10 on the Weekend – Hakan Cortelek: “Build a Team and the Rest Takes Care of Itself”
How do you spend your weekends?
My 11-hour flight visits to Beijing or Vancouver from London are simply replaced by 11 steps to the kitchen from the office (formerly known as the living room). I used to set aside weekends to allow my body to adjust from the jet lag of the past 18 years of constant travel.
The past 58 days of lockdown has turned that upside down. My body goes through withdrawals of jet lag deficiency. I guess when the dust settles and we get airborne again, some 20-hour sleep awaits me in some foreign land. My favorite pastime before the current popcorn-infused weekends used to be dining out; going to movie theatres with friends and family has simply been replaced by the 7-letter devil, Netflix.
What are your top three business goals this year?
I had started this year with the “BEYOND 20/20 Vision”, which focused on deeper and wider growth of our excellent service and partner network. Despite the malicious intentions of the Coronavirus, we are still firmly implementing our plans, making new friends in various parts of the world, and increasing our collaboration with like-minded professionals across the globe.
My next goal was to increase the diversity in our team so that it would match the diversity of our clientele and we are firmly on track to achieve this shortly. Between them, my team members speak some 12 languages in order to match the needs of all our clients.
Last but not least, another goal this year was to widen the smiles of our team members by maintaining a happy workplace environment where we all care for each team member, each client, and each prospect as if they were very close family members on Thanksgiving Day.
What’s your biggest business concern right now?
My biggest business concern is actually the lack of time and resources available to me to address the opportunities that I constantly see around the world. There are so many untouched markets, unpacked programs, and unattended needs of many people who may benefit from adding our solutions to their wishlists.
I also cannot help but mention that our industry is targeted by ill-advised internal and external players and the negative buzz they create must be addressed by us all. IMC-like bodies are doing a fine job spreading the good word about our industry, but we are still far behind and still on the defensive side. Examples of the industry’s good need to be more visible and more loudly transmitted.
Which book is on your night-stand right now?
The books that used to be next to my bedside were always standard; one of my personal favorites for many years has been the giant book of Room Service Menu, which the hotels in which I was staying seemed to very helpfully provide each time I visited. But now, thanks to COVID-19, I am also restricted to my home. So, books by the bedside now serve the very important purpose of propping up the unbalanced leg of my nightstand, which keeps my ultimate reading tool – my TV remote control – so that I can access Netflix to watch the books once they’ve become movie-versions. You see, I am a visual reader.
How and when did you first get into the investment migration industry?
In 1994, a family member of mine became the first investor immigrant that I have ever known. He was forced to invest a quarter of a million dollars in a water-based startup in order to receive permanent residency in Canada. Fewer than two years later, his water company investment simply evaporated (as water tends to do) and ended up worthless. Perhaps needless to say, investor immigration schemes where applicants were forced into high-risk investments left a sour taste.
Fast forward a few years and I found myself as a Director of Immigration Services in “the world’s local bank”, HSBC. This is where I was exposed to the wonderful world of the Federal Investor Programme, where the odds of winning were great for all parties involved. Armed with this win/win/win product, I started to travel all over the world making great friends.
Things went even better once I was able to add the UK investor visa to my quiver. Once we thought the Canada IIP and UK investor visas were great and that things couldn’t possibly get any better, I found myself in Saint Kitts exploring the country and, only a few months later, found myself traveling with the Kittitian Prime Ministerial entourage to China and Europe, introducing that country’s CIP and its prestigious Commonwealth passport crowned with EU/Schengen access and all without any residency requirement.
Now, 12 years later, we have far more options to offer clients and our partners, but I can tell you most of these current program options and the phenomenal growth of our industry is simply the harvest of all those efforts of a handful of industry pioneers.
What was your proudest moment as a service provider?
My more than 15 years of experience in our industry has allowed me to be a part of many proud moments where a great sense of accomplishment was felt and a badge of honor carried proudly ever since.
I have been lucky enough to be part of great teams where we made and shaped many of those new programs in the Caribbean and Europe.
I am also extremely proud of the network of friends I have managed to make over the years. My team and I know all the major players of the industry in one capacity or another, mostly on a personal level and with a great mutual history.
Which investment migration market development has surprised you the most in the last year?
China opening the on-ground immigration industry to foreign firms; Cyprus tightening its program operations; the Maltese change of prime ministers and the MIIP’s nearing full capacity; the Greek golden visa boom and CIP rumors; Portugal’s successful litmus test of citizenships for golden visa holders; EB5’s continued survival of predicted sunsets; the mushrooming of new entrants to the market and the need for more than self-regulation of the industry in the interest of protecting clients; and programs themselves and the industry overall reaching all-time highs are some of the most interesting developments in the past year.
If you could go ten years back in time, what business decision would you change?
Honestly? If I could go ten years back in time, I would sell everything I own, borrow heavily, and invest in a diversified portfolio of winners – Bitcoin, Apple, and Amazon – and simply wait for history take its course while I bask under the Turkish riviera sun working on 50 shades of suntan.
I have a feeling you may be talking about business decisions and, if so, I can certainly say I haven’t a single moment that I regret or would like to change in past 10 years. All the decisions I made really helped me to achieve my current and ongoing success in business and personal life. Of course, learning Russian and Chinese would be on my wish list. But, hey, check with me in ten years on that!
What investment migration industry personality do you most admire?
In our industry, who I admire the most is a smiley, big, happy guy who has a team of like-minded, happy people working with him towards a common goal of creating win-win situations for all stakeholders while waving the industry flag proudly high. OK, this Turkish-Canadian-British guy is, you guessed it, myself. On a more serious note, I cannot help but thank all the people who helped me learn, build, share, excel, teach, collaborate over the past 15 years, such as industry pioneering team members E. Major and C. Kälin, along with friendly competitors like A. Arton, M-R Emmet, and L. Kiss.
Also, immensely important, industry-supporting government officials like PM Muscat, PM Browne, PM Chastanet, PM Harris, PM Skerritt, erstwhile PM Douglas, along with crucially important CIU-heads like J. Cardona, L. Khan, C. Donovan, N. Alfred, E. Nanthan, T. Anthony, along with my long-term current and past team-mates like P. Revzina, T. Tolstaia, S. Lau, L. Zhang, M. Pihlens, C. Willis, D. Volek, J. Steffen, D. Vivas, R. Moir, E. Mavrenkova, P. Krummenacher, C. Nesheim, W. Lawrence, and many more who all helped our industry immensely and deserve absolute recognition from all stakeholders.
If all goes according to plan, what will you be doing five years from now?
I love what I do and I love my team. We set up our company BEYOND Residence & Citizenship to achieve high-class professional service and success beyond expectations and, year after year, we achieve and exceed this goal.
So, if all goes according to plan, five years from now I will be doing the same but better, with a bigger and happier team, though hopefully with less fat and more muscles.
Christian Henrik Nesheim is the founder and editor of Investment Migration Insider, the #1 magazine – online or offline – for residency and citizenship by investment. He is an internationally recognized expert, speaker, documentary producer, and writer on the subject of investment migration, whose work is cited in the Economist, Bloomberg, Fortune, Forbes, Newsweek, and Business Insider. Norwegian by birth, Christian has spent the last 16 years in the United States, China, Spain, and Portugal.