Colliers Canada to Grow in 2012, and Beyond: CEO

Having survived the 2009 downturn and prospered during the strong rebound of the past two years, Colliers Canada chief executive David Bowden has ambitious growth plans for the real estate services firm going forward.

The Vancouver-based CEO expects to add approximately 200 employees to Colliers` current rolls of 1700 and Bowden sees hiring to continue at least at that rate as business expands in its five core operations. “I suspect that as we look out further into the future, we could easily be over 3,000 people in the next four to five years.

From a core service perspective, Colliers Canada is divided into five operations: sell and lease commercial buildings, advise and consult tenants with respect to commercial properties, property management, construction project management as well as property appraisal. The firm’s operations specializes in the asset classes of industrial complexes, office buildings, retail, multi-family units and hotels.

Bowden sees “significant growth opportunities” in all five businesses , particularly in the firm’s asset and property management area and project management.

In the project management realm, Colliers Canada was recently selected to manage the multi-year refurbishing of the Parliament Buildings, a project that includes the East and West Blocks, the Wellington building, the former Bank of Montreal building and the Parliament Precinct Branch.

Colliers entered the project management business four years ago with the purchase of MHPM Project Managers. “That business has tripled in the last four years and we think that there is still all kinds of market share that we can capture in that space,” Bowden said.

Where Colliers Canada fits

On the brokerage side of its business, Colliers figures it ranks either number one or two nationally with CBRE of similar size. In regards to property management, it estimates that it is the largest third-party manager in the country and only behind major developers such as Brookfield or perhaps Cadillac Fairview. In property appraisal, Colliers is `second tier` with Altus the leader in the field. In project management, Bowden believes that Colliers is the largest player.

“We are well positioned in all of our core businesses. I think that our focus over the next five years is to continue to expand our capabilities in our core services, probably a little bit less in terms of entering new business lines,” he said. “We think that there is lots of room to grow in what we already do well.”

If Colliers Canada does grow beyond its core, they would be in the form of an expansion of its asset management capability and to satisfy a demand from clients to expand its debt offering capability via a commercial mortgage brokerage. “I would say that if we were going to enter two new businesses that would be where are focus would be.”

From a hiring and retention standpoint, what sets Colliers apart from competitors is the existence of its internal education platform which it calls Colliers University. In operation for about a decade, the education platform offers various courses up to and including the creation of certification and masters levels programs for its core businesses it is in “because they are not necessarily available in a public sector educational environment,” said the Colliers Canada CEO.

He estimates that about 1,000 of the firm’s employees would take at least one course at Colliers University in a typical year.

Colliers Canada By the Numbers

– 1700 employees
– Offices from Victoria to Halifax in all major markets in between.
– Completes 4,000 to 5,000 brokerage assignments annually. (About 1,000 would be sales with the rest in lease transactions).
– Manage about 48 million square feet of property nationally for clients.
– Typically has about $2 billion of construction underway managed by project management arm.
– Annually completes between 1,000 to 2,000 appraisals.


Paul is a writer, editor and media trainer based in Toronto with over 25 years of experience as a business reporter. He has written for Canada’s major news services on…

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Paul is a writer, editor and media trainer based in Toronto with over 25 years of experience as a business reporter. He has written for Canada’s major news services on…

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