We are excited to meet Mr. Marcus Chu, the newly appointed CEO of ERA Singapore and APAC Realty in this week’s cover of “Redbrick conversations with”. As CEO, Marcus leads the organisation with more than 8,000 agents in Singapore and under his leadership, ERA has developed an extensive range of proprietary tech applications such as iERA mobile app, RealtyWatch by ERA, RoboAdvisor and many more.
We chat with Marcus to uncover more of his inspirational personality, how he has built ERA to what it is today, and his perspective of success.
Q. Can you tell us more about yourself, and how you got to where you are today?
Marcus: I started investing in private condos back in the early 1990’s. In 1992, I bought my first new home Chiltern Park directly from First Capital Corporation without the help of a property agent. 3 years later, I bought a resale condo in Eastern Lagoon II and experienced first-hand how important the service of a property agent is. That experience led me to this career.
After attending seminars with different agencies, I chose to join ERA because I was impressed with ERA’s professional training and international branding. Joining in May 1996 wasn’t the best timing as the government had just introduced anti-speculation curbs that same month.
Nevertheless, during my first five years as a property agent, I focused on sales and becoming the top agent in ERA. 2000 to 2005 brought me to other agencies where I focused on recruitment and team building, developed many company initiatives, incentives, and training systems. I was the top team leader and played the role of the agency department head at these other agencies.
Since I returned to ERA in 2005, over the course of sixteen years, I have transitioned into corporate management roles, overseeing a diverse group of department works including daily operations, human resource, recruitment, training & development, marketing & communication, and digital innovation. Now, I work with my senior management team on strategic planning and execution.
Q. What are some of the milestones you have reached on a personal level?
Marcus: My career transformation from being an agent, a sales team leader, to getting appointed as SVP in 2005, COO in 2013 and now CEO have taught me invaluable lessons and I am enriched by what I have learnt over the years. I have always strived to go beyond the norm and carve a path that is my own.
As an agent in the late 1990s, I was a pioneer of telemarketing in the industry as I used to cold call homeowners using the public phones and knock on their doors, in search of prospects. I also employed PAs for administrative works so that I have more time to focus on my clients and closing deals. I progressed to become the top manager/team leader, having recruited 2,000 agents under me.
In 2011, I set up a training firm and taught individuals, especially real estate agents, how to invest in real estate. I noticed a lot them missed the opportunities to invest during the property cycles and I aspired to teach them how to invest and monetize their vocations.
Now that I have been on the senior management team for the last 8 years (COO since 2013 and now CEO), I have picked up different skillset and learnt, firsthand, how a company is run from policy making, operations, and other day-to-day running of the organization. Here, I have learnt invaluable lessons from Jack, my mentor, and continue to derive enjoyment from working with people and appreciating their strengths.
Q. What does success mean to you?
Marcus: Success to me, is making a difference and creating value in what I do.
Q. What do you do in your free time?
Marcus: I enjoy physical activities and am an avid jogger, cyclist, and mountain climber. I jog regularly, up to 5-6 times a week, and even kickstarted the ERA Running Club in 2013 where we run weekly. I am a firm believer of having a positive lifestyle and work-life balance.
Q. What is one interesting fact about yourself that people don’t usually know?
Marcus: I am a nature-lover who loves the jungle. MacRitchie Reservoir Park and Bukit Timah Hill are my regular go-to spots where I trail-run, jog or brisk walk.
Q. What is a regular workday like?
Marcus: A regular workday for me is filled with meetings – conducted either physically or via Zoom – with my senior management team, head of departments, division directors, team leaders, and external industry individuals. I am always creating opportunities and networking as I am keen to get like-minded individuals together to collaborate.
Q. How does your organization maintain its appeal to consumers?
Marcus: We aim to always be in the hearts of the consumers by striving to do better and continuing to upkeep the ERA brand and core values.
Q. What are some of the important values does the organization prides itself with?
Marcus: The DNA of ERA stems from our 5 core values which defines ERA and our culture:
First, Innovation – we strive to challenge the norm, promote changes, improve efficiency, think outside the box and invent the world we envision.
Second, Unity – we forge win-win partnerships between agents, leaders, staff & company, synergized by the OneERA camaraderie, trust and respect.
Third, Integrity – we strive do the right thing and promote ERA as the trusted brand.
Fourth, Gratitude – we embrace the pay it forward, giver movement.
Fifth, Passion – promote love of the job, company, industry and most importantly family.
Q. Do you believe in ‘leverage all I can’ or ‘pay down as soon as I can’ school of thought?
Marcus: ‘Leverage all I can’ is the key to property investing, especially in a very low interest rate environment. If it’s for a permanent home, I would go for ‘pay down as soon as I can’.
Q. What kind of advice would you give to new homeowners and aspiring property investors?
Marcus: Evaluate your finance position. Invest within your means and always have back up plans for unplanned events and risk management (i.e., job loss, health loss). It is about financial literacy; know your ability and cultivate financial prudency.
Investment analysis is important too, explore different investment options and take time to understand them. When looking at properties, decide what’s best for building a home and what’s for investment. These can range from price, location, to product analysis.
Read widely and develop your own investment objectives and views. Think, decide, be courageous and take action.
Q. Which is your favorite estate in Singapore and why?
Marcus: MacRitchie, Botanic Gardens and Bukit Timah because I love nature and big, old trees.