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Q&A With Brett Miller: JLL Canada's Chief On Forging A Nationwide Network

JLL has joined forces with CRE service providers in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Atlantic Canada. President Brett Miller tells us how the partnerships give his firm coast-to-coast coverage and grow its brand nationwide.


Bisnow: JLL established a national strategic partnership with Capital Commercial in Winnipeg; ICR Commercial Real Estate, Saskatchewan's largest privately owned real estate company; and Partners Global Real Estate, covering Atlantic Canada. What’s the background here? 

Brett Miller: We actually formed the partnerships a few years ago but chose to make the official announcement now because there’s a robustness and depth to the relationships. We have JLL corporate offices in all major markets, but we have clients who require representation in secondary markets like Winnipeg, Regina, Saskatoon and the Maritimes. So these partnerships are really about completing the full spectrum in terms of providing those clients national coverage. We treat them as though they are part of the JLL corporate organization, yet we leave the local management to them, and our relationship is based on mutual trust.

We bring our partners inside the JLL stable in terms of sharing information about our prospects and strategic plans, and as a result can ensure consistency of delivery of service. And they have an interest in partnering with JLL because we have a global network and we can give them skill sets they may not have in-house. For example, our partner in Winnipeg, Capital Commercial, is interested in a project management business but doesn’t really have the experience and wherewithal to launch it independently. So we have a JV in offering project management services in the Manitoba market. It’s a symbiotic relationship. 

Bisnow: How do the partnerships position JLL competitively?

Brett: Now we can say we have the ability to transact in any market across Canada. From a competitive point of view, the service level we can offer and the local granular expertise we have in the Maritimes, Saskatchewan and Manitoba is ahead of the competition because all three firms we chose to partner with are market leaders, the dominant firms in those markets that have been around for years and have strong local relationships. We didn’t have an interest in buying firms in those markets; nor would they be for sale—they’re quite independent.


Above is Stantec's Moncton office. JLL teamed up with Partners Global to service the engineering firm’s real estate requirements in Atlantic Canada, including dispositions and sublets in all major markets.

Bisnow: What other sorts of deals have you worked on with your partners?

Brett: Canada Post, a significant client of ours, has retail branches and distribution in every village across Canada, and we do their renewal transactions across the country. But we don’t have licence to practice broker services in Nova Scotia, for example. So in Partners Global we now have a partner to go to whenever we have transactions with Canada Post in markets like those. Same with Xerox; the company has many facilities in Atlantic Canada, and we’ve been working with Partners Global to renegotiate their office leases. 

Bisnow: What are the challenges in bringing these partner groups into the JLL fold?

Brett: To take advantage of synergies, this has to be beyond simply an announcement. It’s about the individuals who own those businesses (ICR managing partner Barry Stuart; Partners Global principal Larry Sowerby; and Capital Commercial principal Trevor Clay) building internal relationships with people in our company. For example, Larry’s looking at a potential capital markets assignment and didn’t know who to go to in terms of who can provide assistance within our organization. So an introduction was made, and now it’s up to Larry to nurture that relationship so that there’s a real flow of business.


Toronto’s Four Seasons Hotel. JLL recently brokered the sale of the 259-room property to Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan for $225M, Canada’s largest-ever single-asset price-per-room deal.

Bisnow: What’s your outlook for Canadian CRE?

Brett: On the occupier side it’s a different story across Canada’s four major markets. Toronto and Vancouver are leading the way, with low vacancy and influxes of new tenancies into the marketplace. Calgary’s very different; the market has been flooded with subleasing and we’re seeing companies taking advantage of conditions to renew early or renegotiate leases at a discount. Montreal has been consistent and actually to the positive; we consolidated Laurentian Bank’s four locations into a single facility at 1350-1450 Boulevard René-Lévesque. We also just completed a transaction for TMX Group at Deloitte Tower.

On the capital markets side, there’s a lot of product on the market currently, such as 700 University for Hydro One in Toronto, and 1350-1450 Boulevard René-Lévesque in Montreal. There are a lot of chunky opportunities. And Canada’s still on the radar for international investors, as we’ve seen in Vancouver. It’ll be an extremely busy Q4 for acquirers of Canadian real estate, with strong demand in all markets and asset classes. I think the market’s relieved to see a reasonable amount of product to bid on. But expectation from vendors is high and there’s lots of competition among buyers, so everything is trading at record cap rates.