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Alumni Interview: Hanny Au - Real Estate Finance

Interested in a career on Real Estate Finance? We interviewed Hanny Au on her path to this stream and the most important skills for this career.

Hanny Au, Real Estate Financing at Canadian Western Bank

Interviewed by Jason Huang

Hanny graduated from Sauder in 2007 with a Commerce degree specializing in Real Estate and a minor in Psychology. She is now a real estate financing manager at Canadian Western bank managing a 300 million dollar portfolio. One of the projects she’s currently a part of is the Vancouver house, a high-end luxury residential project in downtown Vancouver.

1. Can you briefly explain what real estate financing / commercial lending is, and what the most important hard/soft skills and personality traits are for this career stream?

Real Estate financing is lending for real estate development, merger or acquisition, restructuring etc. The banks provide leverage for the firm and earns interest on the loans, and typically every time the borrower sells a unit they pay a portion back of that unit's sale to the bank. Sometimes, the bank takes equity in the projects as well. Through analyzing the company’s cash flow, past projects, management team and more, we can figure out a maximum amount we can lend them.

The important skills and personalities for someone to succeed in this career stream are to be detailed oriented and have good people skills. A big of part of the job is to communicate with clients, lawyers, appraisers and consultants etc. The Real Estate industry is very small but the financing career stream is even smaller, there are typically 6 - 8 lenders in each company’s lending departments, and there are about 65 people in Vancouver. Therefore, having good people skills and being detail oriented is a must to work in the real estate industry in Vancouver.

2. What was your first exposure to real estate finance? Did you always know you wanted to do it or did chance play a part?

I had no idea I wanted to do real estate when I first got into Sauder. However, like many other Sauder alumni, I chose the Real Estate option by elimination because I didn’t like marketing, accounting etc. After choosing the Real Estate option and connecting with the professors at Sauder. I found myself an intern opportunity at Colliers as an Analyst. I learned many key skills during the internship program, such as how to read appraisal papers, compare cash flows and cost approaches etc.

3. Who are your typical clients? What are some criteria or things to consider in deciding whether to extend financing to a customer?

My typical clients are mostly real estate companies in Vancouver. I think the most important is to do your due diligence and proper research. Things to consider in whether to extend financing to a customer are: Has the company done a similar project before? Who is the project manager? Will there be rezoning issues of the project?

4. What were some of the most useful classes you took that you felt really helped you with your career? Were there any extra-curriculars you took part in that you would recommend to our students?

I think all Sauder real estate classes were important as they each all taught different skills sets. I was actually a part of the UBC Real Estate Club in Sauder; it was a great experience because I got to meet many industry professionals, which helped build my professional network early on. As of right now, I’m a part of YUPRE (Young Urban Professionals in Real Estate). There are many options out there for students, it really doesn’t matter which one you join as long as you go out there and show yourself and connect with people.

5. What’s the best way to get started in this competitive industry for any Sauder students that are currently interested?

I would suggest current students to be active and keep in contact with your peers because you meet people through people and often times they will introduce clients/career opportunities to you that you might not expect. Being active such as going to networking events will put you ahead and you can always start small because it doesn’t matter how you get started in the industry, it’s all about getting the first step in the door. Take any opportunity that you can that will put you ahead of others.

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