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by Winnie Hui ’22
Edited and condensed from an interview conducted in May 2021.
Gina Baker Chambers is a Principal of capital raising, the Co-Portfolio Manager for the New York City Retirement Systems co-investment separate account, and the Portfolio Manager for the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund separate account. These separate accounts are focused on identifying and investing alongside emerging managers in major markets across the US. Ms. Baker Chambers is based in the Firm’s headquarters in metropolitan Washington, DC.
Prior to Artemis, Ms. Baker Chambers worked at Fannie Mae in Corporate Finance, managing the revenue and expense planning process, variance analysis and financial reporting for the Single Family business, and in Housing and Community Development serving as a junior product manager for mortgage products serving people with disabilities.
Ms. Baker Chambers earned a BA in Economics and in History from the University of Pennsylvania and an MBA from Columbia Business School. While attending business school, Ms. Baker Chambers was recognized as a Robert A. Toigo Fellow, a PREA / Toigo Fellow and a Real Estate Executive Council Fellow.
What initially attracted you to the real estate industry?
Growing up in the city, I had a natural interest in buildings and design, and being able to marry that with my interest in finance as well as quantitative analysis was the genesis of my desire to pursue real estate more directly. My first job out of undergrad was with Fannie Mae before the Great Financial Crisis. In addition to backstopping mortgage products for financial institutions, the firm had a group that was instrumental in creating private and public partnerships for new affordable housing and mixed use buildings, which I found very interesting. I ultimately decided to go to Columbia Business School, which has a strong real estate track within the MBA program. Before going to Columbia, I had a narrow view of real estate, but Columbia afforded me with the opportunity to explore the different facets of the industry.
How did you land your role at Artemis?
I landed my role at Artemis with luck and opportunity. I was a Toigo fellow, and my mentor in the program met with the CEO and Co-Founder of Artemis, Deborah Harmon, shortly after Debbie launched Artemis in early September 2009. Deborah described her vision for Artemis, and it was to cultivate diverse talent and become a thoughtful fiduciary of capital. My mentor suggested that Debbie and I meet, and 7 days later, I joined the team. If there were one piece of advice I would like to give, then it would be to not be shy about your search. If there is something that you have an interest in pursuing, then tell people what you like to do. That lunch between the two of them is what led me to this opportunity, and come this September, I will be celebrating my 12th anniversary at the firm.
Can you tell us more about your role as a Principal in Capital Raising and Portfolio Manager at Artemis Real Estate Partners?
I would say that I spend the bulk of my time on the portfolio management side, and I serve as a co-portfolio manager for a commingled fund that is committed to investing in emerging and diverse managers with core /core-plus strategies. In a portfolio management role, one has to maintain the client interface and ensure the execution of a set strategy, and that means getting the proper mix of partnerships, ensuring the appropriate product type exposure, being in geographies that are exhibiting growth, and determining where the portfolio has too much exposure as well as devising solutions to reduce said exposure. A portfolio manager must understand what the market trends look like, where valuations are trending, and where it makes the most sense to be investing. In conclusion, it means keeping an eye on what you already acquired and making sure that the portfolio performance is where it should be.
On the capital raising side, I work on strategic capital raising for our platform. For specific separate accounts that we’re pursuing, I’ll help with crafting the story, coming up with the strategy, and leading the interview process. There are also a series of investor relationships that I’ve cultivated in the past decade, and if there is a new product that comes out, then I’ll take lead on going to those relationships where I have the strongest connections.
Artemis has prioritized building a culture that attracts and retains talent. Do you mind explaining what this means at Artemis, what it means to you, and how culture was important to you when you were exploring career opportunities?
We’ve always stated that diversity improves the bottom line, and that is not just racial or gender diversity but also diversity of ethnicity, experience, and education—we didn’t all go to the same school, we don’t all have MBAs, and we’re not from the same region of the country. The diversity of people leads to a richer discussion at the Investment Committee table, as we all bring different perspectives on how we’re analyzing a deal or partnership. At the end of the day, we believe that this creates a more thoughtful result. In order to do that, we need to have a culture that is respectful of those varying perspectives.
We also found that growing talent from within is also very important and helpful on the retention front. I personally started as an Associate and worked my way to Principal. There are a number of examples at Artemis in which individuals start off as Associates and now are VPs, and this speaks volumes to the various opportunities to grow and the entrepreneurial spirit of the firm.
Artemis is known for serving its assets in the communities where it lives and works. Minority and women owned businesses have purchased more than $1.7 billion in assets through the Artemis Emerging Manager Program. Can you tell us more about this program and its initiatives?
Our Emerging Manager Program really started in partnership alongside the New York State Common Retirement Fund, when they expanded their Emerging Manager Program to the real estate asset class. Our program brought the concept of executing joint venture partnerships with real estate operators to the market in 2011. The market, at the time, mostly had value-add and opportunistic real estate fund-of-funds, but we wanted to take less risk on the real estate to maximize the probability of success of the operators, which is why pursued a core-plus strategy. We also prioritized working with operators that were originally locked out of the access to capital and strived to expand funding opportunities to underrepresented communities, as the performance of underrepresented partners stand side-by-side with those who have had easier access to capital in the country.
What is Artemis’ main investment strategy and how is that different from its separate account strategies?
Artemis has 4 main verticals: value-add, core-plus (originally started in the separate account space but now has evolved into a commingled fund vehicle), healthcare (focuses on medical office, life science, and senior housing), and debt. Our separate accounts have generally focused on emerging manager strategies. Generally speaking, we find separate accounts to be a helpful way to launch new verticals.
How has COVID-19 affected the portfolios you manage and the capital raising environment?
In the early days, we had to get our hands around what’s going on, determine whether the underlying tenants were going to pay or not, and understand what the new health protocols were. Today, it’s very much “business as usual”—we are incorporating what we know about extra cleaning and approaching leasing with a virtual component. Investors have continued to invest because there have still been opportunities that provide attractive risk-adjusted returns.
On the capital raising side, based on conversations with LPs, they have stated that they’ve learned from the Global Financial Crisis, when they retreated and missed great buying opportunities. That is why throughout COVID, they’ve continued to largely invest in opportunities. That’s why there are multi-year allocation policies, as investors plan to invest regardless of what is going on in the market. Deployment has been on the slower side given the logistics of allocating during the pandemic, not as a result of any strategic decision to slow down. However, it has been a bit harder for new managers to raise capital, as oftentimes, investors want to meet GPs face-to-face and tour buildings before investing substantial dollars. Incumbent managers are benefitting from this market environment.
What are some traits and qualities one should have in order to be successful in your role?
We always start with the details at Artemis. Details matter.
I will also say that relationship-building is important. That’s one thing that is underestimated, particularly if you’re sitting as a business school student. Sometimes you think that you only need to meet with senior managers, but building relationships as a student is equally important because the folks that are sitting next to you or a couple years ahead of you will grow in the industry and eventually become senior professionals. As you and your peers grow and start making decisions, you can just simply pick up the phone and get information from your colleagues, which will give you a competitive advantage.
I will also say creativity. There’s a right way of getting certain things done, but sometimes, you have to think outside of the box, as it will differentiate you.
Is there any advice you would like to give to students who are planning to pursue real estate post-MBA?
I would encourage folks to get a holistic perspective of the industry. When people think of real estate, most just think of acquisitions or development, but there are so many other opportunities in the industry. Being open to all facets of the industry is something I would encourage.
Additionally, be prepared before you present yourself to a potential employer. Make sure you’ve done your research and be very clear about what they do and what they don’t do. You should also have an informed opinion of the market, know what is going on with regulations, the 1031 exchange, carried interest, or some other relevant topic. You’re in school, so take your education to the fullest both inside and outside of the classroom.
We’ll close this out with a fun question—what are some of your hobbies you like to pursue outside of work?
In the last year, I’ve definitely been swimming more, which is something I used to do. Things related to fitness were hard to maintain when I was on a plane every other week. However, COVID forced everything to slow down. On top of recommitting to fitness, I’ve been reading novels, so it’s not just business reading all the time, and it has been great.
Winnie Hui ’22 is the Co-VP of Alumni & Mentorship of Real Estate Association. This summer, she will be at Invesco on their real estate acquisitions team. Prior to CBS, Winnie worked in capital raising and investor relations at DivcoWest. Before DivcoWest, she was on the Technology Equity Capital Markets investment banking team at J.P. Morgan. Winnie graduated from University of Southern California with a B.S. in Business Administration and minor in Real Estate Development.