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Caroline Palmer is the new Senior Director at BNP Paribas Real Estate’s Hong Kong platform. We talked to her about her career and strategy for her new role


Caroline Palmer has begun the new role of Senior Director at BNP Paribas Real Estate’s Hong Kong SAR China (Special Administrative Region China) platform. We talked to her about her career, why she chose to work for BNP Paribas Real Estate and what strategy she will be putting in place in her new role.

What does your new role involve?

In April, I was brought on board to focus on growing the residential side of the BNP Paribas Real Estate business in Hong Kong SAR China (Special Administrative Region China) and the APAC region. BNP Paribas Real Estate acquired Strutt and Parker last year and so as a result they saw an opportunity to be able to present clients in the region with residential projects in London.

I've been in Hong Kong SAR China (Special Administrative Region China) now for just over five years, always working in the London residential real estate sector. My role is to talk to clients within the region and at the bank, through Wealth Management, about the opportunities for residential investment in London.

Can you tell us about your career path up to this point?

I've always worked in real estate, having started my career with work experience at Knight Frank’s International Property Department while I was at university studying French.

From a personal point of view, I was interested in property because my father was in real estate and I also thought that I could put the French I had studied to use.

After I left university, I joined Savills International Department as a project manager and sales negotiator, focusing on residential development in Europe, predominately specialising in France and Switzerland. I then moved to the London New Homes team where I worked on off-plan and completed projects and began to specialise in prime Central London. I was assisting high-net worth individuals, as well as mainstream purchasers who were looking to invest in off-plan or completed properties.

I left Savills after four years and helped establish a residential investment and development company, which focused on boutique projects in London and had a large rental portfolio which I helped to manage.

I decided to move to Hong Kong SAR China (Special Administrative Region China) in 2013 after visiting a friend who lived here and seeing what a great city it is. After working for JLL, I joined BNP Paribas Real Estate.

One of the strengths of BNP Paribas Real Estate is our wide coverage. I am confident we can assist in facilitating the right investment for each of our clients.

Why did you choose to work for BNP Paribas Real Estate?

The company has a very strong brand and reputation. When they acquired Strutt & Parker, who I knew well, it represented a unique opportunity for me to be involved in setting up the residential arm of the business in the region.

Another attraction is that BNP Paribas Real Estate are an innovative company – for example, we recently presented the first holoporation experience in the real estate sector. It uses virtual reality to allow investors anywhere to interact with the real estate agent and look around properties. I am excited to be a part of a company that is ahead of the game when it comes to technology.

London is a global financial centre as well as a top destination for real estate investment. Education also attracts investors – it has some of the top universities in the world.

What kind of strategies will you be implementing in your new role?

Being able to sit within BNP Paribas Bank’s offices is quite rare. I’m going to be working closely with Wealth Management, talking to Wealth Management clients and presenting them with residential opportunities, as well as working with the existing Real Estate team in Hong Kong SAR China (Special Administrative Region China).

What sort of challenges do you think you’ll face?

Each client has different requirements so we need to make sure that we are able to source the right opportunity for them.

Of course, market conditions are naturally going to have an impact, but we are in a strong position to be able to advise clients on how to adapt their real estate strategy if it's necessary.

BNP Paribas Real Estate is a cross-border company and we not only work with clients in Asia who are looking to invest in London, but into other European markets as well. We have an existing team here which focuses on commercial real estate.

I think that cross-border investment is going to be very important going forward, as well as making sure that we can give our clients access to a diverse range of real estate assets.

It's about trying to stay ahead of the competition, because, as far as I'm aware, other banks in Asia do not have a specific team who focus on offering different types of real estate opportunities to their clients.

What kind of clients do you work with and what types of investment are they interested in?

I work predominantly with investors and high-net-worth individuals. They're looking for an investment that might be purely yield driven or they focus on capital growth, or perhaps they're looking for a lifestyle purchase – a home for themselves or for their family that they want to use when they travel back to London.

What attracts them to London?

London is a global financial centre as well as a top destination for real estate investment. Education also attracts investors – it has some of the top universities in the world.

What’s also appealing to investors from both Hong Kong SAR China (Special Administrative Region China) and within the region is the very transparent and developed legal system. There's also a solid infrastructure and transport system, a highly skilled workforce and strong rental opportunities because people are looking to move there.

The English language is another advantage for investors.

What kind of investment strategy are they likely to have? Are they looking to invest specifically in London or in other European cities?

In terms of length of investment, it’s medium to long-term, certainly longer term for investors looking for capital growth.

There are a number of projects in London, particularly in prime Central London. However, we have a number of clients who are looking at other European cities, as well as London.

They may have already invested in London and be looking to diversify their portfolio in other European cities. Again education might play a part, as well as clients looking for a property for their own use.

With our focus on London and Europe, BNP Paribas Real Estate can offer several different opportunities.

What are your predictions for the future of the London residential market?

Recent transaction levels show that the UK is still a strong investment choice and provides good capital growth, and steady yields for investors.

There are upcoming infrastructure improvements, for example Crossrail will soon be completed. There is still a lack of supply in the London market, which is always going to mean that there's good demand.

Weakness in sterling makes it an appealing choice for investors at the moment and prime central London is continuing to attract overseas purchasers.

Research from Strutt and Parker forecasts 5-year capital growth of 20% up to 2022 in prime Central London, and rental growth of 8.5%.

Finally, why do you think investors choose BNP Paribas Real Estate?

Our reputation and knowledge mean that if people are looking at investing in Europe, I think we would be the number one choice.

We can offer a one-stop-shop for investment. For example, from a residential point of view we can offer valuations, advisory, property management, letting services and sell the property as well.

We can also offer property development, transactions consulting, and logistics, retail and hotels.

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