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By Tricia Philip-Rao
The Paul Milstein Center sat down with Daniel Liu ’17 to discuss building a network, holding learning events for real estate students, and the perks of living in New York. Daniel is Co-Vice President of Education for the Real Estate Association (REA). Prior to CBS, he worked at Glenmont Capital Management, and he interned at KAUST Investment Management over the summer.
What led you to the MBA Real Estate Program at Columbia Business School?
I came to Columbia Business School to be a better investor. Since New York City is one of the most important centers of the real estate investment management industry, I wanted to come here to learn from real professionals and practitioners. Many of my adjunct professors have impressive backgrounds such as leading a multi-billion USD real estate fund, managing a distressed credit fund or working as a transactional attorney for some of the most high-profile deals. Their industry relationships also allow them to bring in fantastic speakers. Finally, real estate is often described as a “relationship business” so I wanted to be a part of Columbia Business School’s incredibly wide and diverse network.
Tell us more about your role and position in the Real Estate Association.
I am currently a Co-Vice President of Education for the Real Estate Association along with my teammates John Pollock ’17 and Zachary Gorn ’18. Our job is to aggregate as many relevant real estate questions as possible and hold learning events for club members. This semester, we have held several events to review the basics of real estate, discuss potential career options in the industry and showcase important modeling considerations (Excel and Argus). Our club members have diverse backgrounds and often ask some very thoughtful and stimulating questions so we are always challenged to do our research to give students the best possible answers.
Are you a member of other student organizations? If so, which? Do you hold any other officer positions?
I am currently the Co-President of a very small Cycling Club and also the Social Chair of the Asian Business Association. I am an avid cyclist and competing with fellow MBA students is an absolute thrill. As the social chair of the Asian Business Association, I help plan dim sum lunches where we discuss relevant world topics over delicious dumplings. Overall, I think it is important to maintain memberships in both career-related organizations as well as social/athletic clubs to achieve balance during this experience.
What events or speakers have been most meaningful or impactful to you while in business school?
The advantage of being in New York City means you are always invited to a guest-speaker event. Over the last two years, I have attended speaker events featuring Stephen Schwarzman (Blackstone), Howard Marks (Oaktree Capital), Bill Ackman (Pershing Square) and Jonathan Pollock (Elliott Management). With respect to real estate, as a recipient of the Alexander Bodini Memorial Real Estate Fellowship, I was fortunate enough to attend the Business School’s Real Estate Forum Annual Meeting last year where I heard a very candid discussion between Sam Zell and Jonathan Gray on the current low-yield environment. While these industry titans produce incredible takeaways, I have found events featuring recent CBS alumni, such as Julie Wong ’03, to be been even more meaningful as their experiences are more relevant and they serve as fantastic mentors and role models.
Describe your summer internship. Role, responsibilities, highlights.
During summer 2016, I was a Summer Associate at the investment office of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). The KAUST Investment Management Company is a leading university endowment with a significant allocation towards opportunistic real estate strategies. I spent the summer doing diligence on real estate fund managers and co-investment opportunities. This was a great experience because I was able to read every major real estate fund manager’s Private Placement Memo to try and learn their “secret sauce.” It was also a humbling experience because I realized the fanatical work ethic and talent it takes to run a successful real estate investment management business. After the summer, I believe I made a positive impression with the CIO and the Managing Director of the Real Estate group, and view them as my mentors. The best part of the MBA experience is developing a network of mentors and I believe my summer experience was critical in this endeavor.
How did your first year at CBS help prepare you for your internship experience?
While I am passionate about real estate, this asset class represents a relatively small slice of investment management and global capital. Therefore, I spent my entire first year at CBS trying to understand asset allocation principles and real estate’s relationship with other investment classes such as equities, fixed income and absolute returns. Classes such as Real Estate Portfolio Management and Institutional Investing: Alternative Assets in Pension Plans also helped me appreciate the complex flow of global capital and served as important advantages during my interview preparation process.
How do you define and measure success?
I define success as being a better version of myself every single day and I measure it by how well I can sleep at night. On days where I make significant strides towards a goal, whether it is career-related or reaching a personal record on a run, I find myself sleeping very well. Lately, I have experienced a little anxiety as I think about what I want to do after my MBA but my days are so productive (and tiring) that I often fall asleep as soon as I hit the bed.
What is the best thing about living in NYC?
I love Central Park. Few things in the world can top a nighttime skyline view from the middle of the Great Lawn.
What is your favorite restaurant in NYC?
Hillstone. Amazing prime rib at a reasonable price, free corkage for your first bottle of wine and the best atmosphere to laugh your heads off with your best friends… what could be better?
What three words best describe you?
Hungry. Competitive. Hungry.
Tricia Philip-Rao is the Assistant Director of the Paul Milstein Center for Real Estate at Columbia Business School. Prior to the Business School, Tricia worked in Faculty Support Services at Columbia Law School. She holds an MA in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.