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Executive Exchange: 12 questions with Ng Chiang Ling

In this latest edition of our monthly Q&A, we quiz Hines' chief investment officer for Asia - a leading woman in alternatives - on real estate investing and beyond.
Executive Exchange: 12 questions with Ng Chiang Ling

NAME: Ng Chiang Ling

TITLE: Asia CIO

COMPANY: Hines

Ng Chiang Ling is a prominent figure in Asia's real estate investment landscape with over two decades of investment expertise.

As chief investment officer for Asia at Hines, she oversees the expansion of the firm's $8 billion real estate portfolio and investor outreach across Asia Pacific, and has played a pivotal role in developing its discretionary fund business and global investment strategy.

Ng Chiang Ling
 

Beyond Hines, Ng serves as chair of ANREV (Asian Association for Investors in Non-Listed Real Estate Vehicles), and is a passionate advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion.

This year, she was identified as one of the Leading Women in Alternatives by AsianInvestor.

In this week's Executive Exchange, Ng shares her investment beliefs, her excitement for PropTech, and compares real estate investing to Monopoly. 

What's one commonly accepted piece of investment wisdom you wholeheartedly disagree with?

The notion that timing alone is a reliable strategy. This often involves trying to predict when to buy or sell assets based on short-term market fluctuations.

Instead, I advocate investing for the longer term and in a mix of assets, spread across regions and product types – a strategy based on diversification, asset allocation, and a disciplined approach.

An Asia allocation, I’d argue, plays a valuable role in diversifying a global investment mix. It’s a region with deep, compelling opportunities as a result of long-term secular growth trends and unique in-market dynamics.

Which investment figure has been most influential to you throughout your career?

I’ve known and worked with Hines from my early days in the private equity real estate industry. I’d say our firm’s founder, Gerald D. Hines, has been very influential to me.

He left an indelible mark on the real estate industry. He transformed an entrepreneurial startup, founded in Houston in 1957, into a leading global real estate investment firm of today – one that manages a nearly $100 billion portfolio in a diversified pool of assets.

If you had to equate your investment strategy to a game, which would it be and why?

Real estate investing shares similarities with Monopoly. In Monopoly, players acquire properties, develop them, and collect rent. Similarly, real estate investors buy properties, improve them (through renovations or active asset management), and generate rental income.

And just like in Monopoly, strategic decisions about property location, financing, and negotiation play a crucial role. However, unlike Monopoly, real estate isn’t a zero-sum game – everyone can win.

Can you recall a time when your gut feeling about an investment conflicted with the data, and what did you do?

An investment decision needs to strike a balance between one’s gut feeling and the data.  When the two are in conflict, the best course of action is to dig deeper into why the two are conflicting.

A gut feeling can be a function of length of experience in the business and risk appetite. Data may be inadequate because private markets are inherently opaque, thus the higher chance for higher returns.

And that is why local expertise is crucial for real estate investment. Experienced in-market teams will be able to find the right assets, access attractive deals, and create value at the individual asset level.

What innovation in asset management are you most excited about right now?

In the world of real estate, I’d say the rise of property technology – or PropTech – is quite exciting. A significant amount of money is being poured into this nascent space.

PropTech is reimagining how we buy, sell, manage, and experience real estate – from smart buildings with sensors to predictive analytics for future property performance.

Which emerging market do you see as the most promising for investment and why?

India. This is due to the country’s strategic role as a manufacturing and business offshoring hub, driven by its abundant human capital. As a result, more jobs lead to increased spending power, opening up opportunities across various sectors.

Investing in real estate in India also offers regional diversification because its demand drivers are different from developed Asian markets. Deep local expertise, however, is crucial to navigate across the market and succeed.

What advice would you give to someone just starting their career in asset management?

Fully understand institutional investors, who they are, why, and how they’re focusing on best-in-class assets with strong fundamentals, liquidity, and durable cash flows.

It’s equally important to network, learn, and stay curious.

What's the most valuable lesson you've learned from an investment that didn't pan out?

There are lessons to learn in every investment. One key lesson is the importance of adaptability. Investors must adjust their strategies when the facts change. Do not be emotionally attached to an investment.

How do you balance investor demands with sustainable investment practices?

Investors, as well as occupiers, are demanding more sustainable futures. For Hines, investing in sustainability is good for business.

As real estate investors, managers, and developers, we need to think long-term. If you’re not investing in sustainability today, then you’re settling for a building of yesterday and not a building of tomorrow.

Sustainability continues to be a key part of creating value for properties. Beyond investing in sustainable assets, alpha can also be created by making existing buildings greener.

How do you prepare for long-term uncertainties in the market?

Managing uncertainty is the name of the game in asset management. Nimbleness and pragmatism are important attributes.

Beyond the numbers, what personal quality do you believe has contributed most to your success?

Beyond financial acumen and market knowledge, relationship-building plays a pivotal role in real estate investment success.

Real estate deals involve multiple stakeholders – buyers, sellers, brokers, lenders, and more. Building trust and fostering positive relationships lead to successful outcomes.

So, cultivate relationships – they’re the invisible foundations of a rewarding career.

What is the most important leadership lesson you've learned while leading your organisation?

Successful leaders understand the importance of connecting with their teams on a human level. Empathy fosters trust and loyalty, creating a solid foundation for collaboration.

Clear vision is also equally crucial. Leaders guide their teams by inspiring resilience, especially in the face of challenges.

This article has been updated in the 3rd para with Ng’s new title at ANREV.

¬ Haymarket Media Limited. All rights reserved.
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