By Serena Huang
Michael graduated from UBC Sauder in 2013 with a double specialization in Finance and Real Estate. He currently works as a Manager at QuadReal Property Group.
- What does QuadReal do in terms of investment management?
QuadReal is a full-service real estate company that manages the real estate assets of bcIMC, one of Canada’s largest institutional investors with over $135 billion in assets. We provide real estate investment and asset management, property management, leasing, valuation and development services; and invest in institutional quality real estate assets such as office buildings, industrial warehouse facilities, retail malls, and multi-family residential rental apartments. Currently, we have over $26.8 billion in assets under management across the globe, $19.7B of which is in Canada.
- Could you describe an entry and senior position in investment management?
Most people, including myself, start as an analyst in this career path. A few of an analyst’s responsibilities on our team could include working on new acquisitions, developments projects, portfolio performance analytics, board presentations and reporting requirements. They would be producing the underwriting/pro-forma analysis, helping conduct due diligence, writing investment memos/pitch books and any materials required for investment committee or board approvals.
Senior level positions will vary greatly, but to generalize a bit, they could include being responsible for portfolio performance, making investment decisions, capital allocation, driving strategic direction of the portfolio and its assets, and managing teams to achieve our company’s goals.
- As an investment manager, what are the challenges you face and what excites you?
One project I’m involved in is the re-development of the Oakridge Centre, located at Cambie and 41st street, and would be one of the most exciting projects to me. I was on the acquisition team under an extremely tight timeline at the tail end of 2016 and since then have been working through design development and city approvals with our partner Westbank to build a world class destination and truly mixed-use property. The project will include expanded retail and office components, significant residential condo and rental apartment density, a large community centre including a city library, and 9-acre public park. Development by nature has many challenges and the Oakridge project is no different considering its massive scale. That said, we have a great team of people at QuadReal and Westbank working on the project, as well as many different types of consultants engaged to help get ourselves through the re-development process.
- How did you start in this career path at the beginning? What sparked your interest?
When I was studying back in Sauder, I was accepted into Tsur Somerville’s internship program and was able to secure a job with Bentall Kennedy. I was lucky in that it was a busy summer that year, so I was thrown into the deep end a bit where I was forced to push my boundaries and learn a lot as we completed multiple transactions in that time. I knew after that I really enjoyed the fast-paced nature of the business, the unpredictability of your day-to-day, and the excitement of doing deals. After that summer, I worked for Bentall for about four years before transitioning to QuadReal along with many others who worked on the bcIMC account at Bentall.
- What experience or courses you had in Sauder helped you in your current role?
From an academic standpoint, the double specialization in Finance and Real Estate was a great starting point to prepare me to work in this industry. Whether it is the analytical side of finance program, or the practical aspect of the real estate program, the double specialization provided me with a solid foundation to work in investment.
From an experience standpoint, I participated in the NAIOP Real Estate competition where you work as a team through a full development proposal for a site in Seattle and present to a panel of local real estate professionals. It’s a good hands-on experience that forces you to learn how to effectively manage your time, think critically/strategically, work as a team to achieve a collective goal, deliver a presentation, and all the challenges that go along with those. I would recommend it to anyone who is passionate about real estate as it will help better prepare you to enter the industry.
- What are the most important hard/soft skills and personality traits for this career path?
I would say as a student coming out of school, one important trait to have would be a strong attention to detail, especially going into an analyst position. Senior management uses the underwritings and financial models you produce to make multi-million dollar investment decisions so ensuring accuracy is extremely important.
- What would you advise a student wishing to get started in the industry to do while still in school?
A good understanding of, or experience in financial analysis will help prepare you to get into real estate investment. Anything you can do to build a strong analytical foundation will be an asset, so I would encourage students to participate in the real estate case competitions for example, which will provide some valuable hands-on experiences. I would also recommend students reach out to real estate professionals in various areas of the industry as that will help build an understanding of what you might want to do and where you might be a good fit.