BIGGER AND BETTER

Kazakhstan 2016 | REAL ESTATE & CONSTRUCTION | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Steve Brown, Group Managing Partner at Cushman Wakefield | Veritas Brown (CW|VB), on becoming the preferred real estate services company in Kazakhstan, the firm's current projects, and the long-term development of the country.

Steve Brown
BIOGRAPHY
Steve Brown co-founded Veritas Brown in 2009, and as Group Managing Partner oversees all commercial and managerial aspects of the company regionally. With expertise in asset management and retail brokerage, Brown additionally focuses on the provision of these service lines. He has extensive experience with retail groups operating throughout the Middle East and Asia and has advised on retail development concepts and strategy for multiple clients entering the markets. Prior to Veritas Brown, Steve worked with the Estates Group of the British Foreign Service. Steve is a professional member of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, specializing in corporate real estate and facilities management.

What activities are the company involved in?

We have well-established offices in Kazakhstan and Georgia and have several years of experience operating in the Central Asia and Caucasus regions, so we are well versed in how the local market, including developers and investors, functions. We have access to best-in-class professionals, in-house expertise, and a global platform to provide high quality consultancy services. Recently, our global partner Cushman & Wakefield merged with DTZ to become one of the largest commercial real estate consultancies in the world, with combined total revenues of over $5 billion, 43,000 employees in more than 60 countries, more than 4.3 billion square feet under management, and $191 billion in transaction value. This merger has increased our client database significantly and our company international desks have seen a tangible increase in the referral workload.

Kazakhstan is the hub for your operations in Central Asia. What were the main challenges that CW|VB had to face when you entered the market?

When we opened the firm, we started on the basis that we would always try to be the best in the market, not necessarily the biggest, but the “preferred" real estate services company across the regions where we operate. It took a lot of hard work and a challenging recruitment process to find the right people. We approach business with discipline, consistency and transparency; this vision drives all that we do. Cushman and Wakefield is renowned in the industry for being very particular about which companies it partners with. We went through a rigorous inspection process before it was decided that we were the right people to be their partner. We are now in the sixth year of our partnership with Cushman & Wakefield, and the relationship is as strong as ever.

What are the main projects that CW|VB is currently working on in Kazakhstan?

We have been engaged by the Astana Expo 2017 organizers to help with retail brokerage and development consultancy, we have recently been appointed to provide retail brokerage, on an exclusive basis, for the Abu Dhabi Plaza project, a $1.6 billion mixed-use development in Astana, and we are also exclusively engaged in the luxury St. Regis project also in Astana.

What major trends do you foresee for the coming two years?

In Kazakhstan, there is obviously a lot of emphasis on the upcoming Expo 2017, which will be heavily weighted toward retail, leisure, and F&B, and we are assisting with the legacy of the Expo to ensure that the event will play a positive role in the longer-term development of the country and, in particular, Astana. There is a lot of uncertainty in the market at the moment. The tenge was reported to be the most volatile currency in the world, a fact that does not give investors much confidence. We are in the midst of a downturn but I think this is going to be short-lived, I foresee an upturn within 18 months.

What are your main goals and priorities for the coming year?

Taking into consideration the country's promising real estate prospects, we are seeking to increase our personnel and commit to new projects with enhanced service lines. The regions where we operate have always been active, however, we are seeing increased levels of interest in neighbouring countries as well, especially in Ukraine and Mongolia. Considering our strong presence in Kazakhstan and due to our extensive, long established relationships with Kazakh investors, we see great potential in attracting cross-border investment to the region.