Andrew Tong, Senior Vice President, Investments, and Managing Director of CREC Commercial Fund, recently celebrated his 25th year anniversary at Concert. In addition, Andrew received a 25-year acknowledgement from the Real Estate Institute of BC (REIBC).
The story begins in 1994, when Andrew graduated from UBC Sauder School of Business with a Bachelor of Commerce. Instead of blindly sending hundreds of resumes to prospective employers, Andrew targeted his search. His goal was to identify a Canadian real estate firm that met three criteria: Did the company have great vision? Was it backed by significant and on-going capital? Did its principals have an exceptional reputation and track record?
Andrew’s strategy paid off when he received an offer from Concert, who his mentor, the late George Oikawa, had advised was the best choice for a future career, “because you can’t learn from better people than Dave Podmore and Jack Poole [Concert’s founders]”. George had a stellar reputation and was considered one of the most respected appraisers and advisors in BC.
Andrew took his advice and accepted the job, and over the next 25 years worked on a variety of projects and roles within the company – everything from Sales & Marketing to Development, to his current role leading Investments for all asset classes across Canada (which includes Acquisitions, Asset & Portfolio Management, Commercial Leasing, Term Financing and Fund Management).
When asked about the challenges Concert faced in his early years as an employee, Andrew recalls a few key economic downturns. “In 2008, liquidity dried up. Lenders were not lending globally. Developers were laying off staff. But at Concert, there was already a plan to take advantage of the down market, ensuring the provision of steady returns to our owners and consistent employment for our people.”
“Concert had a solid income portfolio and a significant amount of cash which kept us strong financially, so we acquired prime development land and expanded our income portfolio across Canada. We kept people employed and actively working on master-plan communities or re-deployed to other key projects. Companies talk about how people are their most important asset but that is often forgotten when the economy is down. Concert proved how exceptional it was by valuing our staff at difficult times.”
Is he worried about another soft market? Andrew shakes his head and points to another strategic approach. “In the past few years, Concert has acquired significant land parcels at attractive low prices in strategic ‘path of change’ locations within Vancouver and Toronto, paying in cash and not over-leveraging. This has provided a 10-year pipeline of mixed-use development projects for many of our business lines. In addition, with its growing diversified and stable income portfolio, we can continue to earn strong returns for our investors long term,” he says.
An approach that has inspired loyalty from investors as well as employees like Andrew. “It’s been an incredible honour for me to witness and be party to this tremendous growth and success story over the past 25 years at Concert. It has been an amazing journey and the sky’s the limit for Concert for the next 25 years and beyond!”