Nico Ranke

CFO/Director Finance and Administration at BMW Russland Trading OOO

Class of 2012

"The international environment created by students and professors gave me deeper insight into the success factors of doing business in Asia. The most memorable lectures were on Organizational Behaviour, which led to very interesting and active class discussions that covered areas such as Corporate Finance, Innovation and Leadership in Asia."

Invest in U.S Real Estate: Kevin's Entrepreneur Story in China

Kevin Callaghan hunts U.S real estate for you, instead of you mediating projects from a dealer's stock.

Consulting agencies offering U.S. Real Estate abound in China, focusing on the booming Chinese capital outbound. However, Kevin and his "Tian Xia Group Cross-Border Real Estate Advisors" aims at a "blue ocean" strategy with the reverse thinking of representing buyers rather than sellers.

"First of all, I ask my clients about where they would like to buy, how much they could afford, for what purpose the real estate would be used, and what return rate they are expecting." Kevin introduces briefly his business model, which differs from other seeming "competitors'" who represent developers and owners, with fixed locations and prices.

In fact, there are no competitors in a "blue ocean". Kevin, who spent his last twenty years in real estate and finance, was familiar with this business term, but did not grasp the whole meaning until Prof. Jasjit Singh's class in Singapore.

Courses of the TIEMBA program are very intellectually stimulating and challenging which is what universities are meant to be. As an alumni who graduated two years ago in 2010, Kevin still playbacks vividly Prof. David Daokui Li's class of International Economics. "He never read notes. He just stood there and talked! ... and then he would have a part where he would just say 'ask me questions'. He was so knowledgeable and could answer extemporaneously. He was so connected to what's going on in China that I think I was hearing from the highest authorities."

Kevin is a veteran of the real estate industry. Before China, Kevin examined most of the Asian market, with India, Japan and China in particular. Kevin is responsible for exploring the international real estate economy since 2006 when he worked at Barclays Capital for almost three years, who were seeking a global real estate presence and its fortunes in the vigorous Asia market.

While the Tokyo project went smooth, the India and China market were both evaluated as being risky. However, with lucrative investment returns witnessed, the Chinese market was still on the waiting list.

Prepared with both ample experience and frontier knowledge, Kevin is now all set for an actual combat.

Kevin had an opportunity to enter the outbound real estate market when the Chinese government opened the U.S as a destination for individual visits in 2009. Chinese came to tour the distressed real estate market in the States, where values were thirty to forty percent of the original prices. As "word of mouth" spread, Chinese investment flooded into the States. But Kevin was not interested in "taking buses in the desert areas, like Arizona and Nevada", with Chinese people who are very careful with investment. "It just seemed too time-consuming and for me it was not worth it. I was looking for a different strategy".

Today, this market is still an attractive ocean for investment. Statistics say that only 30% of Chinese students return home after study abroad. Furthermore, there is an increase in the number of wealthy Chinese families looking to immigrate, seek good schools for their children or to expand their businesses into U.S.

Recently, Kevin worked with a Hong Kong developer who said she would like to spend 50 to 100 million dollars on commercial real estate in New York and California. After almost six months of consultation, Kevin received "a better understanding of investors like her", and "I started to think that foreign investment in the U.S. might be a good long-term business."

Kevin smiles at the "arduous yet happy" early days of carving out a niche for him in China. Kevin could barely speak Mandarin when he came to China. "I had a map written in Pinyin, and it was with me wherever I went."

"There was one time when I grabbed a taxi without a map and then realized that I had totally no idea where I was heading. The driver starts driving and I did not know what to do. Ten minutes later, I had to say 'zaijian' (goodbye in chinese) to him and get out of the cab, paying the driver the ten yuan on the fare."

Kevin is a person who embraces challenge. He lived in a Hutung area right beside the Forbidden City, where he was "shocked when native residents would go outside with pajamas and tooth brushes and toothpaste in the morning". However, cultural shock is also where lies the cultural charm. He soon got acquainted with neighbors, sales girls in grocery stores, and even cops around.

Kevin's company is operating well with many Chinese clients looking to acquire commercial and residential real estate assets in the United States. He believe that the business of international real estate will grow rapidly over the next few years, firstly due to an increase in outbound Chinese capital as Chinese investors seek new investment markets for diversification and a hedge for their China investments. Furthermore, the continued improvement in the U.S. real estate markets which should provide good financial returns.

Kevin and his "Cross-Border Real Estate and Immigration Advisors" aims to create a truly unique global business in which borders and territories are irrelevant. With his predicted "global" real estate market in which prices in major international cities will become "flatter", the company expects to expand this business to include cross-border transactions across the globe and between the world's greatest cities. "For the 21st Century, a new paradigm for international real estate investing is required in which client relationships are not based strictly on geography or culture but on service and expertise." Kevin said.

This whole "international thought" can be traced back to his personal experiences. Born in Wurzburg, Germany, Kevin was raised in the United States and has traveled extensively in Europe, Asia and North America. With an undergraduate degree in the U.S., his recent studies included completion of graduate business degree programs from the two leading business schools in China and Europe with programs based in Beijing, Singapore, France and Abu Dhabi.

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