Christine Chen: Navigating Challenges to Drive Growth in the EB-5 Industry

As Chief Operating Officer (COO) of CANAM Enterprises (CANAM), Christine Chen oversees the company’s day-to-day operations, ensuring the organization’s overall efficiency and effectiveness, while driving development and implementation of long-term business strategies. Christine brings a unique blend of academic prowess and a passion for making a tangible impact on people’s lives. With a Bachelor of Arts degree in Anthropology and Latin American Studies from the University of Chicago, and a Masters from Columbia University, Christine’s interest in different cultures and histories eventually led her to a realization that she could leverage her skills and knowledge to create meaningful change.

In her role as COO at CANAM, Christine is dedicated to defying negative expectations associated with finance and investment. She emphasizes integrity and transparency in the structuring of financial investments, understanding that the outcomes directly affect people’s lives. Her commitment to bringing about profoundly positive impacts through ethical business practices reflects CANAM’s mission to stand out in an industry often clouded by skepticism and mistrust.

“My more than 20-year tenure at CANAM has been immensely rewarding. I’ve found fulfillment
in contributing to CANAM’s remarkable growth and industry leadership. Through strategic decision-making, investment in employees, and fostering key partnerships, I’ve evolved as a leader while maintaining alignment with CANAM’s values. Grounded in our company’s purpose, I prioritize short-term gains alongside long-term success, ensuring that our actions reflect our core principles. My journey at CANAM demonstrates the value of commitment and strategic vision in driving both personal and organizational growth”, said Christine.

Share your background in the industry and your specialization as an EB-5 professional.

Throughout my years at CANAM, I’ve witnessed the evolution of the EB-5 industry, observing shifts in the program and the emergence and disappearance of various operators. This experience has given me a great deal of perspective into the potential of EB-5 when done the right way.

Throughout our journey at CANAM, we’ve seen other operators make decisions we wouldn’t- for example we have passed on investment projects only to see them show up in the market with a competitor. Our strategic approach involves passing on short-term opportunities if they don’t align with our longer-term goals. We prioritize maintaining our credibility and reputation over immediate gains.

At CANAM, we consistently look towards the future. We see EB-5 as a complement to federal and state legislative incentives, and a way to facilitate priorities set by Congress, such as investing in
rural broadband networks and alternative energy sources. We recognize that the challenges in the banking system and credit markets have left high-quality, shovel-ready projects seeking financing and that EB-5 funds can help bring them to fruition. We also continue to explore how EB-5 can finance infrastructure investments for cities and states. While some of the areas are complex and require extensive due diligence and underwriting, we’ve always believed that hard work is needed to get the kind of investments we want to offer our clients. We are always thinking about how EB-5 can continue to contribute to the United States.

Introduce us to CANAM? What is the underlying idea behind the venture and its primary areas of expertise?

CANAM specializes in immigration by investment, initially in Canada and later in the U.S. There are a handful of these around the world, all with slightly different program requirements, but with the common purpose of bringing in foreign investment to stimulate economic development in exchange for a path to citizenship. The thinking has always been that the high net worth foreign nationals that apply will bring more than just the initial capital investment to the sponsoring country they will also buy homes, pay taxes, educate their children, and continue to invest after they are living there. After all, they are, by and large, successful entrepreneurs. The U.S. program has the added requirement that the investment create jobs for at least 10 U.S. workers, which really distinguishes itself from other so-called ‘golden visa’ programs out there.

So, many of us at CANAM are either immigrants ourselves or the children of immigrants, and we really understand what a big decision it is to uproot your family to another country, the amount of planning needed to feel like you’re making the right decisions for your children, how difficult it is to navigate a new language and a new culture. We truly believe that it is our responsibility to structure and manage our clients’ EB-5 investments properly so they can focus on making all these other decisions. They should be able to rely on us to do that for them.

Describe your roles and responsibilities as CANAM’s COO and highlight your primary focus areas for driving company growth.

On a day-to-day basis, I always say that my job is to keep the trains running on time. Each EB-5 investment that we introduce is a 5-10 year relationship with a client. Every department in our company touches on each investment that we do, and I believe it’s important to make sure all our teams are talking to each other to make sure our clients’ expectations are met.

My work can range from making sure our next investment is ready to launch, tracking where we are on sales, discussing how to handle client relations issues, and weighing what markets we want to venture into.

Much of what I enjoy spending my time on is identifying and guiding strategic initiatives that explore new opportunities for the company and allow for the company to grow – whether it was shifting out of a prior partnership to establish our own operational infrastructure in a key market, setting up and registering our own broker-dealer with FINRA (a first within the EB-5 industry), hiring talent to design and lead a new aspect of our business, or launching additional investment products tailored specifically to our network of more than 6,000 investors from around the world.

In your opinion what are some of the most critical challenges you encounter in your current role at CANAM? What steps do you undertake to overcome these roadblocks?

In my role at CANAM, navigating the challenges of the EB-5 Program requires constant adaptation to legislative and global changes. The Program’s reliance on Congressional reauthorization and its association with contentious immigration issues make securing additional visas a persistent challenge. To address these hurdles, I advocate for the Program’s long-term viability through involvement in organizations like Invest in the USA (IIUSA) and selecting investment projects that align with Congressional mandates. Additionally, global dynamics, including the pandemic and economic downturn, necessitate agile client relationship management. By prioritizing transparency, advocacy, and customer satisfaction, even in times of crisis, we reinforce trust and stability amidst uncertainty. Embracing the mantra of strategizing for the long-term while remaining flexible in the short-term helps mitigate the impacts of change, grounding us in our core values as we navigate the complexities of the EB-5 landscape.

Illuminate the pivotal professional milestone you consider most crucial in your career. Share your success mantra over the years.

A defining moment in my professional journey occurred in 2014 when I recognized the necessity for CANAM to exit a longstanding partnership in China, a key market for us. Undertaking a substantial operational shift to foster business growth while avoiding interruptions was a daunting prospect. I set a 3-month timeline for myself to restructure operations, hire new personnel, preserve existing networks while establishing fresh relationships, re-engineer fee structures, and secure products to solidify these connections. Accompanied by my 4-year-old daughter, this experience taught me to trust my instincts and strengths, understanding that not all answers need to be immediate, and that solutions can emerge along the way. This insight has empowered me to navigate subsequent critical challenges for the company, encouraging senior managers to do the same—don’t be afraid of the work if we know the outcome will be the right one.

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