ultimately CBD2 needs to be up and running to contribute to the city’s under supply of high grade office stock. He notes that a number of large financial houses have already moved their back offices to Kowloon East, an area that is more convenient to many employees who live in close proximity to the area.

    Brunner says that an area of some concern is retail. “This is an area of weakness at the moment, especially in the high-end, although maybe it’s time for some price adjustments in this sector,” he says. “But when sales are dropping as fast as they are at the moment it makes it difficult to catch up.”

    Brunner started his career in London in 1990. He spent five years between 1991 and 1995 with Knight Frank in the London office where he was part of the tenant representation team. Brunner holds a Bachelor of Arts in Geography from Exeter University, and a Diploma in Real Estate from Reading University. He is a Fellow of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (FRICS) and a member of Hong Kong Institute of Chartered Surveyors (HKIS), and Hong Kong Registered Professional Surveyor (RPS).

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