Yuejuan “Jane” Weng jumped from one giant Chinese corporation to another in pursuit of autonomy.
DGW, which stands for Decent Great Wall, is a risk management and asset management firm based in Beijing. The company has a total investment of $5 billion. In the US, the firm’s portfolio is more modest. The company has a total equity of $100 million, targeting multifamily, student housing and office properties in New York, Washington, D.C., Seattle and Michigan.
“You know, even though (DGW) is a big company in China, here, we get to lead the whole company. I like this kind of work. So I decided to change teams,” she said.
“I want to feel always more involved in the process. Not just internally, working with the team, but working with outsiders. Working in management, I can bring out and create the most value from my staffers.”
However, Weng’s revised business cards are not entirely a product of her desire for more decision-making power. It’s also partly due to personal preference. She wants to indentify which projects to invest in, instead of raising money for investments that others have decided on.
“Obviously, Greenland is a very strong company with a very strong balance sheet. But then, for myself, my interest has always been the investment area. This happened to be a good opportunity,” she said.
Weng, a Shanghai native who once oversaw Greenland’s EB-5 fund-raising efforts, sees a shift in the movement of investors from her country.
“I think Chinese investors have a very idealistic view and very strong appetite for quality assets abroad, from both an institutional level and also the individual level,” she said.
“There are several reasons. One, China’s economy had continued growth in the past ten to 15 years. In the past, a lot of Chinese investorsʼ portfolios were concentrated in China. Now, we get to a point where everybody feels like we have to go overseas to diversify our portfolio. In the past, a lot of real estate investment came to China’s real estate market to provide structure and tremendous growth opportunity for everybody. Now, people see the growth potential but they also see the risks. So they want to manage their risks by diversification.”
In spite of the more cautious approach from Chinese investors, Weng sees a flaw in the way her countrymen migrate their wealth.
“For me, I feel like I know how Chinese companies work in the US market. I see how they bring their business models from China to the US. The US market is very different from the China real estate market. It’s in a different stage and it’s more democratic. In the US, we do business here the local way. We find the demand in the local market to minimize the risk.”
Nonetheless, the flow of Chinese investment to the US does not appear to be waning. According to Cushman & Wakefield’s China-U.S. Inbound Capital Watch, China was the top foreign investor in the American commercial real estate market in 2016. During the year, New York City accounted for 46 percent of total Chinese investment, with half of the top ten largest deals happening in Manhattan.
Weng will take part in the 6th Annual REW Women’s Forum on June 14. She will participate in panel called Strategy Changes with Harbor Group’s Lane Shea, Cushman & Wakefield’s Marcella Fasulo, and Ten-X’s Camille Renshaw. For more information on the event, visit nycwomensforum.com.