GOLD Coast developer Onyx Property Group, already labelled a fast starter by BRW, is poised to jump into a higher gear following a board appointment that could pave the way for national expansion.

Russ Shields, the former Asia pacific managing director for HSBC, has been named chairman of Onyx in a newly created position that is expected to both beef up the company's corporate governance and pave the way for founding directors Chris Bolger and Adam Lacey to tap into private funding opportunities both in Australia and overseas.

The move comes on the heels of Onyx appointing former Villa World (ASX: VLW) chief operating officer Scott Payten as senior executive as the company pursues its ambitious growth strategy.

Shields, who most recently served as Queensland chairman of ANZ Banking Group, has more than 30 years' experience in executive banking roles in Australia and Asia and is vice-president of the Australia China Business Council Queensland. 

He has extensive knowledge of retail, corporate, institutional and investment banking and took the Onyx role after reviewing a number of opportunities since his retirement from ANZ in December.

Shields, who was a close friend of Lacey's late father Peter, a property industry veteran, says the role will involve assisting the Onyx directors in taking the business "to the next level, both in terms of turnover and funding".

The Brisbane-based Shields will initially focus on governance and corporate structure, while also seeking investors for future projects planned by Onyx.

The company's current portfolio is worth $100 million and includes apartment and townhouse developments in Brisbane's booming northern outskirts and on the Gold Coast. It recently announced two more Gold Coast projects, at Currumbin and Palm Beach, totalling $50 million.

International markets are playing a bigger part in the company's client profile with more than half the properties at its Lavender Hill development in Brisbane sold to offshore buyers.

"They are a quality developer, they build a good product and it comes out on time," says Shields.

"The big thing that attracted me was I knew Adam's father pretty well in the 70s and 80s. He was a great bloke to deal with, as was the family, and you can see that coming through the business.

"Adam and Chris have a good relationship, more like a brother-brother relationship rather than a working relationship. From that point of view it's a good environment to be in."

Shields says he sees the business, which was founded in 2009 by the former Sunland (ASX: SDG) staffers, maintaining a conservative approach despite a desire to expand.

"They're not overstretching themselves, they know what their capabilities are and they're not going to jump into a major high rise project because that's not their bag. They'll stick to their knitting and keep doing what they're good at."

Shields says property developers need a mix of both banking and mezzanine finance, depending on the project, which he says will help drive the Onyx business forward.

Bolger describes Shields as "progressive and astute" and someone who brings "a wealth of experience to the table".

"His business knowledge and contacts both nationally and internationally are extensive, and combined with his financial acumen he will be an invaluable guiding hand for our company as we embark on ambitious growth plans," he says.

Lacey says Shields offers scope to achieve the goals set for Onyx.

"We have a very clear vision for the future direction of our company and we know in order to reach these goals we need to arm ourselves with broad expertise," he says. "Russ offers decades of experience in the business world and we're excited about working with one of the most experienced and well respected minds in the business."

Meanwhile, former Villa World COO Scott Payten has settled into his senior role in helping to drive Onyx's continued growth.

Payten's key roles are new project acquisitions, corporate relationships and the implementation of the group's business strategy.

The seasoned property executive spent a decade with Villa World, through the worst of the GFC, and was a driving force behind the company's expansion in Australia's eastern states.

Picture L-R: Adam Lacey, Russ Shields, Chris Bolger

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