CBRE GLOBAL INVESTORS
As Asia Pacific general counsel of CBRE Global Investors since 2005, Amy Ng has worked on profile work such as the company’s 2010 merger with ING Real Estate Investment Management Asia. Catherine McGregor joins her in Hong Kong to discuss her role, how she got there, and what she enjoys most when she’s not running the company’s pan-regional legal affairs.
B U S I N E S S T H I N K I N G
GC: Did you always know that you wanted to be a lawyer?
Amy Ng (AN): Once I matured and was choosing my degree, yes. Earlier, I wanted to be involved in design and art. When I matured as a professional, I saw that wasn’t the direction to go in!
I enjoy practising law more and more. I enjoy what I do, I have clear goals and a job to facilitate goals. It’s a great profession if you want to see the concrete results of what you’re doing.
GC: What made you first want to go in-house?
AN: I was in private practice for seven years, and it’s not a new story - when I was in the law firm I began to want to be more involved on the business side, and to see a fund through from beginning to end, which you don’t as external counsel. I love to see products brought from birth through to going to market.
GC: Has the in house role changed much since you started?
AN: I have been with CBRE for more than nine years and now the expectations are much higher. Gone are the days when you were confined to a strictly legal role; now you are more part of the business and management, and have to understand the company aims and help to achieve its goals. It’s what every good in-house lawyer should be doing - finding solutions for the company and adding value. At the end of the day the role is the facilitation of business within the confines of law or regulations.
You definitely have to be more proactive. We have small management teams in each country. We just sit down and decide what we want to roll out. When there are impediments we need to sit down with the business people and work out solutions with them. You need to fully explain restrictions to the business guys as well, so you can frame everything in legal terminology.
GC: What’s the best thing about working at CBRE Global Investors?
AN: When I see the successful launch of a fund or separate account, or the completion of a deal. It’s really the feeling of a result achieved, and seeing it from the beginning to the end. As an in house lawyer you share in the happiness. Management teams will often be very appreciative and it certainly feels more personal when you’re in-house.
GC: What’s your favourite part of your day at the office?
AN: When I read an email from the marketing or the deal team to say a deal is done!
The difference between private practice and in-house is the continuation of the process, and the work doesn’t finish when the deal is done.
GC: What’s your least favourite part of your day at the office?
AN: When things go beyond your control.
GC: What has been the highlight of your professional life so far?
AN: We took over two funds in Japan in 2008 and 2009 and those were very interesting and complicated transactions - at the time, they were fairly landmark transactions.
In 2010 the merger with ING Real Estate was also a high point. I spent a lot of time working on the actual merger; it was a big transaction and took at least 10 months.
When I first joined CBRE Global Investors, on the first day that I came to the office one of the portfolio managers was very pleased I had joined and gave me the placing memorandum for our first China Opportunity Fund. So starting off my in-house career with something like that was pretty landmark too.
GC: What legal issues or challenges have you got coming up on the horizon over the next few months?
AN: Regulatory issues. In Asia and Singapore, the changes in regulation in these countries, and more broadly in Europe (for example AIFMD) and the USA, are very close to our heart and there is lot of time devoted to these.
GC: How much do you outsource as a team, and how much do you keep in-house?
AN: We outsource a lot, as we have a small team for Asia Pacific. When we are forming a fund or a separate account we will always work with external - usually international - counsel. Once we have a fund launch we start acquiring assets, and we work closely with local counsel where we are doing the deal. The exceptions are when we are working on corporate matters, investment management agreements or legal disputes, which we start off in house. With corporate matters we try and do as much as possible in-house.
GC: What do you expect from an external lawyer?
AN: Expertise and being able to think ahead of us. If they are seasoned and experienced then they should know what to expect. A lot of our deals are challenging and with my external counsel I will spend time talking with them about what we want to achieve, asking them to predict challenges and tell us solutions. We expect them to really take our interests and goals to heart.
GC: What are you reading at the moment?
AN: I am Malala, by Malala Yousafzai, which is a fascinating book. It makes you rethink lots of things you might take for granted, like political stability and the right to have an education.
GC: What’s your favourite film?
AN: Interstellar is very impressive. I am a fan of the director [Christopher Nolan]. The story is very simple but the way the film was shot, and the score, were very memorable - including moments of complete silence while the actors were in space, which was very impressive.
GC: If you weren’t practising law anymore, what would you be doing?AN: I would be interested in child psychology or child education - if you do them well you can help others. Those two areas interest me as I have a child who has just turned four!
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