Leading the Charge

Despite the turbulent commercial real estate market and volatile economy, more than 900 industry and allied professionals earned the CCIM designation last year — a 59 percent increase over 2009. Though no one is predicting a rapid recovery, commercial real estate professionals clearly see the long-term value of earning the CCIM designation. No one knows this better than 2011 CCIM President Frank N. Simpson, CCIM, president of The Simpson Co. in Gainesville, Ga., who took office in the midst one of the most challenging market cycles in recent history. Commercial Investment Real Estate asked Simpson to share his plans for keeping the positive momentum going throughout his term and beyond.

CIRE: What’s driving industry professionals to earn the CCIM designation despite the challenging market?
Simpson: CCIM’s reputation as the Ph.D. of commercial real estate is more important now than ever before. The institute has invested more than $2.6 million into rewriting our educational curriculum to include the most current best practices and methodologies in the industry. The result is an unparalleled educational experience that focuses specifically on the critical issues commercial real estate professionals face today.

CIRE: What’s different about the new curriculum?
Simpson: While the core investment and analysis principles remain largely the same, we’ve taken CCIM education to the next level by using case studies to demonstrate the practical application of the concepts being taught. These case studies give students a hands-on experience that they won’t find anywhere else. Combine that with our world-class faculty who share their professional experiences in the classroom, and you’ve got a very powerful learning experience.

Last year we also introduced CCIM’s core courses in an interactive online format and the response from students has been incredible. We now offer self-paced and instructor-led online courses as well as the traditional classroom format. This year we are introducing a hybrid online/classroom course that satisfies the needs of students who want to learn in a face-to-face setting, but can’t afford to be away from the office for five days. And that’s one of the biggest benefits of the new online and hybrid formats — the students’ ability to customize their educational experience based on their interests and schedule.

CIRE: Does the new online education format create more opportunities for CCIM to expand globally?
Simpson: International growth is a key initiative for the institute this year. We currently have more than 1,500 people who have completed the CCIM designation program in 37 countries, but only South Korea, China, Mexico, Russia, and Taiwan have official CCIM chapters. The institute has administered more than 300 courses in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, South America, and Africa and we will continue to explore ways to create true chapters in all of the countries we are in so we can serve the needs of those members just as we do for members here in the U.S.

This year we also may see activity in India and Vietnam as the institute continues to look for ways to expand the benefits of membership, education, and technology to international markets. In fact, we hope to offer some of our technology products to members in South Korea soon. These are the kinds of initiatives that will help us continue on the path to truly becoming the leading global commercial real estate resource.

CIRE: What other CCIM technology initiatives can members look forward to this year?
Simpson: Hopefully members have had a chance to check out the new during the past few weeks. The redesigned site incorporates a variety of new features, and one of my favorites is the global events calendar. This comprehensive lineup of local, regional, national, and international CCIM events is a great way for CCIMs to network with members around the world.

We also plan to expand CCIMREDEX, our online real estate data exchange, this year. In addition to our listing contracts with the National Association of Realtors, ePropertyData, Catalyst, Total Commercial, and PropertyLine, we hope to add other third-party partners soon. Along with STDBonline, CCIM members have access to some of the most sophisticated technology-based tools available in commercial real estate. [For a look at CCIMREDEX’s newest partner, AuctionPoint, read Technology Solutions on page 20.]

CIRE: With market predictions remaining uncertain, what advice do you have for CCIMs who are struggling?
Simpson: I can say with certainty that CCIMs will succeed in this challenging new environment. Individuals who invest in their education and careers now will be prepared to jump back into the game when the market recovers. Equipped with the CCIM knowledge and skills, technology tools, and the professional network of colleagues worldwide, CCIMs will emerge from the market downturn armed and ready to do business.

Jennifer Norbut

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