By Patti Pearlberg
Asset and portfolio managers are charged with maximizing the performance and value of real estate assets through acquisitions, dispositions and operations. They are thought of as strategic thinkers who formulate and implement long-range strategies. Making the move from property management or analyst into asset management, although considered the next logical step, is often difficult to achieve. Given the complexity and new technical requirements of real estate employers, how best can women in our field position themselves to take advantage of the growing opportunities? According to the National Association of Real Estate Investment Managers, job opportunities in commercial real estate were up more than 23% in Q4 2014 compared to the same period in 2013. In fact, investment or asset management had 158% more job postings during the last part of 2014 when compared to two years prior.
Women are an obvious choice to take on the role of strategic thinkers in commercial real estate. According to a report produced by Pershing LLC in 2014, preferred leadership qualities include listening, consulting, asking questions, and innovation through creativity and lifelong learning – qualities most often associated with women. Regardless, women still have a difficult time moving into the decision making roles of asset and portfolio management.
Real estate asset managers provide value to their clients by keeping them informed by providing understandable performance-based measurements and cash flow forecasting. Asset managers must be experts in real estate fundamentals, understanding market dynamics and complexities. It isn’t necessary to be an expert in a single product classification as much as knowing how to produce risk adjusted returns for clients. Communicating this type of information demands superior writing skills and analytical acumen. Having property management knowledge, including budget preparation and expense management, can provide fundamental skills for incorporation into any property’s risk analysis, whether investigating a new acquisition, financing or operational decisions.
In addition to handling budgets, financing and operational communications, asset/portfolio managers increase value through leasing. Effective, accretive leasing requires market knowledge and a clear understanding of an owner’s investment objectives. The asset manager is charged with accomplishing the optimum tenant mix that aligns with the investor’s long term goals. Leasing demands strong negotiation skills; the asset manager needs to know when to be flexible and when to hold firm and should have a higher level of technical, legal understanding.
Women often think they just have to push harder, but another way to start moving toward that next position is to arm oneself with the special skill sets employers are seeking; knowledge is power. Knowledge of Argus software is becoming a requirement, and failure to have at least limited proficiency could easily limit one’s options. Familiarity with a variety of property management software products can make an applicant much more valuable. Moreover, many companies want asset managers to have knowledge of and experience in accounting, zoning, other land use issues and tax credits. Some of these skills can be learned through training classes, others only by experience and exposure. Set a goal to learn a new, transferrable skill every quarter; take classes, attend conferences, even consider job changes to gain the exposure.
Another way is to leverage your network, a key role for CREW in this equation. Men and women use their networks for advice and guidance, including finding out about job opportunities. The question you must ask is “are you an influential member of your network?” Do you have the ability to get others to listen? If your answer is no, or you are not sure, it is time to seek out role models, whether male or female, who currently hold asset management positions. Find out what they did to achieve their position in asset/portfolio management. Search out companies that strive for gender equality. If you’re wondering what those companies look like, on February 27, Kevin Maggiacomo , president and CEO of Sperry Van Ness International Corporation, told GlobeSt.com why more women in commercial real estate makes great business sense and described steps his company is taking to increase diversity.
Arm yourself with the skills desired by commercial real estate companies today, identify the role models you want to emulate, locate companies committed to embracing women in leadership roles and create a network that supports your next career move.
Patti L. Pearlberg, Esq. is vice president/partner at Coro Realty Advisors, LLC. She has over 30 years experience in commercial real estate, having worked in retail, office, industrial, multi-family and land investments. Her work encompasses asset management and law-related responsibilities, including defining ownership structures, legal drafting and documentation, zoning, financing, development, leasing, acquisitions and dispositions.
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