In this 4th edition of the Board Minute we catch up with Nic Tiong, Partner & Head of Asia Pacific. Nic qualified as a solicitor in 2015, having previously obtained a BSc Honours in Business Management from the University of Surrey, and an LLB Honours from the University of Law. Within 6 years, he was promoted to a Partner and leads the Asia Pacific desk.
Nic specialises in all matters relating to residential property, and acts for high-net-worth individuals, companies, property developers and banks.
As Head of Asia Pacific Department, Nic has particular expertise in acting for Far Eastern clients from Thailand, China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia. He can speak fluent Cantonese and is conversational in Mandarin.
1. Tell me a little more about you and your legal background in Real Estate
I graduated during one of the worst recessions, so it was near impossible to find a job. My career finally started when a boutique city firm was willing to take me on as a work experience – despite having turned me down after my job interview. I seized this opportunity with both hands and two weeks later, they offered me a permanent role as a paralegal and eventually a training contract. The moral of the story; do not take no for an answer and fight for what you want!
As a property focused firm, the bulk of my experience was in real estate. The firm was relatively small, so I was thrown in at the deep end, and was involved in a wide range of transactions including sale and purchases of resale properties, off-plan purchases, assignments, remortgages, and lease extensions.
2. What interested you in this area of law?
The interaction with a wide variety of people and the fact that there is generally a happy ending to most cases, with the client successfully selling their property or purchasing their new home. I find it both satisfying and rewarding to be a part of their happiness.
3. What do you enjoy most about your role?
I love how diverse my role is within the firm and the fact that I have full autonomy as to how I grow and structure my team. I also enjoy working with high-net-worth individuals and domestic and international business development.
4. You are one of the youngest partners at Healys LLP, leading a department in the firm. How did you get to this position?
It is surreal to think that I qualified just over 6 years ago and am now a partner leading a team of six!
Other than a lot of hard work, I have been very fortunate as to the people I have met along my journey to partnership – from ex-colleagues and employers who mentored me, to business contacts and clients.
I developed a very strong network of clients and contacts very early on in my career – to this date I still work with agents that I met during my trainee days (!). As a result, I have never had to rely on any partner to pass me any cases as I have always been self-sufficient in finding my own work, even before I qualified. This later snowballed into my having too much work, and Assistants and promotions then naturally followed.
5. How have you found working from home and what are your thoughts regarding returning to the office?
I frequently travelled for business, so working remotely is not something new for me. I have always been an advocate for flexible and remote working. I believe that if you are a responsible person and you are passionate about what you do, you will do whatever necessary whenever and wherever you are. However, I do also believe it is important to spend some time in the office to catch up with your colleagues – virtual meetings are simply not the same!
6. The property market has been extremely busy in recent months. How have you and your team managed during these unprecedented times?
My team has been nothing short of incredible – working extreme hours without a word of complaint and handling themselves very professionally despite being under immeasurable pressure. I cannot praise my team enough and I would never take them for granted. Most importantly, we actually had fun doing it and smashing our targets!
7. How do you expect the property market to perform after the final stamp duty holiday ends in September?
Naturally things will slow down, as it did after the 30th June deadline. Nevertheless, we are still very busy with new instructions every day. I have never experienced a quiet period in my career other than the first lockdown months, and I am confident the property market will hold strong even after the September deadline.
8. Have you noticed any changes to international property investors’ behaviours and requirements when exploring UK real estate since Brexit?
It took one or two months for people to get over the shock of Brexit. Once people did however, business resumed per usual.
The UK is one of the most attractive countries in the world with a strong history, internationally recognised schools and universities, an impressive international reputation, cultural diversity, the royal family, jobs etc. The fact that we are no longer part of the EU does not diminish the appeal for people wanting to live, work or study in the UK.
9. Due to market demand, property prices have increased. From your perspective, is it still a good time for businesses and individuals to buy property?
From an investor point of view, yes, but possibly less so in London. I believe London property prices have hit a point where you will not see the same kind capital growth that was experienced in the early 2000s. Rental yield is also not very attractive. For properties to invest in, I think it is more worthwhile considering cities outside of London such as Manchester, Birmingham, and Liverpool etc.
If buying your matrimonial home, then there isn’t really a good or bad time to buy as you are not looking to make a quick buck by flipping a property purchase. Property prices are cyclical and always rising.
10. Would you have any advice for individuals considering a career in property law?
It is an extremely competitive industry, so you must set yourself apart from the crowd. It is not enough just to be knowledgeable and a good lawyer. You need to develop excellent people skills and forge valuable contacts as soon as possible in your career – as early as a paralegal. Without referrals and clients, you are just one of many other solicitors.