After nine years as CEO, Sven Odia will step into the newly created role of president, with a focus on supporting the luxury brand’s expansion into new markets.
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Editor’s Note: This story was updated after publication with additional comments from Engel & Völkers Americas President and CEO Anthony Hitt.
Global luxury real estate company Engel & Völkers has appointed former insurance executive Jawed Barna as Group CEO of the brand, replacing long-time CEO Sven Odia, the brokerage announced on Thursday.
Odia, who has been with the luxury brand for more than 25 years, worked his way up from an apprenticeship, ultimately serving as COO for eight years before being appointed co-CEO in 2014 and then sole CEO in 2020. With his move out of the company’s management board, Odia will adopt the newly created role of president.
Barna steps into the role of CEO having most recently served as an executive board member and deputy CEO at Zurich Insurance Group Germany.
“We are excited to welcome Jawed Barna as a strong leader with a proven track record,” Christian Völkers, founder of Engel & Völkers and chairman of the advisory board, said in a statement.
“His successful experience in building digital platforms and managing a complex sales organization makes him a perfect fit for Engel & Völkers. Together with our majority owner Permira, we are convinced that Jawed Barna has what it takes to lead Engle & Völkers into the next phase of growth, with the goal of becoming the best platform for high-quality real estate worldwide.”
Weighing in on the executive transition, Anthony Hitt, president and CEO of Engel & Völkers Americas, told Inman that “Sven [Odia] has been a champion of the Americas from the very first days, so we’re certainly sad that he won’t be in that role any longer, but he’s an amazing ambassador for the brand and he will continue to be that as the president. On the other hand, our organization is growing and there’s a lot of exciting things happening, and I think what Jawed [Barna] is bringing to the table is great and will also be very, very good for us.”
At Zurich Insurance Group Germany, Barna was responsible for driving sales and partnerships and led large business units that served private and SME clients, in addition to managing thousands of brokers and insurance agents. Before becoming deputy CEO, he was regional CEO for the Middle East and Africa region.
“I am thrilled to be joining Engel & Völkers as CEO and to steer this renowned company into the future,” Barna said in a statement. “Despite the challenges facing the industry on a global scale, the Group’s strong brand, global presence and breadth of talent will enable us to continue the successful journey and further expand the market position. I particularly look forward to working with the entire Engel & Völkers team in Hamburg and across the different regions and countries to unlock the company’s full potential.”
Odia expressed his support for Barna’s adoption of the CEO role, as well as his commitment to the brand moving forward.
“I will actively support Jawed Barna and look forward to our future cooperation,” Odia said in a statement.
“With its strong growth and digitization strategy, Engel & Völkers is positioned to continue its success story. We have significantly increased revenue and earnings in recent years and look back on a stellar performance in 2023 so far, even in a difficult market environment. Throughout my career, my top priority has always been empowering people to write their own success story under the Engel & Völkers brand. I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to the entire team worldwide for the terrific collaboration over the past two decades.”
Hitt also told Inman that for Engel & Völkers Americas agents, the leadership transition will likely not substantially impact their daily operations.
“We’re a fully self-sustainable subsidiary in the U.S.,” Hitt said. “What happens there is certainly relevant to us, it’s important to us, but we’re a fully functioning headquarters for the Americas in New York and it probably won’t impact our day-to-day in any way. We’ve got a lot of great things going on and I would expect that that’s only going to keep going in the right direction.”
During Odia’s tenure as CEO, he helped navigate the luxury brand through its transition to becoming acquired by global equity firm Permira at the end of 2021. As a result of that acquisition, the Völkers family, Odia and then-CFO Thilo von Trotha maintained about 40 percent of Engel & Völkers’ shares.
Another company initiative Odia helped launch was the brand’s limited edition ski collection in 2022, which was crafted in Switzerland out of first-class materials.
Despite Odia likely not having as much of a hands-on relationship with Engel & Völkers Americas in his new role, “I’ll continue my relationship with Sven,” Hitt assured Inman. “Sven and I started as colleagues, but we’re certainly friends now as well.”