Thad Wong: 2 is better than 1 when it comes to brokerage presidencies

Thad Take

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Christie’s International Real Estate announced earlier this week that Chris Lim will step down as President. Industry veterans Natalie Hamrick and Kevin Van Eck will take the baton in a newly created position as Christie’s co-presidents.

The decision to install longtime Christie’s and @properties veterans in a role traditionally held by one person isn’t typical, but hardly surprising coming from Thad Wong and Mike Golden, who together co-founded @properties in 2000 and have led the Chicago-based brokerage as co-chief executives ever since. With the acquisition of Christie’s International Real Estate in 2021, the duo have also served as co-CEOs for the luxury brand.

The firm simultaneously announced the hire of another new leader at the company — Nidhal Charfi as vice president of affiliate expansion.

Amidst the transition, Intel sat down with Wong and Hamrick to discuss the executive shuffle and what it means for the luxury brokerage. Here’s what they had to say, edited for clarity and brevity.

Intel: Was there anything in particular that spurred you to initiate a co-presidency right now at Christie’s International Real Estate?

Thad Wong: On our value proposition for Christie’s, 100 percent. We’ve got two different people with two skillsets that are really encompassing the entire value proposition we offer. Natalie has been with [Christie’s] for well over 10 years, has a clear understanding of the relationship between the auction house, the network, and the servicing side, and all the benefits that had been previously at Christie’s International Real Estate prior to our acquisition.

And Kevin has been at @properties also for more than a decade, helped develop a significant portion of the platform — not only the wider framework, but the strategy involved in the technology — was heavily involved in the coaching and training of the agents for the brokerage side of the business, and all of those things are what we offer to our affiliates.

By having them co-lead, similarly to my relationship with Mike Golden, we feel like we’re masters of every single domain, we’re masters of the past and we’re integrating that past relationship with Christie’s with the master of the future, which is pl@tform, and all things that were derived from @properties.

[Editor’s Note: Pl@tform is @properties’ proprietary tech suite, which the company has also been working to roll out across all Christie’s International Real Estate markets as part of the acquisition.]

So I love this partnership, and I love my partnership with Mike Golden. We have our unique characteristics and attributes but we also integrate and overlap on a significant part of the business. So I feel that we are heavily strengthening the leadership side of Christie’s International Real Estate.

Great. Sounds like that complementary relationship was really well thought out. Can you say more about what led to the decision to have Chris Lim step out of this role?

Wong: One of the things I’ve learned is, not just through our network, but also through our competitor Sotheby’s — one of the biggest complaints at Sotheby’s is the detachment from the auction house and the brokerage. So we knew about that prior to our acquisition, so contractually, we decided that the auction house and the brokerage of Christie’s International Real Estate have obligations to one another.

So since acquiring the network, in our first year, we generated four times the number of referrals than previously have come from the auction house to our network, and the combined efforts between the auction house and the brokerage are incredibly valuable.

The auction house is looking for us to increase customer value, customer outreach and calls to customers because we can grow in different markets and expand the brand. We’re looking to penetrate into the auction house to access their customers for referrals.

So we had so much success in that during the first year, and during Chris’ presidency, he developed incredible relationships with [auction house leaders across the country], and in every presentation we gave where Chris was present, we were batting 1,000 … So it’s really playing to Chris’ strengths now as an ambassador of the brand and his understanding of high-end sales after running a billion-dollar company in San Francisco.

It allows Chris to work with his passion, his love of art and his connection to the auction house, while using his skillset to generate even more referrals from auction house clients and distribute them to the network by being able to talk about our value proposition in these listing presentations.

At the end of the day, that’s a big hole for a lot of networks. We’re filling that by having a full-time employee in New York who integrates all of our marketing between the auction house and our marketing team at Christie’s International Real Estate. Now we’ve got Chris who is the ambassador to the brand, who will be able to work directly with auction house employees and the chairman’s circle of the auction house, all the way down to the high-end, high-level, high-net-worth auction house clients in America.

Will these promotions, and bringing on Nidhal Charfi, significantly impact Christie’s strategic growth strategy or other strategic moves you have in mind for the near future?

Wong: I think from the growth strategy, definitely. I think by bringing Nidhal in, we had some incredible success during our first year-and-a-half of renewals of existing affiliates and announcing new affiliates. But our primary focus in the first year-and-a-half was getting pl@tform adopted toward strategic affiliates, so getting our technology in the hands of our strongest affiliates and launching new affiliates.

So we now feel like we can add more affiliates at a higher pace, we can scale that now after 18 months of integrating pl@tform into multiple states. But another piece of that is mastering pl@tform. A lot of that is Kevin’s role, and getting 100 percent focus into adoption in all of our different markets.

So we feel like we’ll be able to scale and add more affiliates quickly, but simultaneously add adoption and the value proposition of pl@tform within the Christie’s International Real Estate network.

That’s great. Natalie, do you have any specific goals for your new role?

Natalie Hamrick: I think it’s just spending more time on service and focusing on the growth of every affiliate and really honing in on what they need and how we deliver it to their agents. We’ve seen such traction — again, I’ve been with the brand for so long — but the traction we’ve seen in these last almost two years has been unbelievable and now it’s time to really focus on, especially in a market like this, what we can deliver to our affiliates in terms of service and that’s really going to be my main goal. We want to have the best service in the industry, and we’re well on our way to that.

Wong: I just want to [expand upon the topic of] growth — right now, because we’re seeing a correction in the market, growth is the most important thing to any and every broker in America and around the world. So we are going to help our affiliates in our network grow and capture the market share because we know we can’t control the market, but we can definitely assist every single one of our affiliates in growing their own personal market share around the country.

So we feel like now is an incredible opportunity for all of our affiliates to grow share in their respective markets.

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