In Commercial Observer’s 25 Under 35, we’re showcasing 25 debt originators and brokers making the biggest splash in the industry with youth still firmly on their side. Many of those on the list are still in their twenties, many originated or arranged upward of $1 billion in the past year and many are making their mark at relatively new firms or platforms. While some childhood dreams listed in applications—astronaut, baseball player, dancer, veterinarian—never materialized, it’s safe to say that these young guns are right where they are meant to be.
Scott Aiese, 32
Managing Director at HFF
Scott Aiese once thought he would be a stuntman. But at 32, and as a close second, he’s a managing director at HFF. (Hey, banking involves risk, too!)
In the past year, Aiese has worked on $250 million worth of transactions. One of the deals he’s the proudest of is a $60 million fixed-rate loan from DekaBank that he helped secure for Vornado Realty Trust for its property at 814 Madison Avenue between East 68th and East 69th Streets near Central Park.
“Our role was to get lenders comfortable with the high debt per square foot and the viability of high street retail,” Aiese said. “These proved to be the most interesting hurdles for this transaction.”
Aiese was a director of the capital services team at Massey Knakal Realty Services before it was acquired by Cushman & Wakefield in January 2015. He was then a managing director at Cushman & Wakefield before joining HFF in October 2015.
Always a heavy hitter, Aiese received an award for being a top broker at Massey Knakal, exceeding $250 million in financing for commercial properties in 2014. Prior to these stints he was the vice president of Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s commercial real estate banking division where he managed a $750 million portfolio of syndicated senior loans and personally inspected sites in New York.
A decade from now, Aiese still sees himself at HFF, “working with a group of highly sophisticated and entrepreneurial clients that associate some of their growth with the collaboration of our firm.”—Rheaa Rao
Brandon Bachner, 32
Vice President of Originations at Mesa West Capital
December marks Brandon Bachner’s sixth-year anniversary at Mesa West Capital. The Chi-town native is creating a stir in L.A., having closed 42 transactions—totaling a whopping $2.8 billion—to date and $631 million in the last year alone. Being a dynamo in commercial real estate wasn’t Bachner’s childhood dream. He had his sights set on being a Top Gun Fighter—Maverick, no less—until “I realized that you can’t live in the movies,” he said.
We’re pretty sure that his family didn’t mind his change of path from air to land, however. Bachner is the son of Jim Bachner, head of multifamily acquisitions for real investment management firm Heitman, who has mentored him over the years.
Bachner’s recent transactions include a $140 million loan to finance the acquisition of a 48.6-acre site at 3005 Democracy Way in Santa Clara, Calif., by Chinese tech conglomerate LeEco—the borrower intends to develop its global headquarters on the 3-million-square-foot buildings— and a $51.9 million loan to recapitalize The Yard, a four-building office portfolio in San Jose, Calif.
While new bank regulations are making it challenging for banks to compete in the market in driving up pricing to borrowers, they are also allowing groups like Mesa West and other debt funds to be competitive on some of the refinancing or vacant lease-up deals, Bachner said, although the space is getting busy. “We’re seeing a lot of equity shops entering the debt space, but it’s not an overnight ‘pull-the-switch’ move. A lot are leveraging their relationships on the fundraising side of equity and raising debt vehicles.”
What advice would Bachner give someone entering the industry today? “It goes back to relationships—don’t burn any bridges, do what’s right and keep in touch with people. You’re only as strong as these relationships are.”—Cathy Cunningham
Alan Blank, 33
Senior Vice President at Meridian Capital Group
While Alan Blank’s love of technology, gadgets and problem-solving as a kid didn’t lead him to the life of a secret agent as he had once hoped, working in the world of debt brokering is not a bad second—or at least he thinks so.
He started his career on the debt origination side at Credit Suisse, before making the move to Walker & Dunlop in 2009. Five years later, in January 2014, Blank decided to make the switch into brokering by joining Meridian Capital Group.
In the last 12 months, the Hewlett, N.Y.-native placed more than $1.5 billion in debt for his clients. One of the most notable deals Blank worked on within that time was a $592 million mortgage from Annaly Capital Management for Blackstone Group and Fairstead Capital’s purchase of the Caiola portfolio, which spans 24 multifamily buildings across New York. And in March, Blank arranged $160 million in debt from AIG to refinance The Moinian Group and Thor Equities’ office tower at 245 Fifth Avenue between East 27th and East 28th Streets in NoMad.
As far as future plans go, Blank said real estate finance is where he intends to stay. “I think being on the origination side is great, but the limitation is that you can only originate whatever product your bank has,” he said. “CMBS loans come out of a CMBS shop. If you’re working at an agency shop, you’re just doing Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and HUD [financings]. Brokering, you can get a wider array of deals done. I like where I am—I see everything.”—Danielle Balbi
Steven Buchwald, 34
Managing Director at Mission Capital Advisors
The East End submarket of Washington, D.C., will have a women’s homeless shelter with over 100 beds. As fall becomes winter, one can really see the value of the District of Columbia’s Department of Human Services project—and we have Steven Buchwald to thank for this.
Buchwald, a managing director of the debt and equity finance division of Mission Capital Advisors, helped Friedman Capital and its insurance company partner (whose name he declined to provide) secure $24.6 million in acquisition financing to buy 810 Fifth Street NW in D.C. earlier this year for the shelter.
“Finding a lender was like finding a needle in the haystack,” Buchwald said, “But I took a lot of pride in knowing that my work was benefitting people in need, which is sometimes a rarity in our industry.”
A specialty use is something that lenders may not be comfortable with, according to Buchwald. An additional challenge was the government’s lease language, which included clauses that they can pull the lease at their discretion, something that didn’t bode well with a lot of lenders. Despite these hurdles, Buchwald managed to secure a Maryland-based lender, CGA Capital, for this purpose.
One of his other significant deals was Line DC, a 227-room hospitality property that included new construction as well as a church-to-hotel conversion. Buchwald managed to raise $120 million in construction financing for Sydell Group for 1780 Columbia Road NW from a lender whose name he would not disclose.
Buchwald’s route to real estate financing was not straightforward. He studied biological and environmental engineering at Cornell University and decided that he didn’t like spending his days in a lab with minimal human interaction. He previously worked for Athena Group on the development side of real estate, specifically condominiums, before joining the finance side at Mission Capital.—R.R.
Aoife Burke, 34
Senior Vice President and Relationship Manager at Bank of America Merrill Lynch
From the rolling hills of Galway, Ireland to the ever-changing and rising skyline of New York City, Aoife Burke has always loved banking and has always loved real estate. After she graduated from the National University of Ireland-Galway in 2005, she joined the real estate team at Allied Irish Bank.
Within two years, the company shipped her over to New York City (where she plans to stay forever) and she put in time at CIT Bank before joining the commercial real estate banking New York and New Jersey team at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
In the last year, Burke has originated $786 million in debt, which included a $75 million loan for Akelius’ multifamily portfolio in Manhattan and Brooklyn, and a $300 million unsecured corporate facility for Acadia Realty Trust.
And for Burke, she said one of her favorite things about working at Bank of America—beyond leading some of the largest and most exciting CRE deals—is its commitment to being a meritocracy. She found inspiration in Brad Dubeck, who heads the bank’s New York and New Jersey team.
“He was part of the reason I wanted to come here,” she said. “He’s so young and so successful. They don’t judge by age here.”—D.B.
David Colen, 32
Managing Director at NGKF Capital Markets
Native New Yorker David Colen’s work takes him all over the globe. In his roadshows and meetings with overseas investors looking to place equity into transactions in the U.S. much of his time is spent in the Middle East and Asia, but “it’s hard to imagine living anywhere else” than the Big Apple, he said. “Everything you want is right at your fingertips here.”
Colen interned for The Rockwell Group in high school (he had aspirations to be an architect) before gravitating towards the financial aspect of how buildings are acquired.
Now co-head of the equity team, Colen joined Newmark Grubb Knight Frank in 2010 after stints at LGT Clerestory and BlackPoint Partners. In the past year, he has racked up nearly $900 million in transaction volume, with a further $1.2 billion in equity placements slated to close in the next 60 days. In 2014, he brought Related Companies into the recapitalization of a $260 million multifamily portfolio. Related initially came into the deal for a partial interest but ended up taking over the entire portfolio, Colen said. He also has been engaged to lead the $2 billion recapitalization of a subset of assets for KBS Strategic Opportunity REIT.
“Jimmy Kuhn [NGKF’s president] has been a great mentor to me, both in the business and in terms of being a responsible citizen and adult,” Colen said. “When I started, he entrusted me with aspects of the business that I hadn’t worked in before. He knew I’d figure it out.” That’s a responsibility that Colen now recommends that any newbies in the industry also take on. “When presented with something you don’t know how to do, exhaust every angle and route to figure out how to do it; use all tools available to you. Perseverance is key.”—C.C.
George Doerre, 33
Vice President and Team Leader in Commercial Real Estate at M&T Bank
George Doerre didn’t take the most traditional route to working on the commercial real estate team of a bank. The Burlington, Vt.-native said that admittedly, it took him a while to realize it was the industry he wanted to be in.
Doerre—who actually only learned to snow ski once he moved to New York—studied biological and environmental engineering at Cornell University and started his career at financial services consulting firm First Manhattan Consulting Group. (He even spent two years working in Australia and New Zealand.) In 2010, he got his MBA at Columbia University and found himself at M&T Bank shortly after.
He oversees a team of three relationship managers and one analyst and has been involved in roughly $850 million in financing over the last 12 months. Doerre and his team led a $153 million construction loan for a condominium tower at 180 East 88th Street between Third and Lexington Avenues for Global Holdings and DDG—a relationship that Doerre is proud of bringing to the bank.
And it’s relationship lending that is M&T’s bread and butter. “I often have meetings with people who ask why we haven’t done more business together,” he said. “So we take it from there. We open with small lending relationships, open a trust or an account. We take it from that little foothold and go on to bid on a lot of deals and major transactions for those clients.”—D.B.
Olivia Feldman, 29
Associate at Ackman-Ziff
Atlanta-born Olivia Feldman received her bachelor of science in business administration at Washington University in St. Louis and entered the industry in 2009—an interesting time to say the least.
Feldman cut her teeth in the industry in LNR’s analyst rotational program, where she focused on surveillance and investment management—monitoring and analyzing CMBS deal investments and negotiating loan workouts.
After a stint in Burger King Corporation’s corporate real estate group, Feldman joined Ackman-Ziff in 2013—and is already making big waves. In the past 12 months, she has closed over $350 million of debt and equity, with a further $550 million in the pipeline. Most recently, she secured $126 million to refinance a well-performing retail asset that was overleveraged from the last credit cycle and met the goal of requiring no additional equity from the sponsor. Currently, she’s busy arranging financing for a large mixed-use development in San Francisco.
Feldman has more than one mentor in her career. “I have learned, and continue to learn, a tremendous amount on every deal from the execution team at Ackman-Ziff,” said Feldman. “I’ve been very fortunate to have cultivated strong relationships with several people who have sponsored me and mentored me throughout my career—the principals at Ackman-Ziff, a former boss and several inspiring women offer me guidance and support in various ways as I navigate growing within the industry.”
Anyone entering the commercial real estate industry should “work hard, ask questions on anything you don’t understand and try to get as much exposure as possible,” Feldman said. “Network and spend time learning how people spend their days to find what most interests you. If you are passionate and interested in what you are doing every day, you will enjoy your professional experience and advance much more quickly.”—C.C.
Jesse Goepel, 32
Principal at Square Mile Capital Management
Working at a small firm doesn’t always mean you have a narrow focus.
Jesse Goepel, who joined Square Mile Capital Management in August 2008, has a very long to-do list. He actively manages $350 million of co-investment capital for Square Mile and its partners, $80 million of which was invested over the past year.
He also placed $225 million of preferred equity into four hotel developments in London, Austin, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., and last month, Goepel co-led the sourcing and closing of a $475 million hospitality sidecar investment, $70 million of which has already been deployed. (Goepel’s ability to navigate the hospitality sector should come as no surprise—he worked as an analyst in the real estate, gaming, lodging and leisure group at Deutsche Bank for two years before joining Square Mile.)
“The best exposure I’ve gotten is the collaboration across all of our strategies,” he said. “It’s important to get exposure to every level of the capital stack and to work with best-in-class operating partners. We’ve done senior loan originations, mezzanine origination, preferred equity investments, bankruptcies and ground-up condominium, office and hotel developments.”
And while the Emerald Isle, N.C.-native jokes that he hoped to stay a kid forever, he was very young when he first got interested in real estate. “It really goes all the way back to my father, who used to pose basic real estate and math questions to me on the drive to elementary school in the morning,” Goepel added.—D.B.
Jilliene Helman, 29
Chief Executive Officer and Founder of RealtyMogul
Jilliene Helman, the chief executive officer and co-founder of RealtyMogul.com, always dreamed of being an entrepreneur. “Just as long as it was something more complex than lemonade stands,” she said.
Sure enough, RealtyMogul is far from a nickel-and-dime shop. Founded in 2013, the company’s purpose is to connect real estate companies and investors (both individual and institutional) online. It now has more than 80,000 real estate investors and over $220 million in debt and equity transactions, according to its website. Last July, Helman announced the real estate crowdfunding startup raised $35 million in Series B funding.
“One of the hardest things to do is build trust on the internet,” Helman said. “It’s very competitive because a lot of companies are trying to do this.”
Before starting RealtyMogul, Helman was the vice president of Union Bank where she focused on wealth management solutions. She also spent four months in Tokyo in 2011 with Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, the parent company of Union Bank, before quitting to start her own venture.
“I grew up in an entrepreneurial family and was fascinated by the intersection of internet and commercial real estate,” she said. “I knew there was going to be a movement in internet financing, and I’m excited to be a part of it.”—R.R.
Paul Kesicki, 33
Senior Vice President at Capital One
Paul Kesicki has been at Capital One since April 2008, working closely with the bank’s New York market manager Benjamin Stacks, whom he considers a mentor.
“Having access to [Stack’s] knowledge and expertise has been invaluable,” he said.
In the last year, Long Island-native Kesicki worked on $330.6 million in debt deals for a slew of reputable real estate folks. He led a $110 million refinancing for Taconic Investment Partners and Clarion Partners’ Eastchester Heights, a 118-unit apartment complex in the Bronx. Kesicki also originated a $60.6 million refinancing for Jamestown’s New Montgomery office at 116 New Montgomery in San Francisco.
“I’m very proud that at a relatively young age I am in a position to work with, and provide financial solutions to, many of the most respected and successful real estate owners and developers in New York City,” Kesicki said.—D.B.
Kory Klebanoff, 33
Vice President at ACORE Capital
Kory Klebanoff has a longtime relationship with real estate. The Randolph, N.J.-native grew up admiring his father, Marty, a long-time mortgage broker.
“Listening to him talk about the business and the nuances of real estate fascinated me,” Klebanoff said. “I’m not sure if I can ever fill his shoes, but nothing makes me prouder than working incredibly hard to honor his legacy.”
And it certainly seems like he’s doing just that. After graduating from Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business in 2005, Klebanoff started working at CMBS consulting firm Blackheath Financial and then put in nearly nine years at GE Capital Real Estate, where he was involved in more than $3 billion in transactions.
In July 2015, after GE announced it would be divesting its real estate holdings, Klebanoff joined ACORE Capital, which had just been launched by longtime commercial real estate vets Warren de Haan, Boyd Fellows, Chris Tokarski and Stew Ward.
“After working for a large institution for a long period of time, I wanted to find somewhere to do more deals but smaller and just more flexible [ones],” he said. “ACORE had launched, and it seemed like an incredible opportunity to jump into something that was just burgeoning.”
In the last 12 months, Klebanoff originated $806 million in financing, including a $136 million mortgage for Innovo Property Group and Westbrook Partners’ acquisition of 24-02 49th Avenue, a 640,000-square-foot office building in Long Island City. “[At ACORE] we run a lot leaner than you do at any institution,” he said. “We all have to wear a lot of hats, so it becomes a bit of a balancing act. Frankly, it’s fun.”—D.B.
Keith Kurland, 32
Executive Vice President at JLL
As the son of an architect and retail leasing broker (Scott Kurland of Kurland Design Group and Susan Kurland of Savills Studley), it’s no surprise that Keith Kurland chose to go into real estate himself.
After graduating from University of Colorado-Boulder with a bachelor’s degree in finance and a double minor in economics and real estate, Kurland came back to New York City (he split time between Manhattan and Westchester as a kid) and started working at CBRE in 2005.
He then spent just over three years at Meridian Capital Group, before joining JLL’s capital markets team in April 2014 with longtime colleagues (and friends) Aaron Appel, Mike Diaz and Jonathan Schwartz. Within the last 12 months, Kurland has negotiated $1.2 billion in debt, with $750 million under application and a pipeline of nearly $2 billion.
Recently, he arranged an $88 million acquisition and condominium inventory loan for the Apthorp at 390 West End Avenue on behalf of Thor Equities and Imperial Companies, and he’s currently working on a $370 million deal for a Times Square-area retail condo.
“What differentiates us is that we take an institutional approach to every deal,” Kurland said. “A lot of our competitors don’t provide as sophisticated of an analysis or as much transparency.”—D.B.
Daniel Lerer, 34
Director of Investment Sales and Finance at GFI Realty Services
For Daniel Lerer, “it’s not about the volume, it’s about the solution.”
Larger deals have the oomph factor that the press salivates over, but often it’s the smaller deals that are trickier and require more creativity, he said. That being said, Lerer has worked on $275 million worth of transactions in the past year, which is nothing to sneeze at.
Lerer feels strongly about adaptive reuse projects and historically important buildings like 330 West 42nd Street, also known as the McGraw Hill Building, in Midtown. This landmarked Midtown office building was one of Lerer’s most significant and complicated transactions. In the past year, he arranged a $150.6 million floating-rate loan for Deco Towers Associates for the art deco building designed by Raymond Hood in 1931.
The 34-year-old mortgage broker also worked on arranging the $100 million refinancing of the Ace Hotel, a 275-room hotel at 1186 Broadway for GFI Capital Resources Group, an affiliate of GFI Realty Services. The boutique hotel is known for its unique interiors, appropriate for Lerer’s fascination with unique buildings.
This fascination is not a fleeting emotion. Lerer is a self-proclaimed architecture junkie and once aspired to be an architect. Now he enjoys how his current role allows him to find solutions for complex financial transactions that help restore historical structure.
“Capitalism is a powerful system for allocation of resources,” Lerer said. “That’s what makes financing exciting.”—R.R.
Qahir Madhany, 32
Principal at Blackstone Group
For Atlanta-native Qahir Madhany, who he’s working with is just as important as the deals he gets done—even if it’s Blackstone Group’s $5.3 billion purchase of Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village.
He got his start in real estate at debt fund Westbrook Partners, before joining Blackstone in February 2015—and he found tremendous mentorship and guidance in the senior management at both firms.
“I’ve been lucky to have had the chance to work with and for very intelligent people,” he said.
And during the last 12 months at Blackstone, Madhany has been a part of $8.64 billion in investments and placed $3.9 billion in equity. He’s worked on the biggest deals New York City has seen as of late, including Blackstone’s buy of Stuy-Town and its $690 million acquisition of the Caiola multifamily portfolio, which spans 979 apartments across 24 Manhattan apartment buildings.
“One of my proudest achievements at Blackstone is that we’ve gone from having limited exposure to New York residential real estate to becoming one of the largest owners over the last 18 months,” Madhany said. And that momentum is continuing: He is now working on Blackstone’s pending acquisition of Kips Bay Court, an 894-unit apartment complex on the East Side.—D.B.
Stephen Michels, 34
Managing Director at Cushman & Wakefield
Stephen Michels has been busy. He has closed $710 million in bridge, construction and stabilized hotel financings over the past year and has collaborated on more than $3.5 billion of hotel capital markets transactions since joining Cushman & Wakefield in 2011.
“No other asset class is as exciting and dynamic as hospitality,” said Michels, who arranged a $335 million syndicated loan in April as part of the recapitalization of a seven hotel, 1,078-key portfolio on behalf of Hersha Hospitality Trust and Cinda Asset Management. The properties, all based in Manhattan, included the Holiday Inn Wall Street and the Candlewood Suites Times Square. Natixis Real Estate Capital and Oaktree Capital provided the loan. Two of Michels’s uncles are in the business, but his personal foray into the commercial real estate world was as a summer intern at Mesa West Capital in 2007, during business school at UCLA. He landed a senior associate position with C&W in Los Angeles in 2011, where his first deal was the recapitalization of the Beverly Hills Hotel. “It was a huge deal for me and a great entry point to the different dynamics within capital markets in the hospitality industry,” he said. In 2014, Steven Cohen (the vice chairman at C&W) helped facilitate Michels’ move from Los Angeles to New York City, and he hasn’t looked back since.
Real estate isn’t his only passion, however. In between college and business school, Michels worked in Las Vegas, which gave him the chance to focus on the operational side of the business before he jumped into the real estate side. During his time on the Strip, he ran a wine program at the Wynn hotel and got his entry-level sommelier certification. Today, one of his dreams is to somehow merge his passion for wine with his professional career in real estate. “I’m good at picking out wine at closing dinners—that’s my value add there,” he said. And, if anyone would like to help Michels celebrate his well-deserved place on the 25 Under 35 list, his favorite grape is a Syrah...FYI.—C.C.
Kevin Miller, 34
CEO, Principal and Founder at Thorofare Capital
“Being the youngest person in the room is an advantage. Work hard, and you’ll find yourself becoming luckier and luckier,” advised Kevin Miller, who founded Thorofare Capital in September 2010 at the age of 28. In the past 12 months alone, Miller originated $348 million in debt, including a $38.5 million loan for Seattle Design Center and a $26 million loan to refinance the Abbott Kinney & Melrose Place retail portfolio in Los Angeles.
Miller grew up in Pasadena, Calif., and had the entrepreneurial bug as a youngster, as well as a fascination with commercial real estate—perhaps partly due to his father being in the industry. “Taking tours of towers and projects that my father was involved in sold me on being in real estate at a very young age, and it has worked out great,” Miller said.
It certainly has. Today Miller runs “one of the fastest-growing real estate private equity companies on the West Coast—and we built it from scratch,” he said. “I’m not going to pretend it’s easy or that there aren’t difficult days, but I always have a smile on my face on my way into work knowing that I get to work side-by-side with a phenomenal team that are all pulling oars in the same direction.”
In the future, Miller sees himself continuing to grow the products Thorofare offers by raising additional private equity real estate funds to take advantage of market opportunities and shifts that may not be so apparent to others in the industry. “The bottom line is that we are focused on making sure the foundation we operate upon is as solid as bedrock. It’s a better way to build something that will last,” he said.—C.C.
Sarah Marie Miller, 34
Vice President at CIT Bank
Sarah Marie Miller started dancing at the age of 3 and considered becoming a professional dancer. Thankfully, for the industry’s sake, she chose a different path and ended up in CIT Bank’s real estate finance group. “I always loved math and have an amazing memory when it comes to numbers,” Miller said. A business law class with an emphasis on real estate in high school sealed the deal. “From then on, I knew I wanted to become a commercial lender.”
Miller got her bachelor of science in fnance degree from Canisius College in Buffalo, N.Y.—also where Miller grew up—and worked at Eurohypo AG before joining CIT in April 2014.
Miller underwrote 13 transactions totaling $550 million in the past 12 months, $425 million of which she also saw through the underwriting, prescreen, credit and closing process. Recent transactions include a $65 million senior secured construction loan on behalf of a joint venture between Madison Capital Realty and Vornado Realty Trust, for a 34,170-square-foot, six-story retail and office building on the southeast corner of Broadway and Houston Street in Soho.
Miller considers her boss, Meggan Walsh, her mentor. “Recently Meggan recruited me to join a new organization at work: the Women’s Initiative Network, Miller explained. “What I learned was that women are less likely to be promoted to manager and are underrepresented at every level. The best piece of advice I received from Meggan was to be your own advocate—no one will push as hard for you as yourself.”
As for the advice she would offer? “Never be afraid to go take advantage of every opportunity presented to you—even if that means going outside of your job description or volunteering your help. Always look for ways to expand your skill set. Having a positive attitude and work ethic is key.”—C.C.
Richard Oberman, 33
Director at Wells Fargo
It seems like Richard Oberman made the right call when he decided against his childhood dream of becoming a veterinarian.
The Roslyn, N.Y.-native has been with Wells Fargo since September 2005, working on massive financings for some of the biggest commercial real estate companies. In fact, Oberman said that his role at the bank allows him to bring together two things he loves: “I was excited about capital markets coming out of school, but I also had some prior summer experiences doing lending. It’s been almost like a merger of two, and it’s an exciting role that I’m very happy I pursued.”
In the last year, Oberman originated more than $1.2 billion in commercial mortgage-backed securities, structured balance-sheet and syndicated balance-sheet loans. He led an $800 million senior mortgage for Blackstone Group’s buy of Excel Trust, a national retail owner. He also worked on a total of $4.1 billion in financing for Starwood Capital Group’s purchase of 67 multifamily properties from Equity Residential Trust.
Oberman said he wants to continue on his trajectory at the bank and hopes to be a senior executive within the next 10 years. He works closely with Adam Davis, who oversees the Commercial Real Estate Capital Markets and Finance, Corporate Net Lease, Real Estate Capital Markets Organizations and Commercial Mortgaging Servicing groups at Wells Fargo. Oberman sees Davis as a mentor—he was the one who hired Oberman as an analyst, and the two continue to work together. “I’m trying to follow in his footsteps,” Oberman said.—D.B.
Natalya Malinsky Robles, 33
Executive Director at J.P. Morgan Chase
When you find something you love, you should probably stick with it, and that’s advice that Natalya Malinsky Robles has certainly followed.
Even as a kid, she knew she wanted to work at a bank. Her first job was as a bank teller, and she joined the commercial bank analyst program at J.P. Morgan Chase straight out of college in 2005.
Her parents, who immigrated to the U.S. from Kiev, Ukraine, with Robles and her brother in 1991, encouraged her to pursue a career in the banking industry because of her passion for numbers and her love of people. Now 11 years into working on the real estate banking team at J.P. Morgan, she has developed a knack for navigating complex deals and has become quite enthralled with construction lending in the multifamily space.
In fact, she prides herself on her expertise in direct bond purchasing and led the $158 million financing for Rose Associates and Benenson Capital Company’s 210 Livingston Street in Downtown Brooklyn—the first deal of that type done at the bank. Over the last year, she originated $550 million in financing.
“It’s such a competitive market out there, and in terms of my goals I want to make sure I keep doing good transactions with good clients that help them, that create jobs and create [quality] real estate in the tri-state area,” Robles said.—D.B.
Raymond Salameh, 24
Senior Associate at HKS Capital Partners
The second youngest on the 25 Under 35 list, Brooklyn-born Raymond Salameh is 24 years young and already a senior associate at HKS Capital Partners. He joined HKS in June 2014, after interning for the firm in 2013, and has closed approximately $160 million in transactions since.
Salameh studied finance at Binghamton University and always knew he wanted to combine real estate and finance. HKS was his first job out of college, and he was the youngest at the firm until very recently.
Recent transactions under his belt include a $10 million bridge loan for a vacant, six-story retail and office property in the Nolita section of Manhattan, which had a 36-month term and was freely prepayable after year one. Salameh is currently in the process of brokering a $18 million construction loan for a proposed seven-story mixed-use project in Long Island City, as well as working on three separate transactions in West Palm Beach, Fla., for $3 million, $7 million and $10 million.
Salameh credits HKS founding partner Ayush Kapahi with teaching him the most in his career. Kapahi took Salameh under his wing and taught him the business from the ground up. Salameh learned the trade by shadowing Kapahi in the transactions he was working on and through helping to underwrite transactions. Eighteen months later he was originating his own business for the brokerage.
Clearly in an Empire State of mind, Salameh sees himself in a position where he is actively involved in financing the evolving New York City skyline in 10 years’ time.—C.C.
Allen Shayanfekr, 28
Chief Executive Officer at Sharestates
Allen Shayanfekr is the chief executive officer and co-founder of real estate crowdfunding platform Sharestates. Since launching in February 2015, the Long Island-based firm has grown from its three founders to a staff of 40, with a plan to go bicoastal next year.
“I’d love to get to the point where I have a big enough support team that the operation runs itself, and I can take time to help people from disadvantaged backgrounds and mentor them,” Shayanfekr said. As he told Commercial Observer in a recent interview, his parents fled Iran in the 1980s. He was born in Italy while in transit and raised in Long Island. As a child he dreamed of becoming an attorney, went to Touro Law Center and graduated in 2013. Had he followed through on his law career, Shayanfekr believes he would practice in transactional real estate or securities law rather than litigation.
“Believe it or not, I was very shy early on and the idea of speaking in front of a jury or a court was very daunting to me. Ironically enough, I ended up speaking in front of crowds of people for a living!”
Shayanfekr has placed approximately $140 million in debt in the last year. Recent crowdfunded transactions include a $4 million loan for 942 Flushing Avenue in Brooklyn, a mixed-use building with retail on the ground floor and a $4 million loan for 43-45 Columbia Place also in Brooklyn, a 12-unit multifamily property.
Shayanfekr tips his hat to his two business partners, Raymond and Radni Davoodi, for mentoring him and showing him the industry ropes.
As for the advice that he would give someone starting out in real estate finance today? “The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that patience is the biggest virtue you can have. That, and understanding that it takes time to grow a business just as it takes time to raise a child.”—C.C.
Andrew Singer, 23
Senior Loan Analyst at W Financial
The youngest of the young ‘uns on our list at 23 years old, Andrew Singer didn’t realize his childhood dream of being a professional baseball player but took interest in the Miami real estate his family owned instead, following that path to W Financial after an internship at Thor Equities.
Since he joined W Financial in June 2015 as a debt analyst, Singer has originated 50 loans totaling $210 million, including a $7.3 million first mortgage loan secured by two one-story industrial buildings in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and a $19 million first mortgage used to acquire a development site on 40th Road in Flushing, Queens with over 500,000 square feet of development rights—the deal funded in less than 48 hours.
W Financial stays ahead of its competitors by not reaching for deals but rather sticking to its bread and butter and being a firm that its clients know they can rely on, Singer said. Additionally, the firm meets with clients throughout the year regardless of whether or not a deal is in play. “We like to show our face and get in front of clients,” Singer said.
Singer credits three people as being business mentors to him. Jarret Schochet and David Heiden—senior loan officer and principal at W Financial Fund, respectively, have taught him “exponential amounts” since he began at at the firm. It was his previous boss at Thor, however, Charlie Koniver, who Singer has to thank for his current role. “He suggested that I go to the ICSC in New York in my senior year of college—just to go. I, being this young excited kid and entrepreneur major, printed out 50 resumes, signed up as an ICSC student member and walked around every booth handing out resumes. That’s how I met Jarret, who also went to Indiana University, and the rest is history.”—C.C.
Aron Will, 31
Vice Chairman of Capital Markets’ National Senior Housing at CBRE
As CBRE’s youngest vice chairman ever, Aron Will needs little introduction.
In the past year alone, Will has placed $1.5 billion in debt for the brokerage, including the $410 million Fountains Portfolio loan—the largest Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRC) financing in the history of the sector and the largest Freddie Mac financing to date—on behalf of Watermark Retirement Communities.
The deal included 15 CCRC assets across 11 states, comprising 1,266 units. He also closed the $350 million Ranger Portfolio—the largest Freddie Mac CME senior housing financing to date, which included 36 assets located across 10 states.
The Houston, Texas, native took his lead from his mother who is a commercial developer. Will would listen to her talk about the industry as a child and was intrigued. “I tried to soak up as much knowledge and information from her as I could through osmosis,” he said.
As for Will’s proudest achievement? The impressive deals come secondary to his 3-month-old daughter, Ella, and his work with the Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Family Alliance, which provides emotional and practical assistance to the families of children with cancer treated at the Texas Medical Center. As well as being a board member, Will co-founded the Candlelighters’ young professionals’ group, which connects professionals in their 20s and 30s in supporting the Candlelighters’ mission.
Will would give two pieces of advice to anyone looking to get into the industry today: “Get internships to gain the exposure they provide—they’re hugely beneficial,” he said. Secondly, for the first three or four years in the industry, focus less on the dollars and more on opportunities that will provide mentoring and nurture career growth, something he focuses on daily with his team and also with interns every year. “I expect a lot from my team. We often work weekends and work 70-plus-hour weeks, but we also have fun.”—C.C.
Ran (Vivian) Zhang, 30
Vice President at Industrial and Commercial Bank of China
Ran (Vivian) Zhang joined Industrial and Commercial Bank of China in November 2014, as the Chinese bank first started its real estate lending play in the States.
It was a huge change from her previous gig at Deutsche Bank, which she joined right after graduating from the University of Virginia. Her primary focuses at the German bank were in commercial real estate and commercial mortgage-backed securities, and she did deals from construction to affordable housing to community redevelopment.
“I actually relearned a lot of basic real estate knowledge [when I came to ICBC],” she said. Now, Zhang does everything from soliciting clients to all of a transaction’s internal closing credit applications—sometimes she even has to retrieve funds from people who owe money.
But she loves every minute of it. “When you are at a big bank you are just one piece in a big puzzle. Here you have to do everything,” Zhang said. “It really forces me to learn a lot and to grasp how a deal works from beginning to end. It’s very challenging but also very rewarding when you work for a smaller firm.”
She’s also proud of how quickly ICBC’s real estate team has grown, with a balance of $0 just a couple of years ago to more than $2.5 billion now. The China-native has played a huge role in more than half of that production, originating $1.3 billion in debt in the last year alone, including the $211 million financing for Kuafu Properties’ buy of 13 floors in Related Companies’ 1 MiMa Tower.—D.B.