Welcome to the Shark Tank.
No, we aren't talking about the aquarium. We're talking about a group of highly-talented individuals from the Sauder School of Business who work on the acquisitions team for Replay Resorts. Learn about the journeys of Eric Chan, Alicia Chung, Maryam Bagheri, and Bruce Currie from university to development, and gain some key tips to help you in your development career!
- Eric Chan is an Acquisitions & Investments Senior Associate who graduated from UBC in 2010 with a BCom in Real Estate. Since then he has worked as a mortgage and development specialist at Ellis Mortgages and MOSAIC Homes prior to joining the team at Replay.
- Bruce Currie is an Acquisitions Analyst who graduated with a BCom in Real Estate and Sustainability degree from UBC in 2013. During his undergraduate years, he was involved in many extracurricular activities including the UBC Real Estate Club, and the Commerce Undergraduate Society.
- Maryam Bagheri is an Associate who graduated from UBC in 2012 with a BCom degree in Real Estate & Finance. Before entering her role at Replay, Maryam was part of a winning NAIOP case competition team, and worked in acquisitions for Hungerford Properties.
- Alicia Chung is a Senior Associate of Investments & Acquisitions. In 2008, she graduated from UBC with a BCom in Real Estate, and has since obtained a postgraduate certification in Real-Property Valuation from the Sauder School of Business. Alicia is also the Communications Chair of the Urban Land Institute (ULI), and is a Board Member of the Progressive Housing Society.
The Shark Tank on-route to a project in Healdsburg, California
2. What is the “Shark Tank”?
- Bruce: Shark Tank is the nickname for our group that does most of the company’s analytical work. It was born during one of Maryam’s first work trips in the Bahamas after she built up the courage to snorkel despite her fear of the ocean. Unfortunately, she quickly encountered a huge shark and bolted out of the water! When she returned, her nickname became “Shark Bait”, which inspired the name of our office.
3. While at Sauder, was resort development on your mind as a possible career stream? What about it sparked your interest?
- Eric: Not really, because there aren’t many resorts, let alone companies that develop them, here in Canada. However, development in general was definitely on my radar as I have always been into architecture - being able to say that you built something is pretty cool!
- Alicia: Yes - I chose the Real Estate option because I specifically wanted to do resort development. I worked in the hospitality industry for 3 years before Sauder and really liked it. My hope was to someday pair real estate with hotel asset management, and now here I am!
4. How has the resort industry been different from what you expected?
- Bruce: Graduating in Vancouver, we tend to see only how our local real estate market works. In reality, Vancouver is an anomaly in the global market; not every project sells out and achieves such a high level of revenue. With globally-located resorts, we approach deals in a more risk-adjusted format through aggressive downside protection.
5. As analysts who deal primarily with acquisitions, can you briefly describe what you are looking for when considering properties for development?
- Eric/Bruce: The destination needs to be accessible, beautiful, have great natural amenities that will appeal to travelers and buyers. Replay generally seeks out places that have beaches, mountains, or lakes to avoid having to build amenities. It must also have political and economic stability - travelers must feel safe, and second homebuyers need to know that they are making a sound investment. Lastly, having the ability to finance and construct the project is also vital.
6. Relative to other sectors, is resort development more risky? How does the team at Replay use their expertise to help mitigate some of that risk?
- Maryam: It is definitely more risky because it’s the first real estate sector to go and the last to recover when there are economic fluctuations. We mitigate that risk primarily through the way we structure deals. For example, we try to set up joint ventures with the landowner(s) to avoid paying for the land upfront (deferred/staged payments), and use pre-selling and phasing to hedge against risk.
7. What do you feel is the most important skill that a student interested in a career in development can learn while they’re in school?
- Alicia: Development is very multidisciplinary - you need to be able to understand all aspects of real estate. While it isn’t something you can learn from a textbook, I’d recommend studying a neighborhood of interest. Go to the city’s website, read the planning documents and applications, get familiar with the terminology. The city is typically open about development plan information, including the developer and zoning/building documents. Being familiar allows you to easily converse with peers and consultants, which can be advantageous.
- Eric: Real estate is also very localized. While there are macroeconomic factors that affect multiple markets at once, each individual market is unique, so in order to do well you should know it inside out.
8. Do you think there are any courses or opportunities through Sauder that help prime a student well for a career in development?
- Alicia: One of the most important courses is Land Law (COMM 434), which is the backbone of every aspect of real estate whether you’re doing contract sales, buying a piece of land, or selling units. In fact, not taking it may set you back!
- Eric: Both Alicia and Maryam also did the NAIOP case competition, which provides the hands-on experience in development that most classes don’t.
9. [Pertaining to the misconception of the RE program being about residential realty] Was the Sauder RE program different from what you expected, and if so, how? What would you tell the first and second years contemplating their option?
- Bruce: I had no idea what real estate was until taking a closer look after my second year once I realized that I didn’t know what I wanted to do. The reason I chose real estate, and why I think it’s a good option for many, is because it combines the hard/technical skills of specializations like Finance or Accounting with the soft skills of other options such as Marketing.
- Maryam: Do as many informational interviews as you can because there are so many different paths you can take in the industry. Grab lunch/coffee with a professional and find out what they do on a day-to-day basis. Ask about what they like or don’t like about their job. I think that’s the best way to get to know what you want!
- Eric: Maryam is basically offering free interviews and free lunches [laughs]. I would also add that it’s an entrepreneurial field because you can pave your own career path based on your strengths, and there are few options that allow you to do that.
One of Replay's current projects in Half Moon Bay, Antigua. Source: www.replayresorts.com
10. Is there a project in Replay that you are especially excited about? Why?
- Bruce: I’m most excited for our project in Antigua, Half Moon Bay, because I think it’s going to be a really notable, high-profile project. It’s one of the only true destination resorts being built today, and I can’t wait to check it out!
- Alicia: I’m excited for Half Moon Bay. Adding to what Bruce said, sourcing the hotel brands interested in the site has been interesting, and when we do secure one it will be really cool to watch the development of the hotel unfold.
- Eric: I’m most excited for Healdsburg because I like food, wine, and cycling, all components that we are integrating into the project. It’s also in a well-established area. It will be challenging but fun to figure out how to add to the town’s character and build something that is true to Sonoma.
- Maryam: I’m excited for One Ocean on Paradise Island in the Bahamas, a high-end condominium project that just launched on the island. It is right next to the One and Only Club, a resort that Oprah Winfrey, Michael Jordan, and other celebrities have made purchases in. DJ Khaled was just there!
Thank you to Replay Resorts & the Shark Tank for sharing your insights!