Editor's note: This is the second post in an ongoing series featuring influential women in commercial real estate.
Petra Conte is a Senior Vice President at Arch Street Capital Advisors, LLC and has been with the firm since 2007. Ms. Conte is involved in the ongoing asset management of investments made on behalf of ASC’s clients to ensure successful execution of the strategic plan established at acquisition.
Ms. Conte holds a B.S. degree in International Business and Finance from Fairfield University. Prior to joining ASC, Ms. Conte spent nine years as a Real Estate Manager/Underwriter with the RVI Group focusing on Credit Tenant Lease transactions. RVI is a leading provider of insurance products to companies that are invested in asset intensive businesses including real estate. In her tenure at RVI, Ms. Conte actively managed a diverse portfolio of commercial real estate assets on behalf of various types of clients including developers, REITs, municipalities, equity investors, and lenders with the objective of maximizing her clients’ cash yields. She was also an integral part of the company’s underwriting and risk management team, which was responsible for diversifying the company’s product offerings to insure new asset classes and expand into new international markets.
We got a chance to catch up with Petra to talk about her career path, advice for women in commercial real estate, and industry trends impacting asset management in the next 5 to 10 years. Here's what she said:
Q. How did you get your start in real estate?
A. I love to travel abroad and intrigued by business, so I knew my desired career path early on. I studied international business and finance, and started my career working for a financial insurance company performing a dual role within International Marketing and Commercial Real Estate. I worked for a dynamic company with seasoned professionals, which provided a solid foundation and exposure into various facets of real estate, investing, and risk management. This job allowed me to naturally transition into my next role of real estate asset/portfolio management for international capital.
Q. What are some leadership principles that you have discovered and executed on that have contributed to your success?
A. Take ownership and have pride in your work, be curious, open to learning, effective communication, ability to execute, and never have an attitude of “it’s not my job!” We learn from all our experiences, good and bad.
Q. What advice would you pass on to women earlier in their careers in CRE?
A. It’s historically been a predominately male industry, but that’s changing. There are so many different career paths to pursue today within commercial real estate, and traits such as hard work, attention to detail, and a good attitude will give you a competitive advantage. If possible, find a good female mentor - they are a powerful and resourceful tool to have on your side.
Q. How do you see asset management evolving in the next 5 to 10 years?
A. Deals are getting harder to win with the constant flow of capital into the sector, so I see asset management evolving into an even more holistic approach to managing properties and investments within complex structures. Given this, there will be greater need for analytical and technology tools to monitor and improve transaction performance, and to enhance overall portfolio management.
Q. It's no secret that the number of building technologies (i.e. PropTech) on the market has skyrocketed in recent years. What advice do you have for companies who are just starting to evaluate technology solutions?
A. It’s a comprehensive process to evaluate the numerous technology options available on the market and to identify the solution that best fits your business needs. We’re now in a world where technology is needed for all businesses and we must embrace it. However, in doing so, it’s essential to find partner(s) that will work with you to understand your evolving business needs and demands. Take the time to understand the opportunities and challenges of new technology platforms, and most importantly, identify partners that will remain involved in the life cycle of the platform - it truly needs to a partnership and not just a vendor relationship.
Q. What are still some of the areas where technology could be implemented or improved in your business?
A. Most real estate technology is currently focused on capital raising, deal souring, marketing etc., and asset management is just recently becoming more of a focus area. I think continuing to roll out additional asset management capabilities and deal performance metrics will be important, especially as managers and owners feel even greater pressure to identify areas of revenue growth and expense savings. Additionally, the ability to have data available real time and at your fingertips, especially while on the road or performing site visits would be helpful, so an app would be great!
Q. What would you be doing if you weren't in real estate?
A. I would own a small restaurant/specialty food store. It’s in my blood and provides me an outlet to relax and use my creative side, especially after a stressful work week.