On March 3rd, at 6am, I found myself on a large bus headed to the New York Stock Exchange with my fellow Real Estate students. An air of excitement and exhaustion was upon us as finals continued to linger on our minds. However, this was an unusual Friday, one that could change all of our lives. Since September 2016, the MSREI student body awaited this day with vigor – the day we would all travel to the New York Stock Exchange for the inaugural Real Estate Forum comprised of speaker panels made of MSREI Advisory Board Members. In addition to the speakers, students would have the opportunity to tour the Stock Exchange trading floor and also be part of the closing bell ceremony – a unique day to say the least.
As we continued on the drive, I could feel my peers’ eyes light up at the sight of the New York City skyline. Upon entering the Stock Exchange, students were met with warmth and care by fellow Johns Hopkins faces, above all our fired-up Chair Ko Wang. A star-studded crew of Real Estate professionals was in our midst, including Steven Roth, CEO of Vornado; Jeffery Olson, CEO of Urban Edge; Mary Hogan of APG Asset Management; Steve Sakwa; Michael Graziano; Guy Metcalfe; John P. Kyle; Peter Steil; Patrick L. Phillips; and Sheila M. Stoltz to name a few.
Dean Bernie Ferrari kicked off the event before handing over the floor to Jeffery Olson, a key player in the creation of the Real Estate Forum. Mr. Olson is a major mover and shaker in the REIT world, currently serving as CEO and Chairman of Urban Edge Properties, and previously held the same positions at Equity One, Inc and Kimco Realty Corporation. Clearly, today was a day of major learning, as Mr. Olson introduced the legendary Steven Roth, CEO of Vornado Realty Trust to share his words of wisdom. Mr. Roth spoke of many interesting events in the New York City real estate cycle through the late 1990s and early 2000s that allowed him to capitalize on the office market while it was in decline, virtually buying all offices for sale in New York City. He created enormous value for Vornado with original rents at $156/sf which have appreciated to $800/sf in rent today – once again reiterating the first commandment in real estate “make money on the buy.”
Following Steven Roth, the REIT Analysis Panel Discussion with Mary Hogan and Steve Sakwa began. Both seasoned professionals in the REIT industry, Mary Hogan is the Managing Director and co-head of Americas Real Estate for APG Asset Management US and Steve Sakwa is a Senior Managing Director and a Senior Equity Research Analyst. The primary themes of the panel hovered around tax reform effects on REITs, passive ownership, stimulated demand, and activist movements in the industry. It is clear REITs are a challenging stock to analyze and the fast moving mark-to-market style of the industry keeps buy side and sell side players on their toes daily.
Next, the Capital Markets Panel Discussion led by Michael Graziano and Guy Metcalfe shifted the topic of discussion to the trends of lending within the real estate industry, career advice in banking, and the flow of public and private equity. Michael Graziano is the co-head of Global Real Estate Investment Banking at Goldman Sachs, working his way up the ranks in real estate investment for over 25 years since he joined the company in 1988. Additionally, Guy Metcalfe is the Managing Director and Global Chairman of Morgan Stanley‘s real estate business, celebrating his 26th year with the company. The greatest learning lesson from the panel was a personal one – each job has ups and downs but sticking with it and having positive energy is the best attitude to succeed in a long career.
After two information-rich panels, students broke into round table discussions with the speakers and distinguished guests. Personally, I was lucky enough to sit with Mary Hogan and pick her brain on the future of the REITs industry. Mary enriched my understanding on the barriers to entry in the industry, where she sees asset class REITs heading with added demand for data centers and warehouses, as well as changes to management structure as greater shareholder activism occurs.
Lastly, the magic began as students descended on the trading floor before the 4pm bell marked the end of the day. The best way to describe the trading floor is a showroom of small data centers, alleyways of little booths covered with televisions and men in polo shirts hovering with thoughtful expressions on their faces. Once you look past the cobwebs of poles and screens, an ornate and one of a kind ceiling reminds you of the unprecedented history of the room. Once standing in front of the bell, the podium, leather bound book, and gavel that sit atop it evoke the feeling of executive royalty. The bell evokes a type of class and systematic structure that every Carey student strives to achieve for their future. I hope to one day see myself or one of my fellow students behind the podium at the launch of their IPO. Until then, the experience was one of engagement and joy. I look forward to students in following years experiencing the same wonder and amusement I did during the NYSE Real Estate Forum.