Investors want their real estate chiefs to have debt expertise too

A trend of institutional investors elevating credit-focused executives is a natural and predictable mirror of what is happening with managers.

Glance at the promotion of Nunzio Laurenziello to chief executive officer of Generali Real Estate SGR, which manages the insurer’s real estate equity and debt fund investments, and you would be forgiven for feeling a sense of déjà vu.

After six years leading Generali’s real estate debt platform – read more about him at affiliate publication Real Estate Capital Europe here – Laurenziello assumes the role vacated by the long-serving Alberto Agazzi, who now occupies a newly-created, senior real estate role for parent company Generali Real Estate SPA.

The decision to elevate Laurenziello shares a similar rationale to that of a top real estate promotion at another big institutional investor: Ivanhoé Cambridge, the real estate business of La Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec. As part of an internalization exercise, the Canadian state pension elevated Rana Ghorayeb, who was previously the head of CDPQ’s real estate credit business Otéra Capital, to head of real estate, a new role she began this week.

In a parting interview with PERE published on Monday, her predecessor Nathalie Palladitcheff described Ghorayeb as her “natural” successor given her appointment comes at a time when real estate credit markets are front and center for most organizations in private real estate following the surge in base rates in 2022 and subsequent market disruptions around the world. Right for assessing the debt attached to Ivanhoé’s approximately C$77 billion ($56.12 billion; €52.4 billion) of assets under management, Palladitcheff also believed Ghorayeb is perfectly placed to also ascertain any new investing opportunities on the debt side of the capital stack.

While Generali would not comment beyond a statement on its senior changes, PERE understands from sources familiar with the investor they were made in part to be more active on the credit side of the capital markets equation too. The investor – which manages €37.4 billion of assets, per PERE data – is already engaged with value-add and construction financing and is believed to be motivated to be more active in originating senior debt as well. In Laurenziello, Generali has a professional who was living and breathing a financing market that has just experienced its wildest swing in terms of costs since the global financial crisis of 2008.

In making these promotions, both investors are mirroring human capital strategies already in full swing at various managers nowadays. Two examples: Starwood Capital Group appointed to president Jonathan Pollack, who was the global head of Blackstone’s global real estate credit business, in February. Months beforehand, KKR elevated to co-president Chris Lee; in addition to leading the private equity firm’s American real estate business, he ran its global real estate debt operations.

Widening financing gaps are expected to materialize from commercial real estate debt maturities of $1.5 trillion in the US, €650 billion in Europe and $177 billion in Asia through 2025 – totals from manager PIMCO’s well-versed Real Estate Reckoning white paper. Against that backdrop, the logic for ascending senior leadership from the world of credit is evidently becoming clearer for managers and investors alike.