It seems the brokerage industry is becoming ever more competitive, with real estate services firms making deals to expand in both size and scope of services. Recently, commercial real estate services firm Colliers International announced it would be splitting off from its Canadian parent FirstService Corp. and changing its name to Colliers International Group to focus on expansion in the commercial market. (FirstService, which will become a new company, will in turn zero in on residential property services.) We spoke with Colliers International Global President and CEO Doug Frye to find out more about Colliers’ plans for the future. An edited transcript of that interview follows.
NREI: Was Colliers’ plan in response to other large brokerage firms making big acquisitions?
Doug Frye: No. The truth is that Colliers has been executing on a strategic plan, and this transition is a natural evolution for us that has been in the works for more than a decade. We have spent years building a critical mass—that is to say, our global footprint—and have strengthened the brand to be synonymous with high-quality service for our clients, working toward this move to have Colliers stand alone as one of only three publicly-traded commercial real estate firms in the world.
The pace of change in the world is increasing—in technology, in culture, and in our industry. Things are moving faster. That makes it critical that we have the responsiveness and freedom we need to move in our markets quickly. Our goal is not to get bigger to be the biggest or to respond to the actions of our competitors, but to strategically add services that will directly benefit the success of our clients.
NREI: When will the split become official?
Doug Frye: We anticipate that closing will be in the second quarter of 2015, pending regulatory approval.
NREI: With this change, what geographic markets is Colliers looking to expand in?
Doug Frye: At this point, Colliers is in 67 countries, spread over 502 offices... We have a very strong geographic footprint. We will continue to focus on growing our services platform and honing our expertise with new recruits, especially in key markets such as New York and London. In the past year, Colliers has had more than 1,000 producers join the firm, many of which were added in those two key markets.
NREI: Could you elaborate on the types of firms Colliers is looking to acquire?
Doug Frye: We are looking to acquire and partner with companies that have very specific business lines, with the skills and expertise that complement our service offering to our clients. Our firm is differentiated from those of our competitors in that we only look to add firms and individuals that align to the Colliers culture of service above all, and that means they will be interested in accelerating the success of everyone they come in contact with—not just clients, but also colleagues and the community. Our firm is known as being the most collaborative and diverse, and we will continue on that trajectory in any future acquisitions we look to make.
NREI: What sort of new services will Colliers seek to add?
Doug Frye: Again, the strategic plan that our firm has been building upon has always been long-term, focused on client servicing and Colliers’ values and culture. For example, last year we acquired AOS Group, one of Europe’s leading real estate and workplace consulting firms, expanding upon our service offerings in those categories, as well as onboarding more than 450 professionals with an enterprising and service excellence-focused culture aligned to that of Colliers.
Over the past year, we have especially been honing in on investor services, such as our capital markets platform, and occupier services, including corporate solutions. The way we seek to expand our services is through the recruitment of enterprising professionals that have the expertise and the confidence to directly address clients’ needs with holistic solutions. Colliers finds innovative, forward-thinking ways to bring solutions to the table that encompass the full perspective of business owners, not just their real estate needs, and we will continue to grow our firm to that end.