Five Minutes With...ICD Property's Director Of Finance & Development Manager Matt Khoo


Matt Khoo has a background in real estate advisory and property development finance. He previously worked at Jones Lang LaSalle, Maquarie Bank Group and ANZ. Matt works to oversee all company operations and developing and executing their expansion strategy. His role involves overseeing the finance and investment team which involves managing project and company cash flows, as well as capital structuring and fundraising.

How did you get your start in the property industry?
I was always interested in the property industry from an early age, which prompted me to undertake a Property and Commerce degree at university. In my last two years of university, I got a job at Jones Lang LaSalle as a Research Analyst and later became an Investment Consultant within their Research and Consulting division.

This became a great entry point into the industry as we were constantly assessing each of the property sectors across each of the states, and I got to learn the fundamental drivers of the industry.
What drives you – has there been someone or something that has inspired your career?
I draw a lot of inspiration from the success of others, both in the industry and in the general business world. In particular, ICD Property Board Member Boliang Mai, is a great inspiration to me. He took over a company which was close to bankruptcy and staffed with only 40 people and turned it into one of the top 2000 World Leading Companies by Forbes and one of China’s Top 500 Companies by FORTUNE China within the span of 25 years. The company now employs over 65,000 staff.

When I see people achieve big successes from nothing with just hard work, it motivates me to push myself harder, knowing anything is possible.
How does ICD Property set itself apart from other companies?
At ICD Property, we pick and choose projects that we will enjoy working on through our belief in them. We are passionate about creating beautiful buildings that stand the test of time and our purchasers are the beneficiaries of the love and care in our projects.
What are some challenges you have faced in your industry?
Cash flow management. Property development is one of those industries where you invest lots of capital in the beginning, which gets locked up in a project. This means the capital doesn’t get release back to you until completion, which can raise a lot of issues for a business that continues to run and has expenses if not addressed and planned.

This has taught me the importance of risk management in projects and funding, the value of good budgeting and having contingencies for the ‘what ifs’.
What is your favourite project you’ve developed and why?
Eq. Tower. It was the first development that I managed for ICD and I think for that reason it will always have sentimental value to me. When complete, it will be an amazing looking building which will look different at all times of the day and depending on the weather. This is due to its curved parametric form which reflects the sun at different angles causing a broad spectrum of colour.

ICD Property Group's Eq. Tower[/caption]
What has been your career highlight?
I believe the most rewarding thing has been getting involved in managing people and seeing how they mature, grow and succeed. A large part of it is because they’re really smart and hard working, but I like to think that I had at least some role to play.

There have been a lot of achievements since joining ICD Property that I’ve been proud to be part of, but if I was to single out the greatest personal highlight, it was becoming the director of a company before the age of 30. This is because I believe it is recognition for lots of hard work and being involved with the team’s successes.
If you could go back in time, is there anything you would do differently? What piece of advice would you give yourself?
Trust more, do less and focus on what’s important. It’s an irrational fear that you need to control things to get it right. I would give more autonomy to the people I manage as this is the best way to grow the competency of individuals, which in turn makes the company more efficient and having the ability to grow further. It also means I do less. It is very important for senior management to ‘do less’ in order to think clearly and add value strategically.
Apart from those by ICD, what do you think are the three best projects in the world at the moment?
Hudson Yards in New York – amazing architecture and the precinct development will be a landmark in what has been a gentrified Westside of Manhattan.

One Blackfriars in London – I went to the sales suite when I visited London at the end of last year. The architecture, floor plans, amenities and materials are second to none. To me this is the benchmark of luxury apartment living.

One World Trade Centre and 9/11 Memorial – It’s as much a part of the history and emotion that is centred around this place as it is the well thought-out architecture. I have spent hours there in awe of both.

ICD Property's Maple development in Hawthorn[/caption]
Where do you think the property development industry will be five years from now?
I believe within the next five years the Australian property industry will see a new wave of foreign investors: the insurance funds. Their propensity to invest in income producing assets will see a shift away from residential development, which has been the predominant focus for the last few years, to more mixed use with commercial, retail and education components.
What or whom have you learned the most from?
My Managing Director Michael’s father, Boliang Mai. I don’t see him that often, but when I get the opportunity to speak to him, he often knows exactly what to say to me. He’s drawing from 25 years of experience managing a company, people, investors and more.
What do you like to do to relax?
In my spare time, I enjoy spending time with my daughter Harper, and my wife Em. I enjoy boxing and playing basketball, travelling both locally, interstate and internationally, and being a handyman around the house – it’s the simple life for me!
What blogs or websites do you visit often?
My colleagues at work often link me to The Urban Developer or Urban Melbourne, but I’m mostly on YouTube watching funny videos!

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