Q&A - Senior Associate Ex-Megafund (REPE)

Hello monkeys-
 

Thought I might give back to the community that's helped me get to where I am and taught me about the world of finance. Here's a little about me:
 

Educational Background:

  • T-5 Magnet Public STEM High School (feeder into Ivy; 50% of graduating class of 69 went to an Ivy or quasi-Ivy) 
  • SAT: 1600/1600 Composite; 2290/2400 
  • HS GPA: 3.8 (92/100) 
  • Applied to only NEC BSchools and HPY; accepted at my state school (full ride) and T-5 BSchool. Rejected from all Ivy League schools. 
  • Went with T-5 Business School (Non-Ivy), half ride with three other scholarships. Still graduated with $150K in student loans. 
  • Freshman & Sophomore year downward trajectory GPA from 3.2 to 0.8.
  • Decided to drop out and study compsci and try to land a job without a college degree so took a gap semester to study. Realized I didn't want to pursue compsci so returned to BSchool.
  • Junior & Senior year upward trajectory from 3.2 to 4.0. GPA Major was a 3.97. 
  • Graduated in 4.5 years with a sub-3.0 cumulative GPA and a dream. 

Professional Experience:

  • Sophomore summer sent in 150 applications and heard back from one-a data science yearlong feeder program into full-time. Did that for 3 months in the spring and decided I didn't want to work there long term
  • Applied to ~50 or so more internships hoping for a VC role, but instead landed at a tiny boutique REPE/Investment Firm (<$100M AUM) as a Research Analyst ("Firm 1") 
  • First month had no idea what was going on, second month figured out what the important bits were and what to aspire to contribute so bought a bunch of self-learning courses on real estate financial modeling 
  • Modeled a live deal at Firm 1 and came within bps of return metrics. Principals were impressed and decided to keep me on for a full year (part time during the school year) as an Acquisitions Analyst. Also took lead on various consulting engagement as my modeling skills were slowly developing. Received FT offer at $70K all-in, which was more like a courtesy (they didn't expect me to accept it)
  • Applied to 300 Junior Summer internships and heard back from two. Leveraged Firm 1 experience and above-average technical skills in financial modeling into a Summer Analyst position at a T-3 REPE firm (BX, Brookfield, Starwood) but under the AM group. Received the return offer and accepted ("Firm 2"). Pro-rated 85k over the summer with a 15k signing bonus for FT offer. 
  • Upon graduation, I had 4 months of free time before my FT at Firm 2. So reached out to professor at my school that ran his own development shop. 
  • Worked there for 4 months; last day there, professor said, "Why don't you work at Firm 2 for a year or two and come back and work for me? You'll make a lot more money." I agreed.
  • Worked at Firm 2 for a year averaging 80 hrs a week with 4-6 week sprints of 100 hrs back to back. Hated my manager and couldn't wait to leave. Bonus hit my account and within 10 minutes I sent my resignation letter. TC: $170K 
  • Went back to work for professor's firm (AUM ~$250M). Within a couple months we conceived of a brand new strategy/niche to invest in.
  • Was part of the founding team of the firm today (Firm 3) and participated in capital raising process, diligence calls, preparing materials (deal summaries and models). Institutionalized all our UW and decks leveraging prior experience at Firm 2. TC: $125K
  • Currently a Senior Associate in Acquisitions at Firm 3, a multi-billion dollar JV with a top BB as our partner. Expected TC: $175-200K
  • Recently was just testing the waters in terms of what the market prices me at for comp and with ~3 years of experience I'm seeing roughly $250-350K all-in comp packages. 
     

Happy to answer any and all questions-everything is fair game and I'll try my best to respond to all. 
 

P.S. I run a Discord for RE professionals-Real Estate Professionals Network (REPN)-DM me for an invite or ask about it here and I'll post a link! 
 

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Comments (35)

May 4, 2022 - 11:10pm
jamesbaldwin, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Thanks for the willingness to help and share your story. Sorry if my questions are a bit long winded!

(1) Please share the link for the Discord you mentioned. (2) How did you convince your professor to work with you - how did you pitch yourself? (3) For your experience at firm #2, why did you hate your manager? I ask so that I'm aware of potential yellow and red flags when recruiting in the future. Even if it's a dream role, having a bad manager, I think, would kill your experience (and professional growth) (4) It seems that you "fell into" REPE. From your perspective, how would a candidate successfully pitch their passion for doing a certain type of work (let's take REPE in this case) without direct prior experience i.e. real estate investment banking? Continuing on the REPE example, I'd think logically articulating how your story feeds into the industry's current (and future) narrative would give you a shot at breaking in. What do you think?

Most Helpful
May 5, 2022 - 1:58am
RE-PE, what's your opinion? Comment below:

No problem--I'll try to answer as best I can! 

1) https://discord.gg/xxWQ2nC 

2) I was the top student in his class, and just shot him an email asking if he knew any developers looking for help for 4 months. I told him I was interested in gaining experience in development as I only worked in REPE before. 

3) Honestly, it started off as an amicable relationship where they were teaching me the ropes and I was ramping up very quickly due to my prior self-learning endeavors. But I noticed a couple months in they were really just teaching me all the BS grindy work so they could get it off their plate--which is ultimately fair in the grand scheme of things (as you progress in your career, your juniors start doing the work you don't want to do anymore). But it got to the point where they would be in a live file, for example, and literally insert a comment saying, "change this word to XYZ"--when it was their own edit to begin with. Another red flag was having me pre-emptively package a full report multiple times to incorporate minor changes due to lack of thinking of ahead. Time management also became an issue as they would enforce pushed-up deadlines to instill a sense of false urgency--one particularly nasty example was when I needed to drop my cat off to the vet 5 minutes down the block, but they refused to let me go, saying a report was due immediately within the next 30 minutes. I finished the report and found out it was really due tomorrow--to this day I still cannot comprehend their reasoning behind that except for malicious intent (I ended up having to give my cat away to an owner who could better take care of her due to multiple events like this happening). Another red flag was facetime--but not your typical facetime of needing to be in the office until they left, but having to stay and complete something even AFTER they left despite it not being due that night. This resulted in many nights where I was the only one left in the office late into the night while they went home 3 - 4 hours earlier. One final red flag since this is getting long-winded; not being allowed to work with another senior despite being assigned to them. What I mean by this is, each senior had their own responsibilities and parts of the business they operated in, and I asked for more exposure in a certain area. I was granted permission by the MD to work under both my original senior and the new senior, but every time I tried to get some time to work with the new senior, my original senior would magically come up with a new urgent task to be completed. I never got to work with the second senior nor did I receive the exposure I seeked. 

4) I've done quite a few interviews and honestly have not heard any good answers. If I were in their shoes without any prior experience, I would express my desire to work in the real estate industry as a way to impact people and communities positively while presenting an example of such a way to do so--for example if I were interviewing for an industrial/logistics role, I'd speak about wanting to be a part of the solution to improve truckers' experiences via investing in/developing better logistics facilities in places that need it, which would coincide with where demand is the greatest and therefore also profit. I'd also contrast it with an example of how real estate can harm people, such as bringing up the story of Invitation Homes and how they displaced tens if not hundreds or millions of people during the subprime mortgage crisis and expressing a desire to avoid that or even be part of the solution (if applying to an affordable housing developer for example). 

My personal answer to "Why RE?" is that during my first internship in REPE at Firm 1, my Principal was developing a condominium complex atop of four parcels, one of which had a grocery store on it. The development required the demolishing of said grocery store, which also meant displacing the workers who depended on their jobs there for their livelihoods. But instead of stepping on them to get to where he wanted and telling them to fuck off, he spent a full year ahead of time helping them find new jobs and even offering them future positions at the new complex. During construction, he was the kind of man that would treat the contractors and workers as equals, buying and having lunch with them, taking a genuine interest in their day-to-days, and overall being a good guy at heart. He taught me through his actions how to succeed in this business without having to be cutthroat and stepping on others, and all the while improving the communities he invested in while balancing gentrification with a little extra effort to help those affected by it. To this day, we still stay in touch, and I consider him my mentor and role model for life. 

Hope these long-winded answers helped--apologies for getting carried away here--

Real Estate Professional Network Discord Server: https://discord.gg/xxWQ2nC

  • 8
May 12, 2022 - 5:05pm
jamesbaldwin, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Thanks. A couple of follow-up questions.

(1) Your thoughts on the workforce, multifamily, and commercial property verticals? Including opportunities currently and as an outlook. (2) Whare are some "back of the envelope" math problems common in REPE interviews?

May 5, 2022 - 2:06am
RE-PE, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I definitely enjoy acquisitions over the operational/execution side of the business. Learning to navigate new markets, being able to tell a good deal from a bad deal within the first 10 seconds of seeing it, getting to a back of the napkin yield on cost that's within 25bps of when you actually underwrite it, are all great feelings and why I enjoy what I do now much more than the management/reporting/recommendation-ing side of the business. Edit: also the relationship-building part of sourcing deals is incredibly gratifying when I gain brokers' loyalties due to getting them genuinely insightful feedback and efficiency in getting a deal across the finish line quickly (it shows them that you care, and obviously they want to work with people that care and can get deals done).  

The end of quarter sprints definitely felt entirely pointless--especially the annual reports that management barely looked at. Ultimately, if things are going well, your reports are meaningless. It's only when shit hits the fan the reports or recommendations you make actually make a difference. The upside to this kind of role is learning how to defend your thesis or thinking during troubled times, and gaining conviction in your recommendations. Financial engineering in the AM/PM side of things can also be interesting conceptually--like learning how subscription lines are used to juice equity returns, or how some funds can get away with putting in GP equity by offering reduced management fees to their LPs and backing into their cost savings as a replacement for the GP equity. Covid was a great learning experience for valuations--figuring out how to not let your fund shit the bed by pulling certain levers can teach you a lot about how much BS there is in investor reporting and valuations when under economic stress. 

Real Estate Professional Network Discord Server: https://discord.gg/xxWQ2nC

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May 5, 2022 - 3:36pm
RE-PE, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Primarily acquisitions. Everything from sourcing through closing, then hand it off the AM. But I also maintain the portfolio model given my experience with that. Let me know if that answers your question or if you wanted a deeper overview of what I do on a daily basis. 

Real Estate Professional Network Discord Server: https://discord.gg/xxWQ2nC

May 5, 2022 - 12:08pm
RE-PE, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I have not really kept myself anonymous tbh

Real Estate Professional Network Discord Server: https://discord.gg/xxWQ2nC

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
May 5, 2022 - 1:40pm

Just editing my comment to say this guy worked in Portfolio Management, not asset management. His own prior posts show this - he did minimal investment work during his time at the megafund.

I'm guessing there is some sort of money/benefit associated with running a large discord and that's why he's on here pushing his profile as if he's some whiz kid. I saw him on other threads telling others to check out his discord. 

You guys are better off saving your questions for those who did actual investment work at large funds.

May 5, 2022 - 3:34pm
RE-PE, what's your opinion? Comment below:

No monetary benefit. It's for community/networking purposes. You should be able to tell based on why I'm in real estate in the first place. Also, I specified I worked under the AM group which includes PM-and if anything I was reviewing AM models across ~100 assets. No, I did not gain active investing experience during my time there and I also specified that in my response above. Don't know why you're hating so much-I'm just trying to help. 
 

Edit: if you did some DD before posting this comment and actually joined the server, you'd see that we commonly conduct resume reviews and mock interviews, absolutely free of charge, have a large repository of real estate materials for self-learning, and even have multiple senior-level/executive members helping out those with questions about career or industry. 

Real Estate Professional Network Discord Server: https://discord.gg/xxWQ2nC

  • 3
  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
May 5, 2022 - 8:27pm

Pic  

Oh, I'm sorry mate. Let me rephrase my comment "Classic calling yourself ex-Starwood when you worked in portfolio management and not asset management or acquisitions". Apparently okay when you do it but not when I do it?

The guy is inflating his credentials and engaging in general bull-shittery to promote his discord (which honestly, he doesn't have to do, seems like he's doing great)

  • In a comment in a separate thread he mentions that he's "interviewed hundreds of candidates" despite only being a couple years out of school
  • Referring to himself as ex-megafund even though he essentially had a middle office function
  • Inflating his role to asset management even though he did portfolio management
  • Quoting pro forma salary options based on introductory calls with recruiters??? Just because a recruiter verbally offers to line up an interview doesn't mean it's your role for the taking. That's like step 1 of 15 to getting an offer.

Idk dude, I'm fine with advertising the discord but I can do without all of the title inflation

May 5, 2022 - 3:35pm
RE-PE, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Noted-thanks

Real Estate Professional Network Discord Server: https://discord.gg/xxWQ2nC

  • 1
  • Intern in PE - LBOs
May 5, 2022 - 3:19pm

Would you be able to describe what you did as main tasks, and on a more day-to-day basis, at your MF in asset management? And would you say that your experience at the MF would have been different had you gone into acquisitions? How were your fellow juniors when working alongside you culture wise?

May 5, 2022 - 3:40pm
RE-PE, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I worked under the AM group but in PM-so my AM experience is limited to making recommendations to the business plan for assets to enhance portfolio returns, reviewing/tweaking AM models as needed, and essentially being the bridge between AMs and executive management as the MDs cared primarily about fund performance rather than specific asset performance. If you're still interested in what I did there I'm happy to opine further. 

Real Estate Professional Network Discord Server: https://discord.gg/xxWQ2nC

  • 1
May 5, 2022 - 4:26pm
BuySideIntern, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Hey I'm from your server. Thanks for doing this AMA and helping the community.

Just curious, what sort of work-life balance would you expect for those $250-350k roles? Why do you choose to stay at your current firm instead of taking a significant pay bump?

May 6, 2022 - 1:50pm
RE-PE, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Thanks for being part of the REPN community! To answer your question, I'm split between a couple decisions currently. First of all, staying at my firm as part of the founding team provides tremendous upside of things go well, but I feel undercomped and overworked at the moment. I have final round interviews at other firms and most are 60-70 hr/week jobs as well. Finally, I have an opportunity to be a partner at a "startup" in the same niche I'm working in now given my key role at where I'm at. That would be a 40-50/hr week gig with also tremendous upside if things go well, and I'd be started at a higher base too. So those are my options I'm mulling over-haven't decided but will soon see what's in the cards as I'm expecting three offers at more institutional firms and will do a pros and cons to figure out where I'm headed, if at all. 
 

Edit: As I'm not particularly anonymous, to any haters out there, I've already discussed this with my current firm so no need to try and sabotage my career (since that's happened once before, but spectacularly failed)

Real Estate Professional Network Discord Server: https://discord.gg/xxWQ2nC

  • 4
May 23, 2022 - 12:46pm
Macklemost, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Thanks so much for sharing! Have you ever come across (occasionally) incompetent/ defensive seniors? If so, how did you handle it in terms of setting up the right mindset/ communication?

May 25, 2022 - 3:13pm
RE-PE, what's your opinion? Comment below:

No problem! My first job at my megafund I came across what you're talking about. It honestly makes or breaks your career, and much of your experience will depend on who you get as a manager. I'm a very non-combative person by nature and some could even define me as a pushover; it worked well in academia but I found pretty soon that it definitely didn't work in the real world. I learned to push back against unreasonable deadlines, and one of the cards up my sleeve was actually giving myself some time off during the day by pretending the work took longer than it had (when appropriate, of course) to catch a breather every now and then. Ultimately, I'd say over the course of a year, my output decreased by 50% but my communication stayed at a consistent level, which is another way of saying that my soft skills made up for my deliberate decreasing of use of hard skills, and was still awarded the maximum bonus. I learned then that it's better to be communicative than to get every single thing done as quickly as possible, since people are generally reasonable and you need to focus on your own mental health at the same time. 

Real Estate Professional Network Discord Server: https://discord.gg/xxWQ2nC

  • 5
May 25, 2022 - 3:16pm
RE-PE, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Just a quick update--I've started my own company now and while it's still in stealth mode there are a lot of big things coming. Happy to answer any questions about that as well. 

Real Estate Professional Network Discord Server: https://discord.gg/xxWQ2nC

May 25, 2022 - 5:20pm
RE-PE, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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Real Estate Professional Network Discord Server: https://discord.gg/xxWQ2nC

  • Analyst 3+ in IB-M&A
May 29, 2022 - 11:28am

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