Interview with Tinchuck Ng, Managing Director and Co-Head of Investments of Cottonwood Group
We sat down with Tinchuck to learn more about navigating the world of cross border investments. In her early real estate career, she handled over 100 transactions all over the world totaling more than $2.3 billion. She later founded her own targeted investment advisory firm, Athena International Capital in Hong Kong focusing on cross-border real estate investments. In her current role, she is Managing Director, Co-Head of Investments at Cottonwood Group which manages real estate investments across the country including the 1.3million square feet EchelonSeaport development in Boston.
Who are your biggest influences?
I would go back to my parents who insisted that I travel around the world starting at an early age and work through different kinds of difficult and comfortable situations. I was very much an introvert growing up, but they wanted me to have experiences where I could grow and discover the process of personal development. When I was applying for graduate school, my father insisted on Harvard because he believed the environment there would be the most different from my personality; thus, the most challenging one for me, amongst all of the schools I applied to. I learned that even when an immediate situation may be uncomfortable or challenging, one can only grow and develop one's own voice and style by working through them.
Throughout the years, I have had many mentors and peers that I have learnt from. The one defining quality in people that I most admire is an entrepreneurial spirit with an unwavering focus on quality, best-in-class solutions and perseverance. As many of my mentors have done, I hope to instill this in the people I work with on a day-to-day basis. I strongly believe in paying it forward.
What drove you to start your company or firm?
I was born and raised in Hong Kong and came over to the states as a teenager for boarding school. Boston become home when I started my architectural studies at MIT and Harvard. My studies in architecture and subsequent training in finance and investment management laid the foundation to my belief in the integrated nature of a best-in-class real estate solution – it must find harmony amongst different aspects and contexts of a transaction; it is the child of vision and execution.
With almost 20 years in the real estate industry, I am blessed to work on the front line as a woman in a male-dominated field where I have learned to focus on merits and problem solving.
I was fortunate to be introduced to cross border investments early on in my career, before the sector was fashionable in the industry.
Cross border investment plays to my strengths and background - it requires a level of creativity and innovation to solve unstructured problems that involve many different fields and industries; all of the beliefs, skills and interests that I collected over the years. It's this passion towards finding best-in-class solutions towards complex, unstructured, multi-faceted problems that drove me to start Athena International Capital and later on to be part of Cottonwood Group.
Here at Boston Private we understand that wealth rarely has to do with money. What is your wealth really for? Tell us a little bit about what motivates you – the Why behind your passion and Why you work so hard to achieve your goals?
During my first job interview in real estate, I was asked the question: "What gets you out of bed every day?" My answer, "I love solving problems of different kinds". My interviewer, "Well there are plenty of those in our industry."
This passion towards solving complex problems has not changed much since; and my interviewer was right – this translates well into real estate because it is one of the oldest industries in the world, but also one of the most inefficient asset classes. It involves people both as end products as well as process – the way people live in a home or work in an office to the way a deal is transacted, or a project is permitted are all driven by the people involved. Being able to interact with them and take their point of views into consideration in the creation and development of a solution is incredibly satisfying and motivating.
As a business person, what has been your biggest challenge and how did you overcome it?
To continuously maintain balance between entrepreneurial spirit and institutional grade execution, both personally as well as amongst the team. How do I overcome it? Focus. Never waver from the belief that the best solutions only come from working with and through both.
What are some of the things you have learned about yourself that surprised you most?
Over the years some of the biggest things have come from discovering my strengths and weaknesses; and many of these lessons come from working with people and constantly trying to balance between listening and leadership - something that I am still learning every day.
If I could give the younger version of myself one piece of advice, I would say: stay open minded to others but explore your true likes and dislikes. These passions will ultimately become your guiding principles. It will be the place you turn to when life gets complicated. Even figuring out something as simple as your favorite ice cream flavor is still additive to finding your true self.
If I could spend 30 minutes with a person of import, it would be….
I'm a Christian so nobody is more appropriate than Jesus Christ.
My favorite part of the day is because .
My favorite part of the day is early morning, having my cup of coffee while staring out into the green space; that is the moment where I get to center myself before the craziness of the day starts.
Tinchuck Agnes Ng
Managing Director, Co-Head of Investments
Ms. Ng is the Managing Director and Co-Head of Investments of Cottonwood Group. In her role as Managing Director, she oversees the Group's real estate investment activities. Previously, Ms. Ng was Managing Principal at Athena International Capital in Hong Kong, Executive Vice President of Investments at Easternflair in China, Head of Real Estate Business Development – APAC at Aviva Investor in Singapore, Director of Real Estate Acquisitions at Blackrock in Hong Kong, and Director & Principal of the Capital Markets Group at Taurus Investment Holdings in Boston. To-date, she has completed over 100 real estate transactions, totaling over US$2.5 billion in the US, EU, and Asia, representing investors from eight jurisdictions globally.
Ms. Ng graduated from MIT with a Bachelor of Science and from Harvard University with a Master of Architecture with Distinction, as well as being a CFA and CAIA charter holder.