Feature: HSBC hires Herbert

John Herbert continues love affair with global banks and their real estate activities

John Herbert’s latest role as global head of real estate at HSBC is also the biggest job he has undertaken at a large global bank, but it is no surprise he has made it to the top.

US-born Herbert cut his teeth in real estate at Morgan Stanley in the 1980s when it was clear – like his fellow testosterone-filled contemporaries in the bull pen– he was a leader rather than a follower.

He worked in the same department as two other luminaries of real estate, both of whom went on to found their own firms; John Grayken with Lone Star and Paul Kazilionis with Westbrook.

During their time together, there were plenty of tales of disagreements in the department as each ego tried to dominate. 

Indeed, one deal on which the department was advising even gave birth to Lone Star itself when Grayken decided to go off and execute a deal himself outside the confines of Morgan Stanley.

As well as Morgan Stanley, Herbert has also worked for Citigroup and Merrill Lynch. At Merrill, he became managing director and head of European property and hotels, similar to his job at Citi. The position involved pulling together different parts of a real estate business, which will come in as handy experience in his new role at HSBC.

But he also has experience of distressed investing. For example, he worked on debt portfolio sales and debt restructuring at New York-based Victor Capital Group, which later became Capital Trust backed by Sam Zell. 

And he has working relationships with powerful figures in real estate and his contacts book is packed.

Just one example is John Klopp, the newly appointed head of Americas operations at Morgan Stanley Real Estate, with whom he worked at Capital Trust.

Herbert is joining HSBC from Italy’s Advanced Capital Group, the Milan private equity firm founded by Robert Tomei. Seth Lieberman, another high-profile real estate professional who was also at Capital Trust, is currently at the same firm.

Reportedly, Herbert is joining HSBC to oversee all of its real estate activities globally and “help drive the creation of a coherent, international real estate strategy”. He will work closely with Matt Webster, newly appointed global head of real estate financing. Webster is a former Goldman Sachs professional who later joined Hypo Real Estate running securitization deals with Herbert’s current colleague Lieberman, and so the links go on. 

Herbert’s appointment is an example of a large banking institution trying to better fix together different parts of its real estate activities to serve clients. Whether equity raising will be added to lending remains to be seen, but Herbert certainly has the experience of large organsiations and a fat contacts book required to make it work.