Henry Kühn on building a city

The financial manager, like the REIT he works for, believes in continuous growth and improvement.

The South African listed property market was in its infancy in the 1990s but, over the last decades, the market has expanded, and the sector has been transformed. When new legislation permitted the creation of real estate investment trusts (REITs), it aligned South Africa’s listed property sector to international standards and our property sector has since flourished.

According to global investment manager Ninety One, there were 44 property stocks in 2020 with a combined market cap of R320 billion and R320 billion of South African assets. Most of our listed property companies today are REITs.

Someone who is well aware of the evolution of REITs is Henry Kühn, the group financial manager of Attacq, a leading REIT with an award-winning property portfolio worth over R21.6 billion in total asset value.

The property sector was his first permanent employer, says Henry. He studied a BCom Accounting Sciences at the University of Pretoria. After completing his degree, he went on to do his articles at an audit firm and registered as a CA(SA) before joining a large property firm. He has been in the property sector ever since.

Henry was part of the team responsible for Attacq’s successful listing on the JSE in 2013 and the conversion of Attacq to a REIT in 2018. He adds that he is proud to be associated with such an innovative and forward-thinking company.

It has not been easy navigating the last couple of years with an economic downturn and a global pandemic, but Attacq has shown resilience by delivering solid interim results for the six months ended 31 December 2021, underpinned by a strategic focus on developing premium precincts and engaging experiential retail destinations.

To what do they attribute their success?
“In my opinion, keeping to basic principles is key,” says Henry. “As a REIT, our clients are one of our biggest assets. So, ensuring a proactive and agile approach for their dynamic needs allows us to keep vacancies as low as possible – ultimately driving success.

“We are also very proud of the opportunity to develop a smart, safe and sustainable city such as Waterfall City.” (Waterfall City is a lifestyle and blue-chip business destination located between the metropolises of Johannesburg and Pretoria.)

Henry says there are minimal opportunities in the market to form part of a team tasked with such a responsibility. “However, with this responsibility comes new challenges and opportunities. Our dedicated team is always encouraging each other to improve, add value and make the best of these challenges and opportunities,” he says.

It is very motivating to see the successful completion of large projects and their results, comments Henry.

“I love to share my knowledge, and I find it rewarding to see other people grow and develop due to it.”

Honesty and trust are two critical components of any working relationship, says Henry. “Our CFO, Raj Nana, is open-minded and welcomes input and suggestions from his team. He always acts proactively in response to any feedback brought to his attention. His response is always: ‘How do we fix or improve the situation?’ We have a very open and honest relationship which is crucial for us to work well as a team. We have regular catch-ups and constantly challenge each other with new and better ways of doing things.”

Henry’s goal is to keep on learning and making a difference wherever he goes.

“I have gained valuable knowledge on the development and management of property from both an accounting and operational perspective, which I love to share with others. For now, I enjoy my role as group financial manager and find it very rewarding to be in the REIT environment.”

Henry at home
Henry has high standards for himself and is seeking ways to improve himself. “I am very proud of my work, and work ethic is important to me. Unfortunately, due to my nature, I sometimes focus too much on work and compromise on other aspects of my life, such as my health or family time. I constantly need to remind myself to have a more balanced approach to life.”

Physical exercise helps with the work-life balance, and he is a committed runner. One of the personal highlights of his life was the Comrades Marathon, which he completed twice. He loves sport and admits that he will watch almost any sport available. He is also a fan of the outdoors, bushveld and hiking.

Family life is very important to him, and he says that he is married to “a wonderful wife”. They are the proud parents of two beautiful girls and live in Pretoria.