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Meet the millennial CEO

Most private real estate managers are not family-run. But they could stand to benefit from taking a page out of Hines’ succession plan.

The promotion of Laura Hines-Pierce to co-chief executive of Hines stands out for numerous reasons.

An obvious one is she is the third-generation leader of one of the few family-run firms in the PERE 100, following in the footsteps of her grandfather, Hines founder Gerald Hines, and father, chairman and now co-CEO, Jeff Hines.

She is also one of just a handful of women heading up a global private real estate business, along with Isabelle Scemama, global head of AXA IM Alts; Nathalie Paladitcheff, chief executive of Ivanhoé Cambridge; Kathleen McCarthy, global co-head of real estate at Blackstone; and Sophie van Oosterom, global head of real estate at Schroders. Notably, Hines-Pierce is also a pregnant CEO, with her second child due in April.

But what distinguishes Hines-Pierce the most among top private real estate executives is her age: at 38, she is believed to be the only millennial CEO of a PERE 100 firm.

With a youthful executive sitting in its highest office, it is not by coincidence that Hines is also one of the more forward-thinking firms in the industry. Among other initiatives, the Houston-based firm has opened an office dedicated to innovation and technology and has made a number of key ESG hires, including the industry’s first chief carbon officer last year. Hines-Pierce herself has been actively involved in the firm’s diversity and inclusion efforts and was part of the team that established its OneHines Women’s Network.

Hines-Pierce, who joined Hines in 2012, has worked alongside her father in the office of the CEO for the past two years. In an interview with PERE this week, she spoke about how the firm has benefited from their collaborative decision making: “Having our different perspectives, not only from a gender perspective, but from a generational perspective, we are really pushing each other in positive ways to get to the best outcome or best decision that I think we wouldn’t be doing individually.”

Few other, if any, private real estate managers have millennial CEOs. The fact that most of these firms are not family-run certainly has something to do with it, because it is no doubt easier to pass the baton to the next generation when it is being kept in the family. (It is worth pointing out, however, that one of the other more innovative managers on the PERE 100 is also a family-run business: Tishman Speyer, now in its second generation of leadership with Rob Speyer, a 52-year-old Gen-Xer.)

Still, Hines has done what many other private real estate managers have failed to do, which is to establish a clear succession plan for the firm’s leadership.  Many firms in the industry were founded by larger-than-life personalities whose brilliance and charisma were key reasons for their success. But with some of these executives, it remains a mystery who will replace them, nor do they show any inclination to ever step down, despite approaching or, in some cases, passing retirement age.

Hines, however, has presented an alternative for a leadership transition, which is for two generations to share the responsibilities of the top post for a number of years, in lieu of having the incumbent leader step down immediately. As Hines-Pierce alluded to in her earlier comments, this sharing of different generational perspectives has helped to not only make Hines’ decision making more robust, but to keep the firm moving forward and ahead of the pack. In an industry notorious for being slow to embrace change, private real estate managers will find the millennial perspective all the more valuable in staying relevant, particularly at time when change is occurring at an unprecedented rate.

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