Pensive new grad (Finding the right company?)

I'm a recent graduate of a well-respected Masters in Real Estate Finance & Investment program here in New York City and am currently out networking/job hunting. I'm focused on Acquisitions roles but have found myself wondering, what are the best real estate private equity funds to work for? I'll elaborate...

It seems to me that a sensible way of organizing them all is by AUM. Let's say there are five buckets*:

  1. Institutions - The Blackstones, Brookfields of the world that dominate the market, largely serving as LPs, investing based on macro trends.
  2. "Enterprise" Funds ($5B - $40B) - Nightingale, Fortis, Investcorp. Competing with the above players but do not have nearly the same scale in terms of available capital and staffing.
  3. "Tenured" Funds ($500M - $5B) - Regional funds that may invest in broader geographies? Have been around the block and likely developed a solid track record of successful deals. Not sure of standard team size here.
  4. "Seasoned" Funds ($100M - $500M) - Relatively unproven, actively building a track record. More stable than below. Teams are pretty lean (10s of people).
  5. "Emerging" Funds (sub-$100M) - Very lean teams focused on getting off the ground. Investing by sharpshooting assets in a limited array of geographies. Hustling. Very actively networking with brokers.

For those with experience at any/all of these buckets, what is the difference in terms of culture, work-life balance, compensation, exit opportunities at these different sized companies (in terms of headcount and AUM)?

I care most about being treated with respect by my colleagues and having my input welcome in meetings, professional development opportunities, gaining real investment expertise, visibility into the investment process, and finally, I would love to have workplace with other 20s-30s year olds to develop friendships. You will notice I did not mention compensation because, while it is obviously important, it's not what's most important to me right now.

Additional context:

  • My background is in the brokerage side of the business at one of the top 3 firm's. I worked in a market that was not New York and I was not doing investment sales brokerage, so I do not have direct finance experience. I have noticed that this is somewhat of an obstacle in getting interviews, however, I feel that an Acquisitions job is attainable given my Master's degree. I have considered re-entering the sell side as a financial analyst, but I would prefer to get right into the buy side if I can.
  • I'm also interested in the Tech-forward real estate investors (i.e. Fundrise, Cadre, RealtyMogul, etc.). I am curious what people's perceptions/experiences with these companies is and how they stack up to the more traditional PE funds?
  • I'd like to stay in New York if possible, but am open to relocating to a market like Austin, Denver, Nashville for the right job.

*Disclaimer: these descriptions may be somewhat off given my lack of experience in the business. I wanted to do my best at providing a framework for a productive discussion.

    Comments (4)

    Most Helpful
    redever, what's your opinion? Comment below:

    So, I gotta commend you OP on a very well thought out question. Unfortunately I doubt anyone will be able to answer it as you framed it. Culture/WLB/Comp/"exits"... are going to vary firm by firm and frankly by region/dept within each firm. Some places will treat analysts relatively well, but not pay them so well, and others will do the exact reverse. To some extent individual managers one has can impact this a great deal.

    Your proposed tier structure by AUM (which deserves some kudos... many on WSO go with fundraising within strategy/style by just using the PERE 100/200 lists, AUM is far more meaningful in assessing a firm's scale/scope of operations, so you prob get more value staring at the IREI lists I'd guess?), seems to be centric with smaller firms (at least as I'd categorize) given you have three breakpoints for those with total AUM under a $1bil. Smaller firms can be very all over the place in terms of the items you ask about, I would be very careful to generalize. Larger firms have more resources, more layered structures/hierarchies, and will overall follow more "corporate" playbooks. Also, "smaller" firms will have far less openings in a given year (if any), so finding out the average "analyst experience" is down right impossible. 

    So what should you do, a recent MS grad looking to work in institutional CRE in NYC............. basically what you say you are doing.... network like crazy, apply to everything, cold contact, use your uni's job services, do whatever you can. One tactical point if you are without any a current CRE job, consider internships at legit buyside shops that you would work out. The "post-grad" internship is real thing, and I've seen it lead to FT hire-on often (happened at my shop during covid actually). 

    To be honest..... the best firm for you is the one that makes you an offer. You are seeking your first real buyside post-grad role, thus, you are kinda in place where you shouldn't be that picky. If the place or job doesn't live up to expectations, you can get another job, chances are whatever you take now, won't be your last. 

    No need to overthink this, just get hired!  

    Browndog Capital, what's your opinion? Comment below:

    Thank you! Really appreciate this thoughtful response. I definitely hear you that the employee experience differs so drastically company by company (and even individual teams/managers within each company). I have a lot of time on my hands right now so am thinking a lot about this stuff (perhaps overthinking) because I want to set myself up for success. Always good to be reminded, too, that you aren't wedded to your first job for life! 

    • Analyst 1 in RE - Comm

    Can't speak to the industry perception of Fundrise but I have spoken to employees there who really like it and believe in it. However, I believe they're mostly focused on building out the tech side of their business at the moment, though this could've changed in recent months

    • Works at Jones Lang LaSalle

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