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Jaime Fink Discusses His Journey Through the Real Estate Industry and His Lasting Connections from the Program

Posted By Maria-Elena Svigos, Monday, February 11, 2019

 


Jaime Fink (MS 1997) was recently elected to the WREAA Board of Directors as an At-Large Director.  In this post, he talks with Social Media Intern Maria-Elena Svigos (BBA 2019).  They discuss his journey to HFF, his lasting connections from the Wisconsin Real Estate Program, and his advice for students navigating the industry today. 

 

 

Please share your real estate work experience after graduating from the UW and how it led you to brokerage, and specifically HFF.

 

I attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison thru a 4-year Air Force ROTC scholarship and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering.  After graduation, I was commissioned as a U.S. Air Force officer and was based out of the Space and Missile Systems Center in Los Angeles, California.  I worked on mobile and fixed installation systems for the Defense Support Program (now Space-Based Infrared System) and spacecraft for the Global Positioning System. After my active duty service ended, I attended graduate school and earned a Master of Science degree in Real Estate and Urban Land Economics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

 

While in graduate school, I was fortunate to have two internships. The first internship was at the State of Wisconsin Investment Board and the second internship was at Equity Residential.  Both internships were very interesting and educational, which gave me great insights into the real estate industry. In 1998, after graduation, I was hired by Eastdil and worked there for 6 years. Then, I transitioned to HFF in 2004 and have been here ever since. When I began at HFF, my primary focus was office investment sale transactions, but I also did multi-housing, retail, industrial and hotel investment sale and equity placement transactions. 

 

 

Not only are you now the Senior Managing Director of HFF’s Chicago office, but you are also co-founder of HFF’s Global Capital Team. Can you talk a little bit about this team?

 

A year after I moved to HFF, I co-founded the Global Capital team with a couple of my HFF colleagues. Our focus is bringing cross border capital to U.S. real estate.  Early on in my career at HFF, I saw a need to get a good understanding of what foreign investors want to buy and to make them aware of HFF. In the beginning, Europe was the focal point, but as the team has grown, we’ve gone on to include other parts of the world such as Canada, Israel, Australia, Singapore, Japan, Korea, China, the Arabian Gulf nations, South and Central America.  

 

 

You have over 20 years of real estate expertise and $23 billion in transactions, with deals that include the Willis Tower, the Old Chicago Post Office Building and the Civic Opera Building. What has been the most enjoyable or unique deal that you have worked on?

 

There have been a lot of interesting and challenging transactions.  My business partners and I were very fortunate to work on the Blackstone/Equity Office Portfolio sale in Chicago. It was in 2007, which was a very exciting time, and the portfolio was very large, consisting of $2.77 billion of assets that included more than 12 million square feet of office space in the Chicago area. We knew that a portfolio of this size would likely never be assembled again in Chicago. In addition, we had an exceptional client, Blackstone, that was wonderful to work with on the transaction.  Other buildings, like the Willis Tower, are traded multiple times, but the Blackstone/Equity Office Portfolio was a once in a lifetime event and there was a tremendous amount of interest and excitement in the deal. 300 North LaSalle was another memorable transaction.  We had an excellent client, KBS, and a great buyer, Irvine Company, that performed phenomenally on the acquisition.  300 North LaSalle set a record in Chicago for highest price per square foot for a large office building, a record that still hasn’t been broken yet. 

 

 

How do you stay connected to and involved with the Wisconsin Real Estate Alumni Network?

 

Wisconsin has a great real estate alumni association. I consistently attend the reunion every two years and the Trends Conference that occurs in the opposite years, as well as the regional get-togethers. I feel that if I consistently attend these events, I can network and keep in touch with the alumni as well as meet new people coming out of the program. I cover Europe and Canada for HFF on the global capital front, and there are two major conferences in Europe, Expo Real in Munich and MIPIM in Cannes. Wisconsin has a fantastic program that sends students to these conferences and I always try to coordinate with them. When the students arrive, I meet them and talk about real estate, give them my perspective on the global capital markets and where we see capital flowing, as well as give the students some guidance about the conferences. I enjoy this as much as they do. Doing this allows me to connect with graduating students and I enjoy seeing how their careers progress overtime. It’s amazing to see some of the high-quality people that Wisconsin is putting out into the real estate community.

 

 

How have you benefited from being a member of the Wisconsin Real Estate Alumni Association? 

 

I believe you get out of it what you put into it.  You don’t need to be on the Board to be an active participant.  You can help out in the Wisconsin Real Estate Alumni Program as a guide for graduating students. One of the key things I learned as a graduate student of Wisconsin was to reach out to alumni.   I have always remembered the alumni that called me back. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for those people who helped me out early on in my career.  Those alumni were a big influence on my career, and I am very appreciative of that. Because of my experience, when a student from Wisconsin calls me up, I always try to respond right away. Even though I can’t offer everyone a job, I’m always here for them to call up and bounce ideas off of about career paths and how to pursue their passion.  One of the key things that alumni can do to give back to the program, is to offer their time and efforts. Donations are always appreciated as well, but your time is key.

 

 

What advice do you have for current students who will soon become commercial real estate professionals?

 

Never stop networking and expanding your group of business professional associates. You can never have enough friends. You can never have enough people you know in the real estate community. When people reach out to me, I respond and say, “Do one favor for me. At some point in your career, a Wisconsin grad or student will call you up and ask you for some guidance. Promise me you’ll call them back and help them.” If everyone does that, we all help each other ultimately.  I’m happy to give my time and talk to people, I just want the people I’m helping to also help others. In every graduating class there are people who, with the help of others in the Wisconsin Network, go on to be executives in their own companies and have some amazing careers, developing knowledge and influence along the way.   It’s important to pay back the help you’ve received by responding to the students that are graduating and reaching out to you.

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