Global Real Estate Firms Tap MBA Students To Ride Property Boom

Global real estate is flexing its recruitment muscles as property firms and funds gain inflows, fuelled by yield-hungry investors.

Global real estate is flexing its recruitment muscles as property firms and funds gain inflows, fuelled by investors looking for new sources of income generation when interest rates remain at historic lows.

Big US real estate groups CBRE and JLL, and the UK’s Savills, are all expanding their employment. The market is looking to business schools including Cornell, Wharton and Henley to satisfy staffing needs.

Todd Carson, MBA career management advisor at Wharton, says: “With the recovery in the real estate market we’ve experienced in recent years, there has been a knock-on effect in the hiring market for MBAs.”

The low interest rate environment created by quantitative easing coupled with low returns on bonds has seen investors clamber to find new sources of yield.

Todd adds that real estate developers, investment banks and private equity firms are all recruiting.

Insurance groups, asset managers and other alternative lenders such as Allianz and Blackstone are rapidly expanding into the commercial property sector.

Job opportunities in real estate in 2014 as measured by the Job Barometer – a joint research effort between Cornell and the SelectLeaders Real Estate Job Network – grew by 23%.

Mat Oakley, head of European commercial research at London-listed Savills, says there is a “massive shortage” of local development expertise in the sector.

Speaking at an international real estate conference at Oxford Saïd Business School, he says that most of the big cities have only got one, maybe two local developers. “If you’ve got the contacts – the cross border investors want that expertise,” he says.

This is a sentiment echoed by Andrew Vaughan, chief executive of real estate investment manager Redevco, who says that local developers are better connected.

He says that managers must focus more on individual sectors because they have become more complex.

He adds that Redevco has in the past expanded into Asia, opening offices in both India and China, but the group has since pulled out of both: “Categorically there are far fewer core locations.”

Savills however has increased appointments as it pushes forward with global expansion into cities in Europe, the UK and the Middle East.

Savills this month expanded its consultancy and valuations teams, and has announced a stream of mid to senior level appointments globally in 2015.

The company has also opened two new offices in the US – in Washington DC and in Los Angeles.

David Funk, director of the Baker Program in Real Estate at Cornell’s Johnson School, says that commercial real estate job opportunities are back to pre-crisis levels. “We have experienced a particularly strong employment market,” he says.

JLL said that it will hire 1,000 more employees in India this year for its research, consultancy, and facility management services.

CBRE Global Investors, the world’s largest commercial real estate firm, has expanded teams in a number of areas including planning, investment sales and advisory. The company said it has further ambitions to grow in certain regions.

Jeremy Plummer, chief executive of CBRE Global Investment Partners, singles out logistics as one area of real estate growth, particularly in the UK.

He says that the market has a lot further to go: “I believe that we are at the early stages still of what is a fundamental structural change [in retail real estate].”

He adds that there is also opportunity in niche residential property investing, with shortages of property types for the elderly and student populations.

CBRE last week also expanded two of its Bay Area offices in San Francisco, hiring for its industrial services and project management divisions.

Todd Husak, managing director of CBRE Palo Alto, says: “We are focused on making strategic hires in order to stay ahead of the growth.”

CBRE runs a paid, full-time summer associate program for MBAs that provides an in-depth introduction to its corporate services business. Candidates are placed in areas including business development and strategy consulting.

In addition to specalist firms, there is demand for talent from corporate real estate departments, while national REITs – Real Estate Investment Trusts – are also interested in MBAs, says Andrea Heuson, director of real estate programs at University of Miami.

Sharon McCabe, senior lecturer in real estate at Wisconsin School of Business, says companies in the sector look for students who specialize in real estate at business school. “Employers want students who understand all facets of the asset [class],” she says.

Hiring in real estate may continue to profit from inflows. In its global emerging real estate trends report published in March, PwC said property investors will continue to benefit from the flow of capital from east to west.

Simon Hardwick, partner at PwC Legal, says: “There is still a wall of capital targeting real estate opportunities in many markets across the globe.”

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