Bridging the Gap

For those of us who live and breathe commercial real estate, it’s a little bit jarring to talk to pros in the broader wealth management world and find that they consider the sector to be merely an “alternative investment.” After all, how much more concrete can investment get than owning real property?

The commercial real estate market is one of the largest parts of the financial services world. It’s important enough that Howard Lutnick, CEO and chairman of the giant inter-dealer broker firm BGC Partners, saw that for his firm to be truly dominant, it had to add real estate to its leading equities and bond businesses.

In the past 12 months, BGC has created Newmark Grubb Knight Frank and intends to keep investing in the platform.

Most wealth management professionals do advise their clients to have some exposure to commercial real estate, whether it’s through direct ownership of properties, shares in publicly-traded or non-traded REITs or other vehicles. But there still seems to be a large gap between the commercial real estate world and the wealth management sector.

We decided to try and address this separation. NREI is part of a larger group of financial services publications that includes REP. and Trusts & Estates magazines and the newly launched portal Our group arranged a Strategic Real Estate Investment Conference, held in New York in June, to bring people from both sides of the table together.

Conversations throughout the day ran the gamut from reviewing the outlook for the various commercial real estate sectors to looking at how family offices should approach real estate and exploring the myriad possible ways in which the asset could play a role in wealth transfer strategies. (For the unitiated, family offices are private companies that manage investments and trusts for wealthy families.)

In fact, one of the more intriguing initiatives that has cross-pollinated between the wealth management and commercial real estate sectors is the Family Office Real Estate Partnership (FORE), launched in the United Kingdom. Traditionally, family offices have invested in property through funds or directly in property on their own. This new initiative is creating a third option—pooling resources between families that share a common, long-term vision of what role property investment should serve in preserving and growing their wealth.

As Jonathan A. Schein, practice leader for NREI and one of the Strategic Real Estate Investment Conference’s moderators, put it, “What we’re trying to do is create a conversation between the commercial real estate industry and the wealth management industry. The two sides usually talk through an intermediary.” He added, “Many wealth management pros see real estate as an alternative investment. ... We’re trying to push the discussion further.”

By bringing wealth management and commercial real estate pros into the same room, the two sides got the opportunity to talk more directly and understand some of the nuances of each other’s businesses. But the conference was just a first step. And we intend to continue to foster this conversation online, in print and with additional live events.

NREI has always been committed to being on the cutting edge of information in order to help our readers make decisions based on market realities. By introducing another source of capital into this magazine’s pages, we are reinforcing our commitment to bringing this information to the fore.

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