An Executive Summary with Connie Moore

The Executive Summary is a brief video series in which Bay Area real estate and land use professionals discuss the arc of their careers, personal interests, and the impact of ULI on their careers.

An Executive Summary with Connie Moore

Connie Moore has been President and Chief Executive Officer of BRE Properties since 2005. Prior to serving in this capacity, Connie was Director of BRE in 2002 and President and Chief Operating Officer in 2004.

Connie has over 30 years of experience in the real estate industry including: Managing Director of Security Capital Group & Affiliates; several executive positions with Security Capital Group, including Co-Chairman and CEO of Archstone Communities Trust; and Co-Chairman and CEO of Security Capital Atlantic, Inc., a predecessor of Archstone. In addition, during her tenure at Security Capital Group, Connie served on the boards of directors of both public and private companies owned or controlled by that organization.

Moore holds an M.B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley, Haas School of Business, and a bachelor’s degree from San Jose State University.  She served as Chair of the National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts (NAREIT), and now serves on the Executive Committee. Currently, she is chair of the Fisher Center for Real Estate & Urban Economics Policy Advisory Board at U.C. Berkeley, a member of the Urban Land Institute and the Real Estate Roundtable, a member of the Joint Center for Housing Studies Policy Advisory Board at Harvard University, a member of the National Multi-Housing Council, and Chair of the San Jose State University Tower Foundation.

Connie has been a member of the Urban Land Institute for nearly 20 years.  She has particpated on the National level by serving on the Small-Scale Development Council, the Multi-Family Council – Silver Flight, and the Multi-Family Council – Blue Flight, on which she is currently a member.  Locally, Connie sits on ULI San Francisco’s Executive Board and is Co-Chair of the ULIsf Sponsorship Committee.  Moreover, Connie donates countless hours to speaking at National Product Council meetings and local District Council events, including most recently, YLG’s signature event Learn From the Best X.

Full-Length Interview

I’m Connie Moore, President and Chief Executive Officer of BRE Properties, here in San Francisco.

First Job in Real Estate / Land Use Field:

My first job was actually with BRE. I started with BRE right after school and started as a financial analyst and I was there for about six years. BRE in the early days was a very small company; and I was a financial analyst and we were doing mostly acquisitions of existing assets, but we had a lot of troubled assets.  It had been one of the REIT’s that had come out of the ‘74/’75 crisis and so in 1977 when I started we had 30 percent of our portfolio that was considered nonearning. And so that’s how I started.

Mentors in Your Career:

You know over the last 35 years I’ve had several. Probably the first one was one of my first bosses at BRE—a guy by the name of Stan Madison.  I remember Stan always saying, “Don’t rest on your laurels.” You were only as good as your last deal and you’ve got to work hard.  And then I’ve had a lot throughout my life.  Bill Sanders was probably one that was most impactful in terms of my career.  He was Chairman of Security Capital which was where I was before I came back to BRE, about 9 years ago.  And then my husband has been a mentor.  He’s an amazing operational person so he helped me understand dealing with people and dealing with operations.  So it has been a variety of people, but probably three key ones in my life.Greatest Career Satisfaction:You know I get the most satisfaction out of developing people.  I’ve been doing this now long enough that there are people that come back and say, “It was great working for you 20 years ago and here’s what I’m doing now.”  Ultimately it is about the people, right?  And so that’s the most fun for me is developing people.

Toughest Challenges Faced in Your Career:

Well, it gets back to people again.  I think the toughest challenge is making decisions about people quickly when they’re not right for the organization.  Probably the first time I had to lay off people I was 28 years old.  I didn’t know we were in the middle of an M&A transaction when I was working for a company called Consolidated Capital, but my department was overhead and they said, you need to cut half your overhead, but I didn’t really know why. And deciding how you were going to cut people at 28 years old when you thought your whole team was great was a real education in terms of thinking about who you want on your team and then how you communicate it fairly and effectively to those who are going to be leaving.  That was really tough.  It has helped me a lot throughout my career in terms of thinking about people.  The hardest decision is to make a decision to have someone leave, because you know it’s easy when someone’s stealing from you—that’s really easy—but if someone’s just not working out, making the decision quick enough is a challenge.  What I’ve learned over time is that it’s best for the organization and it’s ultimately best for the person, but man, it’s tough.

Lessons Learned from Past Real Estate Cycles:

I think the biggest lessons I’ve learned is probably coming out of this last cycle that we’ve all called The Great Recession.  I think that what I’ve learned is particularly operating in the bubble, where as a public company it was fun to watch our stock price just go up and up and up, knowing full well it probably wasn’t a $70 stock. What I should have done at the time was, if I really believed it wasn’t a $70 stock, I needed to ask myself, “does it change my strategy or does it change my tactics?” and I might have raised equity at $70.  Instead, I waited for the stock to go to $17 and crawl its way back up to $34 and raised equity at $34 for the first time in a long time.  So I think I’ve learned that nothing is ever as good or as bad as you think it is, and you need to look at it and listen to your gut.  And I think that if I listen to my gut I think we might have done things a little bit differently. So it’s going to help me going forward that I know that a strong balance sheet wins every time.  And so make sure that you have a strong balance sheet and don’t fall in love with the deal.

Favorite Places in the Bay Area / World:

I love the history of the Bay Area. Buildings like the Ferry Building.  I think that renovation brought that building back to its original charm.  I live in a Victorian and I think a lot about Victorians these days as we think about housing.  I love them, they’re historic, they’re wonderful, they’re fun to live in, but they’re also one of the most flexible houses.  You think about how many Victorians have gone from one unit to five units back to one unit and I think about the housing that we’ve built over the last several years and a 10,000 square foot house over in Blackhawk is probably not going to be chopped up into five houses. And so it’s very efficient, when a house gets too expensive, you can create a multi-unit out of it, and I hadn’t really thought about it until I started thinking about how we deal with some of the housing issues.  They’re very flexible and I love them; they’re just fun to live in.  And I just love some of the old places around this country.  I love going to Washington, DC.  I think Alistair Cooke called it the town with wedding cake tops, because all of the buildings look like tops of wedding cakes, which I always thought that was kind of amusing, but there’s so much history.  My house was built in 1883 so I always walk in old buildings and wonder, if those walls could talk. Who was there?  Who thought about it?  Was it successful?  Because we often know that sometimes the first owner of a building isn’t always the most successful; and how someone created it in the first place.  For me that’s fun.

Favorite Ways to Unwind:

Oh, unwinding; that’s a really hard one for me.  As most people know me, I work about six and a half days a week, so it’s really not work for me.  I unwind by working on the weekends when there’s no one there so that Monday I feel ready to work and I’m relaxed because I’m not coming into a pile of papers.  I’m not a very good golfer, but I love golfing.  I love walking the courses—it’s great.  I love to read. I love to hike.  My husband and I have a cattle ranch outside of Fort Worth, Texas, so we raise longhorns and to me that’s great.  I go there and hang out with the cows so that’s always fun—a little different than living here in the city.

ULI’s Impact on Your Career:

ULI has impacted my career in many ways.  I think the easiest way to answer that question is real estate is all about connections and it’s all about people (it gets back to the whole people thing); and ULI is about connecting with people and connecting with people in the industry in a variety of fields within the industry.  I know that I can call on a ULI member if I’ve got a problem with something that we’re working on and I’m going to get them and I’m going to get an answer. And so for me it’s just about connections, because again you realize the older you get in this industry how small the real estate industry is, both at the community level and even at the national level, and having those connections and being able to connect with people over a long period of time is awesome for anybody’s career.

The Executive Summary, developed by Rob DeWaters and Miles Garber, aims to foster wider professional and personal connections across the ULI San Francisco membership.