During an industry deep dive session at GlobeSt.com’s national Women of Influence conference, panelists discussed the labor market, advice and how to push forward and find new opportunities during times of uncertainty.
Key industry influencers from every link in the value chain came together Tuesday morning at the GlobeSt. national Women of Influence conference. Their goal was to discuss the current state of the CRE market, examine transactional shifts, break down key trends from capital resources to adaptive reuse, and where to find opportunities during such uncertainty. And when asked what keeps them up at night, the answer really was connected to their job.
Kristen Croxton, SVP of loan originations at Capital One, for example, has the lender perspective and is kept up at night by uncertainty and inflation. Panelist Siobhan Harold Fink, VP of workspace consulting at PPM, says the worry comes from what to do about attracting employees back into the office along with new ways of working. “Trying to figure out how to reposition assets keeps me up.”
For panelist Julie Baird, president of First American Exchange Co., the worry is affordability, more specifically, housing affordability and how that plans into her teams.
The panel then switched gears and dove into labor markets, and Harold Fink said that when you look at the workforce from a generational perspective, there is a large gap and she said that people are no longer necessarily tied to just doing one job. “They are doing side jobs due to affordability. Millennials and Gen Zs are not necessarily going and working for a big corporation… They are more entrepreneurial in terms of spirit and are choosing to work how they want to do.”
She continued that many are also making things work by working at home and don’t want to come back to work. “It is about finding a happy medium,” she said. “The purpose of space is about promoting creativity… There are also employee concerns with having a work life balance. They have redeveloped the life balance part of it which is why you have the push and pull between the two sides.”
Panelist Meghan Czechowski, managing director of Apprise by Walker & Dunlop, agreed noting that Millenials and Gen Zs are “very interested in ‘funployment’ and digital innovation. They need to enjoy what they are doing.”
As for what companies are doing to retain talent and back to the office plan, Croxton said that Capital One’s policy is a three-day work week in the office, but she said it hasn’t started yet. “We spent a lot of time putting together policies to get everyone reengaged.”
For Baird, her firm hasn’t issued any mandates. “Training, hiring and getting people ingrained in the culture is difficult when away from the office, but we are getting better at understanding what people need,” she said. “I don’t want to create additional hurdles for someone to come work for us and force them to come into the office when the office might not be necessary.”
True, said Harold Fink, there is not one size fits all. But she says that it is important to “really customize your model to what works best for your business.”
The panel then turned their sites to trends in digital acceleration and implanting improvements in that area. For Baird, the first thing her company looked at was how to add technology to their team to push some things digitally instead of manually each day. “Some automation is client facing and some are enhancement platforms for our teams,” she said.
For Capital One, Croxton said that it is a constant process. “We are still in a digital revolution and a lot of that is getting all the platforms on a similar system, removing the redundancies, and improving the systems.”
Czechowski said that her company is looking at enhancing the appraisal process and making it all web based. “We have built our own application and translated that into data points and been able to offer that up to our clients.”
So, when asked where opportunities are, Baird said her company is very focused on growth. “With the market shift, we see transaction volume shift and can catch our breath a little. We are in a sweet spot now with interest rates going up too, which doesn’t affect us negatively,” she said.
She also explained that her firm is focused on looking for strategic hires and thinking about the company’s geographic footprint, and about where they can increase their market share. “We need to look to lead at a time of transition and change.”
As for Baird’s advice, she says to know your ideal outcome and how you want to show up. “Content is important but what people will remember is how you make them feel and how you showed up for them.”
Harold Fink’s firm is testing new ideas and pushing forward. “We are sort of looking at how we move the industry forward and make all of our lives easier and better. It is about pushing the envelope and testing everything and seeing where we end up.”
She noted that it is key to be adaptable and flexible. “You can chart a path, but there is no right way right now. You don’t always have to be 100% right. You can try something and see where it goes.”
Croxton’s company is also in growth mode on the commercial banking side. “We are opening in markets we have not been to before. We are always looking to compete and take care of our clients. Another big focus is being one team. Traditionally big banks are siloed, but we are focused on working together.”
Her advice is to not be stagnant. “Watch the trends and figure out how you can be an advisor for your clients and provide the best service to them.”