Jason Kern leaves HSBC for CEO role at LaSalle

The head of HSBC’s Asia-Pacific real estate advisory group will return to the US to lead buy-side firm LaSalle in the Americas.

Jason Kern, HSBC‘s top real estate banker in the region, has left the firm and will be joining LaSalle Investment Management as its new CEO for the Americas. According to a press release, he will start his new job on July 1 and will be based in Chicago.

He will take over from Peter Schaff, who announced last year that he has decided to step down from his position as North America CEO.

LaSalle Investment Management is a real estate specialist that manages private and public property investments on behalf of a diverse range of clients, including pension funds, insurance companies, governments, endowments and private individuals from around the world. It is an independent subsidiary of Jones Lang LaSalle, which is one of the world’s largest real estate companies, and as of the end of last year it had $47.7 billion of assets under management.

HSBC hired Kern in 2009 as head of a new group named the Asia-Pacific Real Estate & Lodging Advisory Group and put him in charge of building a leading real estate investment banking franchise in Asia capable of advising clients across products.

And that is exactly what he has done. According to the LaSalle release, Kern and his team have advised on IPOs, equity sales, bond issues, private equity capital raisings, and asset acquisitions and sales with total transaction volume of more than $50 billion over the past three years.

Supported by its strong position in the Asian debt market, HSBC completely dominated bond issuance by Chinese property companies last year and it also worked on three real estate investment trust (Reit) IPOs in Singapore and Malaysia. Together, this made it a strong runner-up for the FinanceAsia Real Estate House of the Year award in 2012.

The Reit sector is an obvious focus area for lending banks such as HSBC since the trusts rely on a lot of debt and bank loans to grow their portfolios, but it wasn’t until Kern and his team built up the firm’s real estate expertise that HSBC was able to leverage its lending relationships to become a go-to bank for Reits in the equity capital markets as well.

Noteworthy deals last year included an offshore renminbi-denominated bond for A-share-listed Gemdale ― the first international bond from a company listed in China’s A-share market sold without a guarantee from an onshore entity. HSBC was the sole bookrunner and Kern’s team created the unique structure that has since been copied by other issuers.

More recently, the bank was one of four joint bookrunners for the $1.3 billion IPO for Mapletree Greater China Commercial Trust, which was completed in late February this year and ranks as the largest Reit IPO in Singapore ever.

By the time he joined HSBC, Kern had spent 17 years with J.P. Morgan, mainly in senior roles within its real estate investment banking team in the United States and Europe as well as in Hong Kong, making him a good candidate for a bank that wanted to build a real estate franchise. His pending move to the buy-side seems less obvious, but his new employer noted that he has “an outstanding reputation among his clients and colleagues and is known for building and managing strong teams with the same client-focused mindset as LaSalle”.

The US firm also pointed to his strong relationships with many of Asia’s leading investors.

LaSalle has been active in Asia-Pacific since 2000 and currently manages about $7.5 billion of property assets in the region. Close to three-quarters of that is based in Japan and Australia.

Jeff Jacobson, LaSalle’s global CEO, noted that the firm has conducted a broad search to find a successor to Schaff since he announced his decision to step down last year. “Our key criteria [have] been to find a leader who will sustain our core competencies and values while also adding new skills to adapt to the rapidly changing and increasingly global real estate investment management industry,” he said. “Jason is an outstanding addition to our global leadership team.”

Kern will report to Jacobson and will join the firm’s global management committee, as well as the North American private equity investment committee. Schaff will remain with LaSalle until the end of 2013 in the part-time role of North America chairman, focusing on select client relationships and investment mandates and assisting with Kern’s transition into the firm.

According to a source, Kern resigned from HSBC just over a week ago and is now on a three-month gardening leave. An HSBC spokesman said the firm has yet to appoint a replacement, but stressed that real estate is an important sector for the firm and one that it wants to make sure that it covers well.

¬ Haymarket Media Limited. All rights reserved.
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