Global bank HSBC Group (HBC) is moving ahead with plans to purchase more properties in Boston, New York City and Washington DC, after its acquisition of a skyscraper in the nation's capital from Brookfield Properties, and is bringing in a new head of real estate to help it do so cautiously. The alternative investment division of HSBC (HAIL), a subsection called Real Estate Fund Management, will now be lead by industry veteran Paul Forshaw, who will be based in London and who will report to Chris Allen, the CEO who oversees the hedge fund activities of the bank. Forshaw will be responsible for devising and implementing real estate strategy, with 14 years experience in property investment and funding, half of that as a director at CBRE. Prior to joining HSBC, he was part of a small team responsible for real estate proprietary investment at Kaupthing Investment Bank, investing joint venture equity on a global basis in the UK, US and emerging markets. Commenting on the new hire, Allen said: "As a top five global provider of hedge funds with around US$31 billion of hedge fund assets under management, property is an increasingly important alternative asset class for us," he said. "This senior hire reflects our commitment." HSBC is still a cautious player in the commercial property investment market. According to the bank, the widespread disposal of "distressed assets" largely anticipated in the CRE space is not materializing as expected. Furthermore pricing is growing more and more competitive as the debt markets to fund purchases is easing and rental declines are slowing in the aforementioned areas. In a statement from HSBC on its evolving CRE strategy, the banks states: "Our search will initially be in key global cities to include London, Washington DC, New York and Boston where we can work with experienced local partners to acquire assets in off-market situations. We are also continuing to explore emerging markets where we see demand from our clients." HAIL is particularly pleased with its purchase in Washington as it is considered iconic, being only three blocks from the White House overlooking Franklin Square. Indeed, the trend HousingWire sources see, is a great deal of demand from German and South Korean investors who are more interested in properties "with names attached, not street address," as one source said in a phone interview yesterday. In a release, HAIL states: "We have been able to negotiate the purchase at a significant discount to replacement cost, despite the fact that it is located in one of the most stable and secure office markets in the world. We are anticipating offering a very attractive IRR to our investors over a 5-7 year hold period." HSBC joins Morgan Stanley as another large global CRE investors that is putting new faces in charge of its US operations. 30-year veteran John Klopp joined the firm as head of Americas real estate investing and global real estate debt investing beginning this month. Write to Jacob Gaffney.