James is a member of Knight Frank’s international capital markets team representing the Middle East involvement in development and leasing advice to institutional landlords and corporate occupiers throughout the office market of the UK. He has been involved with investment disposal and acquisition advice on office buildings for Institutional, Property Company and private clients.
- Are there any new projects Knight Frank will be proposing to the market soon?
In the residential sector we are continually advising premium developers on various schemes and then guiding on product mix, specification and route to market. Our international residential teams have recently launched high profile schemes in the US, Australia and Spain. In the Middle East we are working a particularly iconic project, which we will be announcing to the market shortly.
- In your opinion what are the key factors of influence that will drive the market forward?
All real estate markets benefit from transparency and standardised available information. With regard to the residential sector comfort surrounding delivery, the quality of final built product and finishes are important for credibility which in turn generates greater confidence. Availability of debt across all real estate sectors is important, this is especially important to bona fide residential end users who require homes.
- Your company has more than 300 offices all over the world including 3 in the MENA region, what is the total investments your company has made in the regional market till now?
Our business established permanent operations with a single person in MENA in 2008; we are now close to a head count of 60, comprising 25 nationalities, our investment in people and training has been considerable. In addition to this we have hosted numerous conferences and meetings for global Knight Frank team members which generates not only MENA spend but also builds awareness of MENA culture and business practice.
- On July 1st 2014 you previously stated on an article published on Knight Frank website that: “Knight Frank is committed to expanding its industry-leading global capabilities”, is Egypt considered as a potential expansion opportunity?
Egypt is a country of considerable scale and one where we have commercial occupier clients who have numerous leasehold facilities to serve the growing population. At this stage we work in collaboration with local partners to provide services, we are continually reviewing the most efficient method to deliver services.
- What is the biggest challenge Knight Frank might face if you decide to expand your market share into Egypt?
Market transparency and obtaining accurate information with which to guide decisions are likely to be the greatest service level challenge. Security & safety is a real concern in all parts of our MENA business. The recent currency devaluations will impact how we contract our services.
- Egypt has launched plans to build a new administrative capital does Knight Frank have plans to be a part of this phase?
The administrative Capital is an ambitious and exciting project, we will unquestionably be advising eventual commercial occupiers in this district.
- When entering a developing economy such as the African market what facilitations and incentives do you expect for market entry?
We are very conservative in our approach so in the first instance we would look to collaborate with local partner to ensure our clients are as well positioned as possible.
- With respect to regulations and procedures what are the usual issues property advisors face?
In terms of external regulations, in MENA we have historically witnessed increases in regulation orientated towards transactional services. More recently there has been greater interest from the authorities towards valuation services. New regulations require separate and distinct trading licenses from those licenses which might encompass transactional operations. Recently practitioners themselves are required to pass localised examinations which are in addition to professional qualifications like being a member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). We would always suggest that international standards that are well regarded and relied upon by global lenders and investors are the model to follow.
In terms of internal procedures, at Knight Frank we are continually enhancing our ways of working from our initial Client Due Diligence (CDD) through to output audits to ensure we adhere to statutory requirements and deliver the very best for our clients.
- Is there anything you would like to highlight on the direction the real-estate market is heading to?
Real estate is now an increasing sophisticated global asset class. With regional uncertainties investors including; private individuals, families, institutional or sovereign will always look to preserve asset value. Capital is increasingly mobile and searching for long term safe heaven destinations across all the real estate sectors; residential, offices, industrial, retail, healthcare, education and other alternatives. This trend will continue as capital becomes more mobile and markets mature to make themselves attractive to global investors.