People: Long-time friend

11 January 2021
A long-time friend of Chinachem Group, Siu Kam Lin, in her early 70s now, has grown with the Group. The very first brick-and-mortar investment she made was a home she bought for her family of three in the Group's Kwai Po Building in Kwai Chung.

“It was 1977 or 1978. Being a homeowner at that time was nothing short of exhilarating!” said Siu, who is in her 70s now. In the following years, Siu’s career went from strength to strength as Hong Kong’s economy took off. She had a pay rise every year and was making good money. Later she started her own business and went on to invest in Chinachem’s industrial properties. Her profits increased as she continued buying and selling properties over the past four decades, but she has never sold the first property she bought, which she uses as the headquarters of her company.

As a landlord, Siu looked after the maintenance issues for tenants of her Chinachem properties. Over the years she established a rapport with many of Chinachem’s long-serving employees and, to them, she is an old friend.

Recalling her first flat-hunting experience, Siu said it was a stroke of serendipity. “That day I was in Kwai Chung and the Kwai Po Building was still a construction site. An old man sitting by a folding table chatted with me and said; ‘Just buy it. You can simply pay a deposit of 500 dollars!’”

In those days, property developers had no fancy sales offices or showrooms to appeal to potential homebuyers. Goodwill between people and personal needs were the main factors shaping one’s decision on whether to buy a property. “I thought about what the man told me – right, I could afford that. My son was only two years old and we needed a decent place to live in. So, I went for it.”

The importance of human touch

Siu then went to Chinachem’s office and paid the deposit. After reading the floor plan, she made up her mind and bought a three-bedroom unit of some 500 square feet. “I paid the down payment, which was one-tenth of the home price. Then I went to Chinachem’s office on Ice House Street in Central. I paid the mortgage in cash.”

A few years later, when she had cash flow problems because of her business, she called Chinachem and asked if she could be given some relief from home-loan payments. To her surprise, the company was sympathetic enough to bend the rules for her. The staff in charge of her home loan returned some of the payments she had already made and even extended her repayment period.

“I was very grateful and never forgot this favour,” said Siu. At the Ice House Street office, Siu had crossed paths with Chinachem’s late Chairwoman Nina Wang. “There was this young girl in the office. She was quite pretty, and she spoke Shanghainese. I didn’t know her. It was years later that I watched the news and realised she was the famous ‘Little Sweetie’.”

Siu had worked in the hotel sector for years before she founded a construction company with a friend in the 1990s. It was at that time that she came up with the idea of buying units in factory buildings and converting them into offices.

Among all the property developers in Hong Kong, Siu has always favoured Chinachem, not least because she likes the fact that it is a company that attaches importance to client relations and its employees are friendly. The strong growth potential of Chinachem’s properties is, naturally, the primary part of its appeal. At one point, Siu became interested in and bought a unit in Wah Yiu Industrial Building of more than 1,000 square feet.

As her construction business kept growing, and because she had gradually got to know many industrial property owners, Siu contemplated investing in industrial units. Whenever she visited Wah Yiu, she liked to meet with fellow female landlords at “Kai Kee”, a restaurant near the factory building. It was their haunt, and the place where the women had countless conversations about investing. “Actually ‘Kai Kee’ is the nickname for Kentucky Fried Chicken!” Siu joked.

Siu is both cheerful and generous: she works as a volunteer for Wah Yiu’s building management committee. She takes pride in the fact that she and some landlords of Wah Yiu and a few other factory buildings in the area managed to unite all landlords to have the buildings renovated. Today, these buildings are in good shape and look attractive.

“We installed lifts and LED lighting. Every floor has CCTVs and the floor tiles of the lobbies have nice design motifs,” she said. In the old days, the landlords also held meetings on a regular basis. Chinachem’s senior executives joined the meetings and made decisions based on the needs of landlords who had small stakes. “Chinachem is a big landlord with a good heart and an open mind. It supported our big plans and never gave us a hard time.”

Today, Siu still owns a good-sized portfolio of properties built by Chinachem. “These are my savings and they are going to support my retirement life,” she said.

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