International lawyer now holding court in property development

With a background in international law, Steven Yu has put aside the gavel and gown and established a property development company that has been involved in billions of dollars worth of projects.

Mr Steven Yu, in suit and tie, against backdrop of construction graphic.
Steven Yu's legal and property development career has taken him to China, the United States and now Australia.

Valorton Group managing director and CEO Steven Yu, 41, has the credentials of someone double his age. Whether he’s practicing law in the USA or property development management and financing in Australia, he is laser focused on the next challenge.

The father of one daughter, Mr Yu holds a Commerce and Law degree from Melbourne University, Master of Law degree from Boston University and EMBA degree jointly from Columbia University and London Business School.

“I became qualified to practice law in the state of New York and I spent quite a bit of time studying,” Mr Yu told Australian Property Investor Magazine.

“When I came back to Australia, I worked with a Chinese group to set up their property operation in Sydney. One of their largest projects was near Mascot, 329 units. That was a fun experience.”

Mr Yu is admitted to also practice law in China and Australia, currently acts as the CEO for AHP Group (listed on SSX), is a non-Executive Director for Azure Health Technology and teaches Property Finance at University Technology of Sydney. 

Before founding the Valorton Group, he worked as a practicing lawyer for international firm Norton Rose Fulbright in Beijing and Melbourne mainly on mining and property, and Deacons and Maddocks Lawyers in Melbourne.

He was a key member for the $1.4 billion hostile takeover of Midwest by Sinosteel, which was awarded the deal of the year by the International Financial Law Review. He was previously the chief executive officer of an ASX listed mining company Anchor Resources and founding managing director of Longton Property Group.

Mr Yu has extensive experience in cross-border mergers and acquisitions, capital raising and property development management and financing.

“I don’t sleep much,” he joked, “sleep is a luxury item these days. I just try to keep everything going.”

Smart property development the next step

The next phase of Mr Yu’s career was founding the Valorton Group, which has gone on to handle projects worth in excess of $4 billion, combining development and capital raising.

“We derived Valorton from the word valour.

“We wanted to be courageous, and righteous, we wanted to create value by taking on some risks, and just march on.

“We are still doing property related transactions and projects but we’re also branching into the technology side as well.

“We try to introduce smart home technology into residential property projects.”

Smart tech is where Mr Yu combines work and play.

“You wouldn’t believe it; my home is filled with all sorts of smart home gadgets.

“I spend a lot of my time trying different products and set up my own little lab.

“Every time there’s a new product launched to the market I can’t wait to get my hands on it to test it.”

Valorton has a subsidiary business with its own proprietary smart home system.

“It’s mainly to give people comfort in their daily life, for instance, my favourite part of our system is our smart digital door lock; people can get rid of their keys and use their fingerprint or a passcode or swipe card to enter into their private home.

“Our main focus is to make it affordable.

“Smart homes used to be seen as a luxury item for 10-million-dollar mansions but now we implement them in apartment buildings.

“We just recently completed a project in Arncliffe, New South Wales, with 98 units, and when we did the pre-settlement inspection to the clients, their eyes lit up. That moment gave me a lot of satisfaction.”

“These days, the property market is different. It’s not only bricks and mortar. We have to combine other things into property to add value. Smart home technology is one thing, another thing we try to add is cleaning services.

“We’re rolling out a platform that allows people in the same apartment building to book cleaners, which can save a lot of time and money round cleaning costs. With smart locks, people can let the cleaner in with a temporary access. No more leaving keys out or waiting for them to come.

“Those sorts of things can potentially add value to a building. Hopefully, we can change the property horizon from that service end as well,” Mr Yu said.

Sustainability equals profit

Mr Yu sees sustainability as a rising force in property development.

“Development is still profit driven. The bottom line is the most important, but we’ve seen more and more developers actually care more about sustainability and their concrete responsibilities.

“There are a lot more options out there that are both environmentally friendly and affordable to the developers.

“One of the companies we work with provides a recycled material to purify or process stormwater.

“They use that media out of recycled glass and organic garden waste, so it’s quite cheap and it can get rid of heavy metals in the storm water, and the stormwater can be recycled for other things, like a car wash or irrigation.

“On the smart home side, we try to implement systems whereby if no-one’s home you can turn off the lights and air con for energy conservation.”

Asian property investors turning to Australia

While the Chinese investor market is becoming active again, Mr Yu other Asian countries are looking to Australia for investment opportunity.

“There’s fast growing interest from southeast Asia, especially Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia, not only the Chinese.

“The beauty of the Australian market is there are multiple facets of benefits associated with investing in property here. Not only can you consider down the track to potentially settle in Australia, but investing in the NSW property market has always been strong.”

“It is quite a proud thing to hold a property and invest in an Australian development project.

“Australia is one of the most liveable countries in the world but our property isn’t cheap compared to other developed countries.

“If you can participate in this end of the market, you must have some special connection in the region or have a good capital base or wealth.”

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