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"Asian investors have become aware of the need to use an Asset Manager." Interview with Alexandre Bystrzejewski, Founder and Managing Director of Nova Asset Management

Born many years ago in the United States, in full development on the European continent, the profession of asset manager is developing in Asia.

Tell us about yourself. Who are you? What do you do?

Before founding Nova Asset Management in Bangkok and in Singapore in 2017, I was based in France where I worked at Unibail-Rodamco and then at Covivio (ex-Foncière des Régions). And when I arrived in Thailand in 2014, I was lucky enough to participate in the development of local hospitality investors within the context of a particularly dynamic market. In addition to training me in the local particularities of the hotel market, these early years allowed me to identify a real opportunity in the Asset Management segment. There are many local investors who do not do this as their main activity and who therefore need to surround themselves with expert advisors. This is how the idea of structuring an Asset Management platform was born. I was later joined by partners to develop what Nova Asset Management is today.

What services do you offer your clients?

We primairily work its 3 types of services.

The first is called "Development Management". Our clients often own land that they want to develop but do not really know how to approach the project. Thus, we often intervene very early on by helping define the product, the positioning and the development strategy. Then we execute the strategy defined with the client as "Owner Representative". We manage the project from start to finish to delivery, with a global vision since our scope of responsibility covers the financial feasibility of the project, its financing, product positioning, selecting the operator selection and the execution of the design and construction process.

Our second area of expertise is pure "Asset Management" with a particularly thorough monitoring of the hotels we manage. We assist owners in optimizing the performance of their assets and their operational efficiency. This can sometimes lead us to defining a repositioning strategy that can involve branding or rebranding the hotel and therefore selecting a hotel operator.

Finally, we also provide strategic consulting services that cover the management of investment mandates, the definition of an expansion strategy, as well as acquisition/sale transactions.

Who are your clients?

Most of our clients are family offices or corporations for whom the hotel business is above all a diversification of their main activities, usually with a long-term holding objective.

With the exception of Hong Kong or Singapore, hotel investment in South-East Asia is very fragmented with many individual owners. For example, in Thailand, the largest investor owns barely thirty hotels, far from the hundreds of hotels that make up Covivio's assets in France, for example.

What is your outlook on the hotel asset management sector in Southeast Asia?

It is a function that has long suffered from a lack of awareness in the region, with owners relying mainly on operators.

The hotel industry has now become more complex and sophisticated and Asian investors have become aware of the need to call upon an Asset Manager to support them.  It is also what has enabled the rapid development of Nova Asset Management.

How do you position yourselves with respect to hotel operators?

Our DNA consists in being on the side of owners/investors. As such, our role is to act as counterweight to operators by assuming a strategic advisory role with regard to all aspects related to hotel assets. And to be honest, operators are often delighted to work with us because it allows them to have a professional contact person on the other side. This makes discussions and decision-making much more fluid and therefore accelerates the development process.

Can you give some examples of projects operated by Nova Asset Management?

In Asset Management, ParkRoyal Suites Bangkok is a good example of our services. It was an existing hotel, well located, delivering honorable performances but which had never really reached its maximum potential. We then delved into the heart of the operations to identify a repositioning strategy, combining efficient renovation of the hotel product and a process for selecting an international operator.  Pan Pacific Hotels Group, based in Singapore, was the operator selected, signing its grand return to Thailand.

ParkRoyal Suites Bangkok
ParkRoyal Suites Bangkok

As for "Development Management", we are currently working on the development of a mixed-use project in the form of a 35-storey skyscraper in a popular Bangkok district. There will be both a hotel and residences for sale, all under a brand with luxury positioning on the market. For this project, we intervened from the beginning by defining the positioning and development strategy in collaboration with the client. I would characterize this as exceptional, as there are perhaps 3 or 4 left in the Thai capital, and this will certainly be one of Bangkok's iconic future projects. The work is scheduled to start in mid-2019.

Projet mixed-use en développement
Mixed-use project under development

In terms of strategic consulting, we are currently working with a hotel management company (Vikasa Hotels Group) which is well-positioned in the rapidly expanding Wellness market, with a focus on Yoga Retreats. This brand benefits from a particularly successful concept that has quickly succeeded in retaining a community of "yogis" from all over the world. We help them structure their development strategy in such a way as to expand their portfolio of hotels under management while preserving the DNA of the concept based on the customer experience that has made it so successful to date.

Vikasa Hotels Group
Vikasa Hotels Group

What are the development perspectives for perspectives Nova Asset Management? 

In parallel with our continued development in Thailand, we are currently accelerating our deployment in the region, with Vietnam, Malaysia and Burma in the spotlight.

Parallel to the continued development of our business in Thailand, we are currently accelerating our deployment in the region, with Vietnam, Malaysia and Burma in particular. As for our services, we are fortunate to be based in Bangkok, a city with a particularly dynamic environment for start-ups, including in relation to hotels and real estate. This is why we have teamed up with a technical partner to develop a solution for hotel owners, where we provide business expertise and our partner technology. This will allow us to extend the range of our services by developing solutions to offer to hotels in the region and in Europe, for example, by mid-2019. 

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