Greystar on a transformative year

Triple-award winner Greystar embraced change in 2020, broadening its geographical and sector horizons, says executive managing director Wes Fuller.

This article is sponsored by Greystar

What were the key events for your firm last year?

Wes Fuller

We had several milestones in 2020. First, we acquired the property management arm of Alliance Residential Company in the US, which was the fourth largest property manager in the country. This grew our platform to 713,000 units under management and brought a high-quality portfolio that added to our scale in a lot of key cities, plus a really high-quality team.

We bought a 45 percent stake in investment manager Thackeray Partners, which enables us to move into the industrial and logistics space, both in the US and internationally, and adds a capability to provide capital to other multifamily investors and developers within our space.

We had a record year for fundraising, bringing in more than $5 billion. This was exciting, in part, because it included a number of new strategies. We closed our first, discretionary global fund, which raised $1.5 billion, and raised more than $1 billion to develop multifamily in Australia, the biggest fund of that type in the country. We also launched a Japan fund and closed a Brazilian venture – also firsts for us.

Finally, IQ Student, a £4.7 billion ($6.5 billion; €5.4 billion) UK student housing business, was sold to Blackstone Group in May 2020. Greystar was a founding shareholder in IQ, and it was the largest transaction in our firm’s history.

How has the operating environment been?

The operational challenges have been immense but we’re fortunate to have a great team that embraces challenges head-on. We have a significant front-line presence with over 16,000 team members, on site at properties, as well as our residents living in our properties around the world. Ensuring the safety of our team members and residents has been our number one priority, and as a global business we had to deal with the unique circumstances in different countries.

On the corporate side, we moved to remote work early and are still working from home. We had implemented the infrastructure for video calls prior to the lockdown so we were well prepared for the new normal of virtual communication.

How did you overcome the challenges you faced?

We had a pipeline of new deals to close and developments underway around the world. Generally, closings were delayed, and in some cases we restructured a deal or decided not to pursue it. Despite the unprecedented challenges, our development pipeline remains strong with over $16 billion AUM currently in development globally.

Who or what is mainly responsible for your success?

First, Greystar is a very collegial place. We have a lot of hard working, smart people who work together as a team.

The other element is our local presence in the cities where we operate. Greystar has become a large organization, but it has only become large because we have a great collection of local teams in many cities around the world. We learned this a long time ago: the power of our business model is greatest when we have scale in a particular city.

When we have scale in a particular city, our assets perform better because scale helps attract the best talent and, in operational real estate, talent drives asset execution.