A Day in the Life of an Asset Manager

by Greg Barrett

I’m an asset manager for a small real estate private equity company. In this post I’m going to break down what a typical day looks like. You may think that I tried to exaggerate the number of different tasks I’m involved in in  a single day, but this really is what a typical day looks like.  Of course, if you work for a larger firm with many verticals within each department, then this would not be typical.  When I worked for a large publicly traded REIT, my day was much more focused – I performed a lot of the same tasks over and over again.  The larger the company the more specialized your work will be. I won’t delve into the pros and cons of working for small and large companies on this post, but I do want to make the distinction that your responsibilities as an asset manager can vary widely from one organization to another.

Currently I oversee over 1MM SF of retail and industrial assets in the Western US.  OK, here we go.

8:00  AM:  I usually get into the office around 8am. However, several times per week I get in between 7-7:30am in order to get things done before the day heats up. I generally spend the first 10 minutes reviewing what I need to accomplish that day, going over my calendar, and setting my goals. I try to identify the two or three highest priorities of each day. After that I usually spend a few minutes responding to emails that came in the night before that need a timely response.  Then I try to tackle my highest priority objective for the day, before the phone starts ringing and meetings begin. This could be anything from reading through a lease, a letter of intent, responding to an attorney, preparing for a meeting, reviewing property-level financials, or running a financial analysis on a transaction.

9:00 AM:  Leasing Meeting With Brokers:  As an asset manager, I oversee all of our leasing teams (in my portfolio).  I hire a third-party brokerage company to handle the leasing for our assets. I have one or two calls with brokers each day.  On this day, I have a call with a leasing team that lists three properties for us in one of our key markets.  We discuss the one pending lease we have, and the prospective tenants who have shown interest in the property.  I reviewed a potential deal before the call, so I give them direction in terms of how I want them to respond to the offer.  Then we discuss their marketing initiatives and what they are seeing in the market.

9:30 AM:  By now I have 20 emails.  I go through them, and about 10 of them I need to respond to.  One is from an attorney I’m working with on a lease.  I review her suggested revisions and respond with my recommendations.  Another email comes from a property manager.  She would like to do some repairs and cosmetic work at one of our properties before the end of the year.  I go into the budget and see if we budgeted for any of these items.  There is some room there and I know that 4 of the 10 items on her list would make a big impact considering their cost (good ROI). I approve the 4 items that fit within the budget for the year.  I then quickly respond to the rest before my 10 meeting.

10:00 AM:  Today we have a meeting with the company leadership.  We go over successes from the week prior, goals for the week and I give the executive committee an update on my portfolio.  This includes new deals and opportunities, deals that closed last week, and updates on leasing activity, dispositions, construction, and other important issues regarding my portfolio.  On this call I find out that our acquisitions guy has found a deal in one of the markets I cover. 

10:45 AM:  The meeting is over and I’m curious to get more info on this potential acquisition. It is my job to do some of the initial research and provide MLA’s (leasing assumptions) to our financial analyst who will run the Argus model.  I read the OM, take a look at the trade area, and do a quick SWOT analysis based on what I know.  I write down key issues and questions that need to be answered. Then I call a broker I have a relationship with in that market. I tell him we are going to potentially take a run at this deal and that I’m trying to gather info on it.  He’s familiar with the asset and the ownership group, so the call was worthwhile.  I then go through the rent roll and make some preliminary assumptions; then I send these to our financial analyst to get a back of the envelope picture of whether we want to pursue this deal.

11:30 AM:  Interview a candidate for the accounting department.  As an asset manager, I work with just about every internal team on a consistent basis.  As a result, we are generally brought in to interview potential candidates for just about every position within the company.  I’m part of a panel interviewing this person for the role.

12:30 PM: Lunch.  I usually bring leftovers to work.  Its fast and generally more healthy than going out.  I heat it up and head to the third floor terrace where I can site out side and get some fresh air and sunlight.

1:00 PM:  I have 30 new emails.  I try to get though these as quickly as I can so that I can get to my work.  One jumps out because its an offer on a property I have listed for sale.  We pursued a break up strategy on this asset.  In other words, we bought a large shopping center, split the property into numerous parcels, and are in the process of selling those individuals buildings/parcels.  This offer came in on a retail building that is about 30,000 SF and has about 10 tenants.  I read through the offer and mark up the LOI. Then I call the broker listing the asset for me and gather more info about the prospective buyer and how to formulate a counter proposal.  I run a quick financial analysis to see where I need to be to make this pencil.  Then I run across the hall to talk to my boss about the deal.  I propose my counter and talk her through how I arrived at it.  She is in agreement. So I send out and LOI to the broker to forward to the prospective buyer.

2:00 PM:  Conference call with JV Partner.  We entered into a partnership with another operator on one of our deals.  Once per week we jump on a call to discuss operations, leasing, construction, and any other issues that need to be discussed regarding the asset.  Today, we need to discuss a legal matter so we conference in our outside counsel to discuss the issue.  I then gave the team direction as to how to proceed in regards to that legal issue. 

3:00 PM:  I have an hour before my next meeting. It’s budgeting season so I open up one of my property’s budget.  I need to review the inputs made by our property management team in regards to operating expenses and CapEx for the upcoming year.  I see that they are projecting significantly higher costs for 2020 for certain line items and lower costs for other line items.  I put together a list of questions I need to ask property management as its my job to manage the budget and keep costs down so that we can meet our FFO targets.  I gather my questions and set up a meeting with the property manager.

4:00 PM:  Meeting with Construction Management team.  Once a week I hold a call with a third-party construction management team.  They manage all construction related issues regarding a lifestyle center in my portfolio.  We bought this asset because it was priced well below replacement cost and because a ton of value could be created as the former owner didn’t give it the attention it needed.  We are completing a multi-million dollar renovation. On top of that, we have six or seven tenants that are in the middle of their respective build outs.  We talk about the progress being made on the capital improvements (monument signs, shade structures, splash pad, new lighting, paint, etc.) as well as the status of the tenant build outs and their permits and approvals.  There are some hiccups, as always, but we’ve put in place a strategy and made decisions about how we are going to proceed.

4:45 PM: Meeting with Associate: I have an associate on my team and he is responsible for handling a lot of the financial analysis, lease renewals, research, etc.  I spend more of my time managing people and deal making and I need him to manage those things that I don’t have time to handle.  We meet periodically throughout each day, as I have an open door policy and we are teammates.  Today we talk about a few renewals he is working on and how we get these renewals over the goal line.  After we strategize about renewals, we talk about a few accounting issues and some research he is performing.  We set objectives and goals for tomorrow.

5:00 PM:  Usually by 5 PM things are slowing down. There are no more meetings and hopefully no more calls.  I try not to leave the office after 6 PM – because I try to get home to have dinner with my wife and see my baby before he goes to sleep.  I spend the first part of the hour catching up on emails and chatting with some of the folks in the office. 

I’m working on a build-to-suit at on of our properties.  One of or tenants, currently located on an endcap, wants a standalone building with a drive-thru. Fortunately, we have more parking than we need and some space in front of one of the anchors.  So I spend some time putting together a financial model based on the projected development costs, entitlement costs, and the costs to pay off our anchor tenants in order to do the development (we need a waiver from them since they their leases restrict this kind of development).  After that, I run home to see my family.

There it is – a  typical day for me as an asset manager.  I enjoy the variety of different things I get to work on each day.  Although this is a typical day, each day is different.  Each day is also unpredictable because unexpected challenges and opportunities present each day.

As an asset manager, you have to be a generalist.  You have to be someone who can wear many hats.  You have to be comfortable making decisions, managing people, and dealing with a high level of stress.  Since you are the CEO of your assets, you have to know them inside out, and give direction to all the people that work on those assets.  You have to coordinate all of their efforts in order to maximize NOI.  If you want to clock in, enjoy a comfortable and stress free day, then asset management is not for you.  To thrive in this kind of work, you have to enjoy working under pressure, being very busy, and solving challenging problems.  I hope this helps you better understand the role and life of an asset manager.

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