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edition 9 (223)
September 2017
Feature

Taking on all-comers

Another new player is about to enter the Polish advisory market – the second to do so in recent weeks. But is there any room left for fresh faces in this sector?

Ewa Andrzejewska

Taking on all-comers
Piotr Kaszyński, managing partner, Cresa Poland

Will Cresa, which exclusively provides tenant services for the office, industrial and retail segments, alter the balance of power in the advisory sector? After several months of preparations, Piotr Kaszyński, the managing partner of Cresa in Poland, has announced his plans, declaring: We will be able to compete with everyone: large, medium or small. We’re ready for this!

Ewa Andrzejewska, Eurobuild Central & Eastern Europe: In early July, Cresa announced its entry into Poland. This was just afew weeks after another agency also announced its entry in apress release. How ready are you to take this plunge?

Piotr Kaszyński, managing partner, Cresa Poland: We are assembling our team. In September we will start our operations in our offices in downtown Warsaw, on the 21st floor of the Warsaw Financial Center.

What are Cresas plans for the Polish market?

Based on Cresa’s experience worldwide, our goal is to become a leading partner for tenants in all the sectors of the commercial real estate market. I believe that we will be able to achieve this target in quite a short time.

What doyou mean byashort time?

A year and a half – a maximum two years.

When doyou think youll be fully up-and- running?

We began preparations for entering Poland a few months ago. With the commitment of trusted and skilled people and with a top-rate organisation, we will be fully ready to go as soon as we pick up the keys to our office in the second half of September. We will shortly officially open our new departments: office, design/project management, research and advisory, and then, in October, the industrial, capital markets, valuation and support departments. By the end of this year, Cresa’s team will comprise 45 employees. We aim to have a total of about 60 on board.

Thats not somany compared with JLL, CBRE or Colliers, who alreadyhave hundreds ofemployees.

Each of those companies has a large property management department consisting of 100–200 people. Cresa does not intend to build such a team locally. However, with respect to the level of transactional activity of those companies, we expect to catch up with them. I’d like to emphasise that we are a very young business.

Lets go back to your beginnings: how did you become Cresas boss?

Following the merger of DTZ and C&W in 2015, after 18 years of exciting and challenging work there, I decided to leave Cushman & Wakefield. That proved to be the right decision for me and helped me to establish many new contacts, including with Cresa in Boston. In the US, Cresa is a well-recognised and respected brand, comparable to other global competitors and a leading tenant representation agency. It was rapidly expanding in Europe and expressed interest in working with me and the core of the local team that I had built. The discussions were lengthy, but we finally signed the right contract with Cresa and immediately set about organising our office and building the whole team.

They discovered Poland quite late. Hungary came first

Cresa has been present in  Hungary for about two years. Following its success there, Cresa intends to open offices in most CEE countries. It already has thriving offices in London, Paris, Frankfurt, Belgium and the Netherlands. We are also talking to potential partners from Spain and Italy, and looking at Scandinavia. As for our region, Cresa has been eyeing the Czech Republic, Romania, Bulgaria and also Slovakia. Of course, it’s too early to go into details, but once successful operations are underway in Poland we should soon be able to make plans for other countries.

Will Warsaw be the main office for the CEE cities?

Nothing has been decided yet, but we will certainly be contributing to the decision making. Our industrial department will certainly operate on a larger scale, at least until the other offices open. What role will the department’s head play in this process? Only time will tell. That person will certainly have to have all the skills required to head operations on a larger, European scale.

How does Cresa want to stand out from the crowd? inaddition to its focus on tenants, ofcourse.

Our business motto is: We don’t have to be the biggest, but we need to be the most respected. We will be delivering top-quality services with highly experienced people with first-rate know-how – people who will be able to win over clients. The new quality we are bringing to the market will certainly help with that: we will represent tenants only. Although we are a new player on the local market, we will be active in all core business segments from the very outset, apart from property management. In addition, our large office department will also operate intensively in regional cities, including Kraków, Katowice, Poznań, Wrocław and the TriCity. We will eventually open offices in those cities as well so that we can deliver services to clients in all market segments.

Alarge office team? What exactly doyou mean bythat?

The final number will be decided by the market, but for now our target is about 25 employees. We already have the most important core of eight professionals including basic support, and are busy recruiting more staff so that we will have about 15 people by the end of this year. We should also mention that Szymon Łukasik has joined us. He’s a leading expert with broad experience in representing tenants from the retail sector – tenants such as TK Maxx and Foot Locker. Szymon has been made head of our retail department.

What else can you tell us about your retail department, besides the identity ofits boss?

We want to be a leading agency and the first choice for retailers. We’ll be able to achieve that in part due to my own experience as head of retail at Cushman & Wakefield and, of course, with Szymon’s know-how, which I was able to experience when I worked with him at C&W. Other experts will also soon be joining Cresa to strengthen the retail team. Szymon has been busy building our new business for several weeks now. We are still recruiting and looking for new people to join our retail department.

You mentioned your core departments: office, retail and industrial. What about the other departments?

Well, you can’t provide professional services without support specialists. That’s why we have almost completed building our design/project management, research and advisory, and valuation teams. We have already agreed terms with an experienced team to join our valuation department. And we are also setting up the capital markets department. As you know, the space for real estate capital markets departments is clearly defined on the market and polarised. But I think there’s room for us in this segment too. There have been many changes in the capital markets departments of several firms on the market. We are monitoring this process as well as participating in it. As I mentioned earlier, we won’t have a property management department. From our perspective, it would be more susceptible to conflicts of interest – and the avoidance of these is our top priority. It’s difficult to represent a tenant and at the same time advise a landlord on how to preserve or increase a property’s value.

And what about the hospitality sector thathas been expanding rapidly in Poland inrecent years?

We have made no decision about that yet. In my opinion, this is a very specialist segment with very few global market players. We know this sector is expanding and are in contact with the relevant people. The debate is still ongoing.

When you talk about assembling your team, you emphasise the need for being highly selective. Why?

There are various opportunities and expectations, including financial expectations and multiple business creation paths. We want to build a team of people who share Cresa’s corporate culture and vision for operation and growth. We believe that we have quite a strong advantage over our competitors and look forward to competing with them. Cresa’s core team includes people carefully chosen for their experience in service delivery and who have gained a considerable insight into team management in the course of their careers. This will contribute to building an appropriate system of employee motivation, training, self-fulfilment and promotion.

Let me ask you the same question Iput to the boss ofApleona GVA, another newcomer to the Polish market. Lets assume Im anew tenant on the market and Im looking for anoffice ofapp. 1,000sqm. Why should Ichoose you rather than Apleona GVA or established operators like JLL, CBRE, Colliers, C&W, Knight Frank or Savills?

First of all, we have a team of distinguished, experienced people. Furthermore, although we are only just starting out on the local market, our agents will have the support of experienced specialists from our support departments. And, most of all, we run no risk of conflicts of interest. We will not be representing any developers in space commercialisation, which is a significant advantage for our clients. The freedom of operation we have is impressive, and so, when advising tenants on choosing a building, this is ideal from their perspective – not from the landlord’s. We will advise tenants, bearing in mind relationships with landlords, and consider bringing in a property manager and advising on which one. We’ll tell the story behind the building and its potential, putting it into the context of the broader market and of its location, reviewing the service charges, while identifying and highlighting any legal tricks. In addition, we know how and where to lease new offices; we can renegotiate a contract aggressively or provide you with all the arguments for why it may be better to relocate.

Exactly. Irecently told CBRE that their office department shouldnt really be called one, because it offers such abroad array ofservices: lease negotiations, office design, the advice ofsociologists and even HR experts and relocation services. That range ofservices is very, very broad and goes well beyond the norms ofthe real estate sector. Will Cresa be going down the same route?

I’d rather not comment on what CBRE is doing, but we should remember that it is the world’s largest real estate advisory firm and it certainly has a well thought-out strategy as a consultancy. We want to advise tenants in the core areas: office quality, the structure of service charges, the financial terms, as well as the ergonomics, fit-outs, expansion options and using the space in line with the latest trends and the highest standards.

Does that mean that youll be also responsible for fit-outs?

We are ready to supervise the whole process: from designing the premises, right through to the construction work and the handover of the keys to the new office. We are aware that we also need to design for a younger generation that communicates differently, one that expects a different environment and operates during different working hours. We will advise our clients to create space that contributes to innovation.

Shall weget back to your retail department for amoment? Szymon Łukasik faces aformidable task. Retail has not been the strongest card held by agenciesdepartments recently, mainly due to the point ofthe market cycle wehave reached

We know that the retail market has become saturated. Retail parks and smaller formats are expanding, while the rate of growth of larger schemes has slowed and will continue to do so. We are well-prepared to cope with the volume of workload on the tenant’s side. This business is based on interpersonal relationships. And there is work ahead for us because every tenant has specific needs at any given time: if the tenant is not expanding and opening new stores, it will often have to close older outlets, relocate, expand or downsize stores. Retailers will always need space and if they don’t have an in-house real estate team – as is usually the case – we will continue to have work to do. In such a large and growing market like Poland, there is clearly a lot of work ahead of us.

What will the retail market be like inacouple ofyears from now? Will you be advising on e-commerce and omni-channel strategies rather than purely real estate issues?

I don’t want to be pessimistic, but we are aware that e-commerce is spreading and some retailers are downsizing their stores, or finding the need to reconfigure them, or are going online with major parts of their business. This means that their storage, warehouse and distribution requirements are changing. This is an area of potential cooperation between our retail and industrial departments, as well as analysts from our support teams. If a retailer’s space requirements shrink, we will advise them on how to restructure to ensure the best distribution network and/or how to modify their obligations under current lease agreements.

What doyou think of the other new market player, Apleona GVA? Is there enough room on the Polish market for so many newcomers?

Apleona has engaged a very talented and hard-working frontman who has proved himself in his job. If they succeed in recruiting and retaining a strong team, they will certainly find a place for themselves on the market. Companies with fewer corporate obligations are able to make decisions more easily and quickly – for example, in relation to pitching, cost modification and revenue planning. They are and will remain competitive.

Whathas your experience been inthe last six months since you started introducing Cresa to the Polish market?

We are moving forward very prudently. We have already set up efficient administration, marketing, legal and financial functions to create solid foundations for the people who will be joining us. We want them to feel at ease and enjoy comfortable working conditions. The hardest task is to hire new, valuable, talented, independent and hard-working professionals with vision and enthusiasm. I don’t want to judge the young people joining large firms, but they tend to be those who have been around for a few years, who have closed a couple of transactions and already expect independent positions and considerable pay. Their ambitions will be put to the reality test.

Who doyou see as your competitors?

We will treat all the current market players and future comers to Poland alike as competitors. Poland is a growing and dynamic market with a great many operators. We will be competing with all of them – large, medium-sized and small-scale businesses. I’m sure we will succeed.

What about consultancies such as EY or KPMG? Are they your competitors too?

They are competition to us in the same way that our tax consultancy departments represent competition for them. Those consultancies have teams with strong advisory know-how, but with less insight into transactional activity. They are, for instance, skilled at feasibility studies and guiding companies through entry into and exit out of Poland. I think we will often cooperate with them because our services are complementary in many respects.

What will the real estate agency/ advisory market be like inacouple ofyears from now?

Are you asking about how many there will be? The media has been speculating about new acquisitions – and that will have an effect on the number of players remaining on the market. The largest are competing to grab the biggest market share and translate that into profitability levels. It’s impossible to eliminate advisors and brokers from the market or to take out a lease through an online platform alone, so we will remain on the market.

Doyou expect competition from new market players or, for instance, the smaller Polish operators who are doing quite well on the market?

Yes, they are doing very well indeed, but they are faced with growth limitations due to the scale of their organisations and their ability to attract local clients and provide services for multinationals. By no means does that mean that they provide inferior quality services – quite the contrary, but they deliver services on a different scale. From a business point of view, we all know that it’s worth providing services to global corporations.

Who will make it into the top ten, then?

The current leaders, Cresa, plus one or two other players who will enter the market quite shortly.

What objectiveshas Cresa set you?

In addition to Cresa’s expectations, I have set myself targets to achieve. They all stem from Cresa’s business perspective and my own experience, as someone who has been an equity partner in Poland and the EMEA region and a shareholder in Cushman & Wakefield in the US. These objectives are: quality, quality, quality.

Everyones talking about ensuring high-quality services, but when exactly will Cresa become self-financing after all this investment?

We will be earning money by the end of this year, so we  won’t still be in the red in 2018. We are obviously still investing, but we are spending money wisely and our current organisational structure ensures that we are not burdened with excessive corporate overheads. Cresa thinks globally, but manages locally. It’s too early to talk about specific volumes. These have been defined and we know how many people we need to deliver them, but I’d rather not disclose any details. Our competitors are watching and we are watching them. One thing is for certain – we want to be a major market player. The distribution of forces on the Polish market is constantly changing. Of course, we will grab a bigger or smaller share from everyone. We know what we want to achieve and who we need to engage in this.

Is Cresa oriented toward organic growth or looking for acquisition opportunities?

We focus on organic growth, but we are also eyeing the market for new opportunities or companies that would like to expand their spectrum of operations. I know that there are a few businesses that want to spread their wings and need a cash injection. We have been talking to a few parties in relation to this and are not ruling out any acquisitions.

One last question and perhaps anaïve one: Will tenants whohave been rather spoilt bydevelopers lately even be willing to pay for your services?

All advisors operating in their respective sectors need to be self-financing. This applies to us too. Each of us is a tenant – and we are no exoeption. Everyone needs an advisor. So up-to-date insights into market conditions are crucial and have a very tangible value.

THE MAN WITH THE PLAN

Piotr Kaszyński is the managing partner of Cresa Poland and has twenty years’ experience in the real estate market. He was previously employed by Cushman & Wakefield, where he became head of the retail agency in 1999. Piotr participated in the commercialisation of more than 40 retail projects across Poland, including such prime Warsaw shopping centres as Galeria Mokotów, Złote Tarasy, Promenada, Wola Park, Klif, Reduta and CH Targówek, shopping centres in other cities (Stary Browar and Galeria Malta in Poznań, Galeria Kazimierz in Krakow, Millenium Hall in Rzeszów, as well as the Ikea Bielany Wrocławskie, Ikea Franowo, Ikea Gdańsk and Ikea Katowice retail parks, Arkady Wrocławskie in Wrocław, Galeria Katowicka in Katowice, Forum Radunia in Gdańsk, Ikea Port Łódź, Klif in Gdynia, Forum in Gliwice, Atrium Felicity in Lublin, Galeria Wisła and Galeria Mazovia in Płock, Galeria Sanowa in Przemyśl, Galeria Ostrovia in Ostrów Wielkopolski, Galeria Bursztynowa in Ostrołęka, Galeria Neptun in  Starogard Gdański, Carrefour in Toruń and Krakow) and Tesco’s shopping centres. In January 2014, he was appointed head of the capital markets group. Piotr was also an equity partner of Cushman & Wakefield.

He now heads the Polish office of Cresa, the largest firm of tenant-only real estate advisors in the world. He is responsible for the growth of the business and cooperation with leading real estate specialists. He is also head of  the capital markets team with responsibility for strategic advisory, LOI and SPA negotiations, customer care, risk assessment and service quality assurance.


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