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by Daniel Vasserman ’22
Edited and condensed from an interview conducted in June 2021.
Based in the New York office, Peggy is responsible for actively managing a $7+ billion U.S. equity portfolio. As Head of the Asset Management Group for Allianz Real Estate of America, Peggy sets asset strategy and evaluates prospective transactions to ensure alignment with clients’ overall real estate investment priorities.
Before joining Allianz, Peggy was Managing Director at Canyon Partners Real Estate in the New York office, where she raised capital for a real estate debt fund that invests across the capital stack in senior and subordinate positions.
Peggy was a Managing Director with the U.S. Managed Accounts Group of CBRE Global Investors, serving as the portfolio manager for one of the firm’s international sovereign wealth fund clients. Ms. DaSilva also has served as Senior Vice President and Managing Director at the Rockefeller Group, where she was responsible for portfolio and asset management of their U.S. Premier Office Fund LP, a core office fund with assets in US gateway cities.
Peggy held previous senior positions with Deutsche Bank USA, Bankers Trust Company, Citicorp Securities, and Chemical Bank, where she also worked in their Tokyo office. She is past president of WX, a New York–based organization of senior women in real estate, and was an original member of the Executive Committee of WLI, the Women’s Leadership Initiative at ULI. She is a Director on the Board of the Center for Urban Community Services in New York City and a member of Chief, a private network of C-level women across industries in the US. She graduated cum laude from Wellesley College and earned an MBA from Columbia Business School.
Can you tell us more about your background? Why did you decide to go to CBS? What were some of your jobs after CBS?
I was an art history major at Wellesley College, so after I had graduated, I knew I wanted to complement my education with business skills and knowledge. That’s what propelled me to go to CBS, which was the only business school I had applied to. The gravitas of CBS, especially in the 1980s for a woman, was also very appealing to me. After CBS, I joined a rotational program at Bank of America, and spent a few years there focusing on the swaps business, which was just starting to take off. Following this, I worked for Chemical Bank for seven years in their Tokyo and New York offices. Afterwards, I joined Bankers Trust, which was an interesting time to be at a bank as the savings and loan (S&L) crisis had hit, the market crashed, and the Resolution Trust Corporation (RTC) was established. In 1999, Bankers Trust was acquired by Deutsche Bank and I was there until 2011. From 2011-2018, I worked at a few different firms; The Rockefeller Group, CBRE Global Investors, and Canyon Partners. In 2018, I started my current role at Allianz Real Estate.
Were you always interested in building a career in real estate?
I always was but didn’t start working in the industry until several years after CBS. When I was working for Chemical Bank in Tokyo, it was a small satellite office, and so I was able to gain exposure to senior executives at the bank even though I only had a few years of experience at the time. When the time came for my husband and me to move back to the US, I had reached out to the Head of the Investment Bank and expressed my interest in working for their real estate group in New York City. They wound up having a spot for me and I have been in real estate ever since!
As we are hopefully turning the corner on COVID-19, it’s evident that how we live, work, and play will be altered. What are the biggest changes from the pandemic do you believe are here to stay and why?
I think the way we work will definitely be different. In general, employees will likely have more flexibility with some coming into the office only 2-3 days a week. For example, if you know you just need to focus on doing analytical work like modeling you may be able to do that from home and not spend time commuting to and from the office. On the other hand, you’ll be sure to be in the office for in-person meetings or events. I believe that for many industries the work week will be split between meeting days (in the office) vs desk days (at home). I also think we will travel less for business but continue to see the critical need to actually visit assets on a regular basis.
Due to COVID-19, has Allianz Real Estate changed any of its investment strategies? How is your group approaching the return to the office?
As a manager, it was challenging to maintain the camaraderie that the team had prior to COVID-19 and also to ensure that there was a flow of dialogue occurring amongst colleagues who were no longer spontaneously seeing each other physically in the office every day. We attempted to keep the cohesion in the group through regular WebEx meetings and one on one meetings weekly.
On the investing side, Allianz did not necessarily change any of its strategies due to COVID-19. We are still focusing on multifamily, logistics, student housing, and life sciences. We are still investing in office buildings but look for unique opportunities in that space. ESG compliance is one of the most critical components of our investment strategy today. We focus on the core/core + space and are long term owners of real estate, usually for ten or more years.
Are there any emerging trends, innovations, or disruptions happening now within real estate, that you believe will have a lasting impact on the industry?
I believe that data management will be a big disruptor in the real estate industry. At Allianz, we have a Smart Building initiative, where we collect a variety of data about the way our tenants use our buildings which guides many asset management decisions. ESG is at the forefront of our investment decisions; we scrutinize all new investments to be sure that we can adhere to the Carbon Risk Real Estate Monitor (CRREM), a European framework which is becoming more known in the US market as well. CRREM provides the real estate industry with tools that help increase energy efficiency investments in the real estate sector and accelerate the decarbonization of real assets. If students want to get more familiar with ESG, they can check out the following resources:
Allianz recently announced that it was expanding its US exposure with investments in the single-family rental sector. Could you comment on what factors motivated Allianz to get into this space?
We think that the single-family rental subsector of the multifamily space is very appealing in the US due to demographic shifts. Both young families and empty nesters want to live in a house, and clearly this trend was accelerated by the pandemic. However, many find that ownership is either undesirable or unattainable. This sector also dovetails with our focus on ESG investing since we along with our partner in this this venture, Lennar, will be building new communities of environmentally sustainable houses.
As a very successful woman who has been in the real estate industry for over 25 years, what advice would you offer to women starting their careers in real estate?
The advice I always give women is to stay. A lot of women start in real estate but then get frustrated due to it being a heavily male dominated industry or other aspects that may be unattractive. However, if you enjoy what you do and feel respected, you should continue to stay in the industry and develop a wide network. Once you go down one path in real estate, for example acquisitions or brokerage, it is harder to transition into other areas, the further along your career progresses. But having a broad background is definitely a plus. And general advice to anyone starting their careers is to work for a solid institution where you can learn from reputable people.
Has your daily routine changed at all or have you picked up any new hobbies since working remotely the last 12+ months?
Like many people, I started working out at home and cooking more. I also started walking a lot more especially in the town where I live. I was fascinated to find so many new streets that I had never known existed prior to the pandemic. I also was able to read more frequently and discover some new TV shows. My absolute favorite was Call My Agent! On Netflix. I highly recommend it.
Looking back at your time at CBS, what do you feel has carried with you as the most valuable part of your experience?
Over the years, the affiliation to Columbia, has had so many great advantages for me both professional and personally. I also developed several good friendships at CBS that have only gotten stronger over the years.
Daniel Vasserman ’22 is a full-time student at Columbia Business School (CBS) as a member of the Class of 2022, where he is focusing on real estate private equity. This summer, Daniel will intern at CIM Group in Los Angeles, CA. In addition to serving as Co-President of the Real Estate Association (REA), Daniel is also a VP for the Jewish Business Students Association, a Career Fellow for the school’s Career Management Center, and a Social Chair for his Cluster. Prior to starting at CBS, Daniel was an Executive Director for the Commercial Real Estate business of JPMorgan Chase. He led the Boston office for his group, overseeing a multifamily portfolio with a $1.4B capitalization. He was responsible for originating commercial mortgages, sourcing new business opportunities, and managing the relationship of over 200 real estate clients, which included family offices, institutional investors, and merchant builders. Daniel completed his undergraduate studies at New York University and was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY.