Vicky Schiff is a big player in the real estate finance market, having co-founded debt investment platform Mosaic Real Estate Credit and MREC Management, where she serves as managing partner and chief operating officer. Schiff was introduced to the dynamic world of commercial real estate at the age of 3 by her father, a Las Vegas casino developer, and began her career in the 1980s. She has since co-founded five firms.
How Did You Get Your Start In CRE Finance?
I grew up in a real estate development family so started attending construction meetings at 3 years old when my father’s company built casino properties in Las Vegas. After I studied pre-med at USC, I decided to go into commercial real estate via brokerage in the late 1980s. I then joined an opportunistic investment firm in 1993 and gained tremendous experienced through that downturn.
I made mistakes and learned, was provided key responsibilities on the acquisition team where I learned a lot about underwriting, due diligence, legal structure, different asset classes and how to be tough. I was given the opportunity to prove myself and learn in a very entrepreneurial environment. After that, I started my first company in 1996 when I was around 30 years old, and since then have launched a number of platforms around real estate investment, fund management and lending.
Are Women Represented Enough In CRE Finance?
This is a tricky question. Traditionally, in my experience, women are hired more in “marketing” or asset management type roles in commercial real estate. With more and more women graduating with finance-related degrees, I am hopeful we will see more of us on the finance and deal side of the business. Our shop has three women on the deal team if you include me and five men, including Ethan and our asset management team. I would like to see a more even number industrywide, but I also think we are doing exceptionally well. We hire on intellect and ability and do not place any focus on gender or race. We do place value upon team diversity, which can mean trying to find people who think differently, come from different backgrounds or countries, etc. I have a group of close women friends who are at the top of the game on the real estate investment and finance world and we talk quite a bit. We’d all like to see improvement.
What Can The Industry Do To Encourage Bringing More Women Into The Finance Space?
- Successful women in finance guest lecturing to undergrad and graduate classes
- Internship programs with university both undergrad and grad
- Recruitment on campuses
- Look for women candidates from other industries who have skill set to perform, to bring into finance
Can You Speak To Your Experience/Treatment As A Woman In CRE Finance?
Except for a very few isolated incidents when I was in my 20s and 30s, I have never experienced unfair treatment or misogyny because I’m female. I actually think it’s been easier for me in some respects as competent women stand out amongst the sea of men in the industry.
Why Specialize In CRE Finance?
Distressed real estate was waning by 2014 when Ethan Penner and I got together for lunch to discuss our views of current opportunities and the market. My then company had been buying notes and distressed real estate post-crisis and opportunities were getting more difficult to source. Ethan, an icon in the industry, who I’d known for many years, pitched me on an opportunistic lending strategy and launching a company together. He liked my entrepreneurial, equity investing, and development experience and I valued his deep lending knowledge, macro thinking and his overall cachet in the business. Our company was born in early 2015 with the idea of creating a differentiated lending platform that focuses on uncrowded opportunities in the lending space.
I like controlling my own destiny as an entrepreneur and I have fun most days. I love the people in the industry. We help create real value and assets. That is rewarding. If you are careful and make good decisions, including protecting the downside, it’s financially rewarding. It’s a business that allows me to get out and see different cities and meet lots of people. I get to appreciate the difference and similarities around our great country.
What Advice Would You Offer Your Former Self About Navigating The World Of CRE Finance?
- Don’t BS … do it
- Talk to more people if trying to find good deals
- Do the most work out of anyone
- Do the things I know
- Be on time/be reliable ALWAYS
- Keep a clean environment
- Don’t drown in opportunities — focus on the right thing and get it done
- Be present at critical times
- Be very tough
- Have a lot of fun
- Get better every day
- Be the smartest person about my products and services
- Work fast
- Do MORE than what is expected
- Leave my ego and serve others
- Be the person who Gets Shit Done
- Have an enormous sense of urgency
- Pursue excellence in every one of my activities
- Speak well of others
- Do one thing
- Again and again, get up after falling
- Work backwards from what you want to accomplish
- Ask “and then what” after you think you have it figured out
- Discover my uniqueness and learn to exploit it to my fullest potential and in service to others
- Apply enthusiasm and energy to all things
- Ignore enticing opportunities outside of my area of expertise
- $1 in the hand is worth $2 in the bush
- Important qualities for success include curiosity, concentration, perseverance, objective self-criticism and objectivity
- Have three boxes … Yes, No and Too Tough (too much brain damage)