Irishman a hot property in Manila
It was a wise move to leave a property boom at home to work in real estate abroad
Joe Curran’s friends and family thought he was mad to take up an internship in real estate in the Philippines in 2005, when Ireland was booming and there was more money to be made in the industry here.
But Curran had just graduated from UCC with a degree in commerce, and wanted to travel before committing to a job or postgrad course. He applied to Aiesec, an international youth organisation that arranges internships for young people all over the world, hoping an opportunity would arise in marketing or management in an Asian city like Singapore, Hong Kong or Tokyo.
Most of the positions on offer that suited his qualifications were in India, which didn’t appeal, so when a six-month placement arose in Manila in the Philippines with CB Richard Ellis (CBRE), one of the world’s largest commercial real estate firms, he jumped at the chance.
“The Philippines certainly hadn’t been top of my list, but I was very pleasantly surprised when I arrived here,” says Curran.
“On my first weekend I was taken to Boracay Island, about an hour’s flight from Manila, which is like paradise. There were other Aiesec interns here from Brazil, Spain and the Czech Republic, and the Filipinos are very easy to get to know. The culture in Manila is very westernised and I settled very quickly.”
The internship was extended by six months, before Curran was taken on permanently as junior negotiator on the commercial leasing team. Real estate was a career he had never considered before but once he started, Curran found he had a “real love” for the work.
“It was very corporate but also very social. The job involves a lot of networking, so there’s a great mix of desk work and field work, which can range from visiting office buildings to attending chamber of commerce luncheons in five-star hotels.
“I learned a lot about all different types of businesses, and was introduced to high net worth individuals – people who owned airlines, real estate firms, and tobacco and drinks companies. I realised soon after I arrived that if I had been in Ireland or in any developed economy, I would never get close to people like that, but in the Philippines it was possible.”
The Philippines is becoming one of the world’s largest providers of business process outsourcing (BPO) in recent years, offering service support, sales and marketing, technical support and call centre services for multinationals attracted by the country’s low-cost, English-speaking workforce.