On August 8, 2017, ULI San Francisco had the pleasure of hosting Gloria Gil as a guest at the perennially popular Boardroom After Dark series. Boardroom After Dark allows ULI members to get to know influential real estate professionals over dinner in an informal setting.
Ms. Gil is currently the Managing Director of Real Estate for UC Regents. In addition, she serves as an Advisory Board member of the Institute of Real Estate Management, is a Plan Sponsor Council member of the Pension Real Estate Association, and a guest lecturer at the UC Irvine School of Business.
Ms. Gil has an educational background in electrical engineering and accounting. She started her career in Chicago with Aetna as part of their accounting group, and then she went to Draper & Kramer in accounting and property management, where she eventually started overseeing buildings. She moved to Los Angeles in 1986 and went to work for TCW as asset manager for CalSTRS’ separate account portfolio, and was involved in acquiring old buildings and renovating them, something she said she really enjoyed, as she likes “gritty real estate”. Following TCW, she joined LACERA (Los Angeles County Employees Retirement Association) as an investment officer and was later promoted to a Senior Investment Officer responsible for the real estate asset class, managing four separate accounts which grew from $1B to $3B over 10 years under her leadership.
Ms. Gil’s tenure at UC Regents began in 2006 when she was hired to start the real estate asset class for the pension and endowment funds. The real estate portfolio is now about $3.8B after 11 years, invested mostly in the U.S., overseeing 9 separate account managers (50% of the portfolio), and open-end and closed-end commingled funds for the remaining 50%.
Several program attendees had questions regarding how she selects investment managers, what characteristics and experience are important, and what their commonalities are. She said that UC Regents is known to have capital, to be “deal junkies”, very hands-on, and not just allocators of capital. UC looks to hire 3 to 5 new investment managers each year. Managers are required to co-invest with UC (at least 1%) and she ultimately wants them to have $1 billion of assets under management. UC’s goal is to “grow with” their investment managers. She said one of the most critical commonalities is transparency; does the manager tell them about both the good and the bad. In addition, she said she’s looking for managers who communicate with her regularly. UC Regents is constantly on the lookout for new managers; Ms. Gil makes a conscious effort to encourage diversity amongst their pool of managers and likes to take chances on smaller, emerging managers who may get overlooked by others. She said she focuses on coveting and nurturing the relationships with UC’s investment managers, as she believes this will ultimately lead to better returns. However, she said that there are occasions where they will continue working with managers even if they haven’t met UC’s returns, as she believes in giving managers time to mature and to create value with their “build to core” strategies.
Attendees also asked questions related to how UC Regents determines their high-level strategy. Ms. Gil said that they have to be very “nimble” and also be willing to switch their focus depending on pricing. She said that their job is ultimately to be risk managers and that there is no such thing as “like minded investors,” something they experienced during the downturn when investors had differing opinions on how to address the issues on each fund. She said that they currently have a good base of office, industrial, retail and multifamily assets and that they can now afford to look at other niche opportunities, such as student housing, data centers and senior living facilities, which are more attractively priced.
With respect to her career path, Ms. Gil said that her experience receiving coaching and mentoring from others helped her a great deal. She used to get very nervous speaking to crowds or making presentations, but worked diligently to overcome this. She said that giving back and mentoring is very important to her because it was such a huge help to her. She cautioned that it is important to never to burn bridges, no matter how much you’ve been offended; it’s a very small industry and she advised that “nothing bad will happen if you stick to the truth”. She said her staff once told her “the toes you step on today are connected to the ass you’re going to kiss later on”.
Ms. Gil splits her time between the Bay Area and Southern California, where her husband and son live. She credits her husband (they have been married for 45 years) for being flexible, supportive, and understanding of her heavy travel schedule, which has enabled her to have the career she wanted. In the end, she said that “loving what you do is not work”. There is no question that Gloria Gil is passionate about her family, her work, and giving back to the community.
By Lisa Kabot, CODA Consulting