EXCLUSIVE: USAA hires Forum Partners' IR chief

Gena Cheng has joined as a managing director in the global investors group of USAA Real Estate Company (USAA), the $12 billion real estate investment manager arm of the United Services Automobile Association

USAA Real Estate Company (USAA), the $12 billion real estate investment manager, has hired Gena Cheng, formerly a managing director and head of marketing and investor relations at Forum Partners. Cheng joined the San Antonio-headquartered firm earlier this month as managing director in its global investors group, PERE has learned.

She has had an 18-year career in the financial services industry. The former portfolio manager at APG Asset Management began her career as an investment banker with Morgan Stanley and as a co-founder and chief operating officer at JT Partners, a third-party placement agent before joining Forum in Greenwich, Connecticut in 2010 where she was responsible for overseeing all aspects of marketing and investor relations,

In an email to contacts, she said she was pleased to announce to have joined USAA Real Estate Company, which manages funds and separate accounts on behalf of institutional investors across the Americas, Europe and Asia. She added: “USAA’s parent is a AA+ rated financial services company with approximately $200 billion in assets under management. USAA’s core values of 'Service, loyalty, honesty and integrity” run throughout the organization and inform decision-making across the platform.” She added: “As a result, USAA has outperformed its peers over the last 10 years and, during the recent recession, suffered no defaults, foreclosures or permanent impairments.”

Her joining follows a period of expansion for the real estate investment arm of the United Services Automobile Association. As PERE reported in July, it struck its first deal outside of the US with the formation of a new joint venture in Europe, opening an office in Amsterdam in the process. Under that initiative, USAA has forged a new partnership with Mountpark Logistics, the logistics arm of London-based real estate developer Mountpark Properties. Logistics is expected to be the main sector focus for USAA in Europe, and while the company may pursue individual transactions with other developers, the Mountpark joint venture will be its sole strategic partnership in the region for the foreseeable future.

“We have a number of institutional clients in Europe, so we have a long history of spending time in that market,” said Len O’Donnell, chief executive of USAA Real Estate, in a statement following its European expansion. “It provided a logical place for us to expand abroad.”

O’Donnell leads the real estate platform, although Cheng will be reporting to Susan Wallace and executive managing director in the global investors group.