NEW YORK CITY—One might assume that Cushman & Wakefield nabbed Ray Kelly, the former commissioner of the New York Police Dept., and then decided to create its new risk management services division. But, in fact, this series of events, announced  on Thursday, happened the other way around, CEO Ed Forst tells

“When we looked at our business—we manage about a billion feet of real estate—it was clear that whether a threat is physical, reputational, a cyber issue or otherwise, risk management isn’t there and it should be,” he says. “I don’t mean security officers or dogs in the building; there’s so much else. And we’re trying to be more strategic with our clients, which means not just doing their transactions but bringing their businesses forward in a meaningful way.”

The next part of the effort, choosing a leader, came relatively easily, admits Forst. “CEO John Santora and I sat down to compare our thoughts who could bring this forward, and Ray Kelly was the only one on the list. He’s had such a compelling career not just with the Police Department but in the risk management area. Between his interactions internationally as VP of Interpol or his time as commissioner of the US Customs Service and undersecretary of enforcement at the US Treasury, Ray Kelly gets it from a broad platform.”

Adding to C&W’s ability to turn its idea into reality was the fact that when the firm approached Kelly, he was intrigued. “Kelly thought it was a compelling idea,” says Forst. “He wants to build a business for the benefit of clients.”

Timing also was on C&W’s side after Kelly’s tenure with the NYPD ended last year. “Kelly is an Olympian,” Forst asserts, “ and when someone like that comes available, the RMS department moved to the top of the priority list. You can have a great idea but you need a great leader to bring it to life.”