In periods of uncertainty and volatility, executives are confronted with the choice of adopting either a cautious wait-and-see approach or actively shaping the future through calculated risks. The recent pivotal transition overseen by myself and my team falls into the latter category. Our strategic affiliation with Avison Young has introduced the global commercial real estate brand into the Vietnamese market and the broader Southeast Asian region.

Contemplating Change

Throughout my journey living and working in Vietnam, I have witnessed remarkable transformations in the country, enduring numerous cycles of upheaval in the real estate market as Vietnamese society transformed drastically in a short span of time. The resilience displayed by the people and the business community in Vietnam is remarkable, instilling confidence that the current downturn is temporary.

When I arrived in 2008 and began my tenure at D&P company (formerly trading as Colliers International), the global economic landscape was grappling with the Great Recession, and Vietnam was no exception.

In 2015, just as I assumed the role of CEO at Colliers in Vietnam, the newly ratified Housing Law extended homeownership rights to foreigners, which greatly increased our growth through 2021, at which point the effects of the global pandemic began to affect every market. Fast-forward to 2023, when my business partner and I agreed to rebrand our trading company as Avison Young.

D&P company had established a nearly two-decade presence in Vietnam. Alongside a diverse team of experts, we contributed to building the brand’s reputation and expanding Colliers footprint across various real estate sectors in Vietnam. The decision to transition our trading brand involved careful consideration of factors such as job security for our team, their perception and adaptation to the new brand, and the altered mode of operation. While change is inherently challenging and is often met with resistance, grasping the full scale of change management complexity is a distinct endeavor. Like many business leaders, I found that engaging the team in the transition was no easy feat, but it was imperative for a successful transformation.

Surprising to many, including some of my own staff, was the announcement of the brand change. Questions naturally arose about the rationale behind such a move amidst a recovering real estate market, business closures, industry-wide layoffs, and the prevailing market uncertainties in Vietnam. On a wider backdrop, the slowdown had also hit Southeast Asia and the region is not immune to supply chain disruption, geo-politic tension, inflation, and hiking interest rates post-pandemic.

However, as Seneca the Younger, an ancient Stoic philosopher, aptly said, “It’s not because things are difficult that we dare not venture. It’s because we dare not venture that they are difficult.”

Despite this sage advice, I admit that I faced many sleepless nights as we approached the launch date. However, what strengthened my convictions throughout the transition was knowledge of the burdens we had carried due to limitations created by our partner having other priorities, as well as the added uncertainties of change and the ongoing gloomy market situation. Another more recent quote sums up my feelings about why it was imperative to drive the next phase of growth for the company in the evolving Vietnamese market.

“In life, change is inevitable. In business, change is vital.”
Warren G. Bennis 

In an increasingly volatile business environment, transitioning the brand became a pivot-or-perish decision, and the vibrant visual identity and authentic brand voice of Avison Young garnered positive attention from both our staff and the broader business community.

A Radiant Future

Vietnam, now a frontier market, is poised to emerge as a rising star in Asia. Boasting one of the world’s fastest-growing economies and an attractive real estate market, the country records positive prospects across various sectors in the mid to long term. A youthful population, a tech-savvy workforce, rapid urbanization, and continuous improvements in the ease of doing business make Vietnam an ideal match for the Avison Young brand, which emphasizes technology, innovation, and creating real economic, social, and environmental value.

Avison Young’s decision to establish its first base in Southeast Asia in Vietnam aligns with its strategy to tap into the Asia Pacific markets, where capital from North America and Europe is underrepresented. This move not only expands Avison Young’s reach but also opens the gateway for long-term expansion in Southeast Asia, the fifth-largest economy in the world.

By joining Avison Young, we contribute to expanding the Asia Pacific reach for the group. Leveraging global insights and local market expertise allows us to support our clients and partners across wider markets, providing them with a competitive advantage.

As global manufacturing supply chains shift and companies adopt China+1 strategies, Vietnam stands to be a key beneficiary. Positioned at the crossroads of the region, Vietnam holds great potential to become a regional logistics hub, presenting significant opportunities in industrial and logistic real estate. The country’s advantages include affordable manufacturing costs, a skilled labor force, and proactive measures by Vietnamese authorities to accommodate foreign direct investors.

Rapid urbanization and the rise of affluent consumers in Vietnam create growth opportunities in residential and commercial real estate sectors. The relative political stability and various initiatives by the Vietnamese government, such as tax cuts, monetary policy easing, and administrative measures to boost the economy and improve transparency, instill confidence in investors.

While challenges may obscure the path forward, especially amidst obstacles such as the loss of value and frustration, seizing the bigger picture reveals nothing but opportunities, particularly in Vietnam. The real estate cycle may fluctuate, but the only foreseeable trajectory is upward growth.

As the country grows, so does the demand of its people and businesses. Swift adaptation to changes in the business environment, technology, and innovation is essential to navigate this dynamic market confidently. It is time for us, as a company, to actively evolve, adapt, grow, and embrace change for the better.

At the dawn of 2024, our team embarks on a revitalizing journey after two decades in Vietnam. Under the new identity as Avison Young Vietnam, we aim to surpass the expectations of our clients and partners, delivering spaces and places that empower businesses, employees, and communities to be their best. We look forward to continuing our expansion in Southeast Asia. Here’s to a journey worth watching, from now onward.

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Tim Burrill
Membership Manager & Executive Assistant
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