Mark Gallinaro – New Chief Investment Officer: An Institutional Eye￼ Transcription:
Steven Pesavento 00:05
This is the Investor Mindset podcasts. And I'm Steven Pesavento. For as long as I can remember, I've been obsessed with understanding how we can think better, how we can be better, and how we can do better. And each episode we explore lessons on motivation and mindset for the most successful real estate investors and entrepreneurs in the nation.
Steven Pesavento 00:29
Welcome back to the investor mindset podcast. I'm your host Steven Pestavento and each week, we share mindset tips and real estate investing strategies to help you take your business and your investment portfolio to the next level. Today, I'm very excited. I've got our newest executive on the von Finch team Mark gallon err on the studio. How you doing today, Mark?
Mark Gallinaro 00:49
I'm doing great Steven excited to be here.
Steven Pesavento 00:51
So Mark is an institutionally trained real estate executive who recently joined Vaughn Finch capital as our chief investment officer. And formally working as an EVP at one of the country's largest real estate investment managers, aw, Capital Management. He handled acquisitions, asset management and disposition responsibilities across various asset classes and geographies. And over the course of his career, he has been involved in transaction volume in excess of over $1 billion. So he's bringing a ton of experience and today we're going to be diving in to what he's learned in the institutional world, and how we can actually apply that directly within the von Finch capital business. And you guys are going to learn a little bit about some of the benefits of institutional style of investing, and how you might be able to apply some of those in your own portfolio ready to dive into things. Mark? Let's get started. Steven. All right. So it's been a pleasure getting to know you over the last month of you working here, as well as all the time that we spent during kind of the deep dive recruitment process. So tell the audience a little bit about how you first got started in real estate and where you got the real estate bug.
Mark Gallinaro 02:04
So Steven, like many in the industry, I caught the real estate bug at a very young age, because I was born into a real estate family. My grandfather and father, were both developers in the New York City area. So dinner table conversations at a very young age involve taking out floor plans and talking about real estate designs, going to open houses, walking construction sites, all of those things were kind of ingrained in me, like I said, at a very young age. And in addition to all of that experience, I really got an appreciation for real estate as an asset class, and understanding what it can do for individuals over the long term.
Steven Pesavento 02:45
Yeah, I mean, what a what a great way to get hooked on and be able to sit at the dinner table and learn development. But when you actually got started in, you know, your career, you didn't dive directly into real estate, tell us kind of what was that first path that you took before you got into the institutional world?
Mark Gallinaro 03:02
That's correct. I went to college with every intention of pursuing a real estate career, I wasn't sure if that was going to be development or real estate finance. But while I was in undergrad, the great financial crisis occurred. And when I graduated, it was extremely difficult to find an opportunity in the industry. So what I did was I pivoted to more of a finance based first career move, and I joined the firm that did m&a advisory. And I thought to myself that if I couldn't get direct real estate experience, it was best to kind of honed those finance skills, and eventually use that as a platform and a jumping off point to move on to the principal real estate side.
Steven Pesavento 03:43
Yeah, and I think that's one of your your biggest strengths is your ability to really run numbers analysis, do due diligence and be very conservative. So I think it's very complimentary to the team we already have, and definitely myself. So let's jump forward. after business school, you started working at one of the largest real estate capital management firms. Tell me what it was like working at this firm? And what were some of the strategies that you guys were executing?
Mark Gallinaro 04:12
Yes. So as a firm aw manages 10s of billions of dollars globally, all real estate assets, and the company runs various strategies. The strategy that I was focused on and the group that I worked directly for was the opportunistic fund. So what we did was provide joint venture equity for developers and operators for the higher risk higher return type deals. So as an example, we would work with a developer and provide equity for them as they were constructing these classes, a 400 plus unit multifamily projects. And that's kind of just one example of one of the strategies that we pursued within the fund. Well, you're
Steven Pesavento 04:55
working across different asset classes, different areas, etc.
Mark Gallinaro 04:59
Absolutely. So I was based in LA, my group covered all markets from Denver West. And we covered all asset classes, there was a slight skew towards multifamily, just given what's gone on in that asset class. But I handled office industrial retail mixed use as well.
Steven Pesavento 05:19
Yeah. So what did that give you an opportunity to really learn as you're looking at all these different asset classes.
Mark Gallinaro 05:26
So it's really two things that are critical, from my time at AW. The first is on the underwriting side, how to conservatively, approach an asset, figure out its true value, figure out where the comps are figured out where the opportunity is to add value. And then secondly, is on the asset management side, where you actually implement the business plan that's been created in the underwriting and really put a focus on maximizing the value of that particular asset.
Steven Pesavento 05:58
Yeah, I think I think that's really interesting. And what I really appreciate when I first met, you was getting into this, you know, this discussion about some of the differences between the syndication space and the institutional fund space, obviously, very different people writing the checks. Aw is raising money from pension funds and extremely wealthy individuals, Vaughn Finch, and many other firms who are operating in a similar space are raising capital from retail investors, people who are doctors, lawyers, business owners, professionals who are earning great money. And then of course, raising some money from family offices and other institutions like that. What do you see? Is some of the big differences within the institutional space? And how can we actually leverage some of those strategies, you know, on the projects that we're going to be pursuing.
Mark Gallinaro 06:48
So I would say on the institutional space, one thing that definitely stands out is, given the qualifications of the other firms looking at similar assets. It's a very efficient market, if you think about how many assets are out there for sale, where groups have the ability to write equity checks of 2550, even $100 million, it's actually fairly limited yet, there are a lot of groups pursuing those assets. So from a pricing standpoint, from a valuation standpoint, you have some of the smartest, most knowledgeable individuals, all underwriting the same assets, and getting to a pretty efficient market. As far as pricing goes, I think that one of the great opportunities on the lower middle market space, some things that fall into the syndicated space, is taking that knowledge of how to value a piece of real estate, and applying it to a market that's slightly less efficient, because you do have less eyeballs on it, there are more opportunities, and you may have owners who are not running the property as effectively as they could. So that then brings in the opportunity to utilize the institutional asset management strategies to maximize value.
Steven Pesavento 08:03
Yeah. And so when you say what you're saying is really, from a pricing perspective, the institutional market has very big players with lots of analysts and properties sell for what properties are worth, or maybe even a little bit more, because there's that much competition in the market. And so what you're really saying is, we can bring some of those same lessons learned, on the institutional side, some of the same disciplines that people are putting out there because of the expertise that we're able to bring to the table. And we're able to actually implement that in a market where, you know, there isn't that level of expertise. And what I'm personally seeing is there's a lot of people in the syndication space, who have no idea what they're doing. But they just finished a boot camp, they just learned a few lessons or going out there trying to buy a property. And we can actually really bring a lot of value to our investors by getting better deals and being able to manage them more efficiently by applying some of these things that we're saying.
Mark Gallinaro 09:00
That is I think the key word that you said in there, Steven is discipline. And that is discipline in your underwriting discipline and how you put the business plan together. Once you acquire the asset discipline in the asset management, it's we've gone through a period of time where what's gone on with interest rates, what's what has gone on with cap rates, there have been a lot of opportunities that have performed very well from a return standpoint. But a lot of that has been driven by that cap rate compression. So now as we enter a period of time where there is more volatility, where interest rates are not moving in our favor, it's really going to be the groups that implement and standby the discipline that are going to be the ones to excel and exceed right now.
Steven Pesavento 09:42
Well, I think I hear a lot from different groups of you go and listen to different webinars and read different investment prospectuses. Everybody says that they're being conservative, everybody says that they've built in buffer, but how do you really know whether it's somebody really is doing that, versus the type of things that we're actually seeing at the institutional level.
Mark Gallinaro 10:06
So for me, being a numbers guy being very analytical and being detail oriented, the way that I see that is by actually digging into the underwriting. And you have groups that do market all those things you just said, but then when you look at the amount of leverage that they're putting on an asset, the structure in which they're proposing an acquisition, the exit cap, possibly being in line, or even lower than what they're buying at, none of those things, in my opinion, are conservative. And those are the things that investors should be keeping an eye out for, in order to protect our downside.
Steven Pesavento 10:38
Yeah, I think it's really hard to as a passive investor, to be able to know all of these things. You've spent a decade learning about real estate you grew up around it, you're a numbers guy, you love being in spreadsheets, I don't, I don't love it. I've always hired other people and brought in experts around me. And that's, you know, why I've brought you on as an expert, to really help us scale and grow. But it can be difficult for people who aren't that number savvy, or aren't real estate experts to look at a deal and be able to know whether it's, you know, a great opportunity, what can people do? Or how can they start to build that trust to know that the opportunities they're investing in really do fall into the criteria of what they're looking for? conservatively?
Mark Gallinaro 11:20
Absolutely. And I think that's a challenge with investing in a space that you may not have a ton of knowledge or experience in. And as much as you're investing in the asset and the project, you're really investing in the sponsors as well. So it takes, in my opinion, it's important to get to know the sponsors to understand where their backgrounds are, where their expertise are, and have a conversation to learn, hey, are these groups really keeping my best interest? Or is this a scenario where they may be selling an opportunity based on just trying to raise capital for a particular deal?
Steven Pesavento 11:56
Yeah, I think that is key really having that trust and knowing the sponsor, I think the other piece is, you know, once you really build a good relationship with a firm, and you have a good understanding of who they are, what they're about, you know, continue to invest with that firm. That's one of the reasons why we've done the investor mindset show was it was an opportunity for me, and Vaughn Finch to build a relationship at scale with 1000s and 10s, of 1000s, of investors so that they already know the values that we're living by. And I think that's really important. I think the other thing is, once you've got that trust, when you can find an organization who is looking to deploy capital into different types of strategies, then you can know that they've already got the team in place that's running the numbers that's getting in those details. When you look at the underwriter, you can ask those few questions to kind of gut check it and see, does it feel right? Does it line up with your investment thesis and strategy, and then you really have to have a little bit of faith and trust, you know, to move forward, because at the end of the day, everything comes down to who's operating not necessarily the deal itself.
Mark Gallinaro 13:06
Absolutely. And to go back to my previous point, especially the market that we're going into right now, all of those things that Stephen just said, are critical, we're not going to get a lift in all asset prices, because interest rates are moving down. So truly, now is the time to be conservative in how you approach things. That's not to say that now is the time to back away from investing, because it's quite the opposite. So each individual investor needs to think what their investment goals are, what the level of risk they're willing to take is. Is that something that is high risk, high return? Or are you looking to place your money into something a little bit more conservative, and really take a risk adjusted approach as we enter this period, are currently in this period of some volatility.
Steven Pesavento 13:53
And so we hear that word risk adjusted all the time, try to put it into layman's term for us.
Mark Gallinaro 13:58
So if you think about it from the standpoint of the incremental return that you're getting on your money for the level of risk that you're taking, I know it is kind of industry jargon for that to be thrown out a lot. But when an investor is looking at it and taking into account the different types of risk, are they being compensated for their dollars being in that deal? So just as an example, on a development deal? Do you have entitlement risk? Do you have risk from the supply chain right now that materials that you need that are a critical path to the execution? Could that be an issue in the deal? Do you have lease up risk on a project? Do you have execution risk from a value add standpoint? So when you kind of look at each of these individual pieces that contribute to the risk of a deal, an investor just needs to make sure that they're being compensated for that level of risk that they're taking
Steven Pesavento 15:00
So what you're really saying is that different deals have different levels of risk. And based on the level of risk, you would expect to receive a higher return. And sometimes people are, are taking a lot of risk, but they're receiving a lower return because they're being sold that it's, it's less risky.
Mark Gallinaro 15:19
That's correct. And that could be coming from a lot of different things, including the structure of the deal. So really understanding what those pieces are, where your comfort level is, as an investor in the amount of risk that you're taking. Not everybody needs to be placing their money into the highest risk, highest return deals, there are other opportunities where you can bring down your level of risk, but not bring down your return in a proportionate share. So that's really what we look to do bring down risk, but don't have return come down as much as that.
Steven Pesavento 15:53
I think that's a big thing. deal structure is another thing that I'm really excited as we're rolling out some new deal structures that are going to end up being able to deliver, as you said, a better risk adjusted return. In other words, lower risk, with a more moderate style return, and having different options for different people who are looking for different things in their portfolio. You know, personally, I like taking a little bit of risk and getting a great reward. Those are the My Favorite type. Of course, everybody wants those. But as we're heading into any kind of economic change, it's important to be cognizant about, is it realistic to hit the same returns that we could hit while we were in a growing market, versus when we're in a market that has maybe more flattening, or maybe at a slower growth rate. So let's talk a little bit about some of these different deal structures and strategies, some of the new products that we're going to be bringing towards Vaughn Finch, of course, sorry, guys can't tell you all the details, we want to just give you a little bit of a flavor about what's kind of coming down the pipeline.
Mark Gallinaro 16:58
Yes. So one thing that we're going to be implementing here at Vaughn Finch is a new fund that is focused on PrEP equity. And what I mean by profit equity is, our investment will be going in to a deal where we sit above the senior loan, but below the common equity. And what that means is, our dollars will be returned before common equity. So private equity is something that you hear sometimes in the public markets with public equities and operating companies, it's common to see in the real estate space as well. And this is an opportunity where my institutional background and having seen private equity deals on a number of different opportunities. Taking that program and bringing it to the syndicated space is a great opportunity for us. Yeah,
Steven Pesavento 17:49
and I think just to point out, not all pref equity is created equally. So although I fully believe in it, we've leveraged it on deals that we've been in where other limited partners other common equity has been invested in, and it can be phenomenal. And I've also seen other people who are using private equity for the entire stack. And really, what that ended up leading to is the sponsors, collecting all of the upside, and I don't really think that's necessarily the right way to go, taking more of an institutional mindset, the money is really valuable, and the money is taking the risk, and therefore, the money should get a good portion of the reward. And, and if you're an investor into a fund or into a project, you're the money. And so we really believe that at the core that we want to put our investors first. And so what are some of the things that you'd want to look out for? When it comes to pref? Equity? What are some of those different things that are important to kind of understand?
Mark Gallinaro 18:46
So when you're investing in private equity, it's really about protecting the downside, and not as much about worrying on the upside potential. So things that should be taken into consideration is where does my last dollar sit in that deal? Are you at the 80% of the capital stack? Are you at 85% in the capital stack, there's a big difference in the amount of risk between those numbers. So again, that's another instance of having experience in the space and having seen a lot of deals where that comes into play. Also, again, taking downside protection into mind, making sure the quality of the asset is there to protect your investment, our investors investment, that we're able to get that money out and generate the return that we underwrote.
Steven Pesavento 19:34
So that is a huge benefit. And just to reiterate, before we move on to the next strategy, essentially what this is, is the bank is putting up debt say that 70% of the money that's needed to buy the deal, the common equity sits above the bank, and pref equity sits in that little piece in the middle. And so if the debt is 70%, maybe the preferred equity is 10%. That means there's 20 percent of common equity that's ahead of you. And how would you explain that? Just to kind of wrap that up.
Mark Gallinaro 20:06
So try to put it in simple terms. If you think about it just from a standard lender standpoint, when a sale of an asset occurs, the lender gets paid back their mortgage first, before equity sees any return on their dollars. With preferred equity, you would sit in that second tranche. So after the lender gets paid back first, preferred equity gets paid back second, and generates a return that way.
Steven Pesavento 20:31
So that's one strategy, I think you're gonna see other strategies like that start to crop up on our balance sheet, and we're gonna be offering different types of deals that might fit within that category. What are some of the other things that we're looking at adding to the Vaughn Finch strategy bucket?
Mark Gallinaro 20:46
So, Steven, I don't want to give too much away in this first interview, but one of the things that you and I have been talking about is really the benefits of long term real estate ownership. And we think that there's an opportunity there to provide something in the marketplace that most groups are not paying attention to right now. So we'll, we'll have more information coming out on that soon, but want to kind of put it on some people's radar?
Steven Pesavento 21:11
Yeah, I think that's one of the things that I've noticed and you've been great to point out is, a lot of the deals we do, they might be three year, they might be five year, we've got a couple of deals that do have a 10 year horizon. But really going after the type of product that makes sense to hold long term. Maybe in the first few years, it's not as strong as something that you're looking to quick, do a quick flip. But really taking more of that generational wealth approach to buying and owning real estate. But I'm curious about, you're working at one of the largest institutional funds in the world, you're managing deals, you're learning a ton, you essentially have unlimited capital to go out and place and manage what led you towards leaving kind of that dream position.
Mark Gallinaro 21:56
I think I was extremely fortunate coming out of business school to have the opportunity with aw and work in a group that works on extremely exciting and interesting projects. These are assets that are well known by a lot of people, not even in the real estate space just because of the prominence of some of these Class A properties. However, having that entrepreneurial itch, as you know, it's very hard to satisfy that in a more traditional institutional role. So it's always been in my mind to pursue a entrepreneurial real estate path. Every decision that I made in my career, going to business school, going to an institutional fund, was always keeping in mind this long term goal of going out on my own as an entrepreneur. So as great as the opportunity was, and as appreciative as I am of my time there, that entrepreneurial itch can only be satisfied by becoming an entrepreneur.
Steven Pesavento 22:56
So you went out on your own. Tell me kind of what happened there.
Mark Gallinaro 23:00
Yes. So I went out on my own, I thought the best first move that I could do was start a real estate consulting firm take this knowledge that I had, from the institutional side and help some smaller developers, sponsors get that financial experience that they may not have in house. And I built up that consulting business took out a number of clients, really as the foundation of to jump off into the principal side. When I got the consulting business to a point where I was happy with what was going on there and began to focus on direct investment opportunities. That was in late 2019, early 2020. And as everybody knows, COVID made it extremely difficult to raise capital, it made it extremely difficult to go out and tour new properties. So there were a lot of challenges that I was not expecting to see early on in the entrepreneurial venture that made it quite a hinderance to implement some of the strategies that I had.
Steven Pesavento 24:06
Yeah, it makes sense. And, you know, entrepreneurships, it's a tough, it's a tough road, you go and try things, you kind of go off on your own. You see what works, and then you end up realizing, hey, some of this stuff's pretty hard to do on your own. So tell me what, what led you to being interested at working with and working at Vaughn Finch.
Mark Gallinaro 24:27
So as you said, being a solo entrepreneur has so many challenges, you're wearing so many hats, and trying to do everything on your own, in and of itself has challenges and sometimes you have to realize that if you can find people to work with that complement that your skill sets that are synergistic in their approach, that you can actually create a larger pie and that's kind of how I thought of it. You can create a certain size on your own but, you know, partnering and working with the right people, you can create a bigger opportunity. And just in getting to know you, understanding what you've done at Vaughn Finch, and also where your passions and interests in the industry lie, I just thought kind of from our first conversation that was very complementary and synergistic, as we've been saying,
Steven Pesavento 25:16
Yeah, I like hiring people who are entrepreneurial, because you're gonna bring in and bring that energy that you were applying on your own, but you can plug it into a system that's already existing, that's really kind of on this growth path. So I'm super excited to have you here. So with all of that said, why real estate? Why have you stuck in the real estate space for all these years?
Mark Gallinaro 25:37
When I look at real estate as an asset class, and being a numbers guy, you start to compare to other asset classes, other investments, in my personal opinion, and I will fully admit that I am slightly biased. But in my personal opinion, real estate is the greatest asset class in the world, especially commercial real estate, when you look at the opportunity to generate current cash flow, for asset appreciation for an inflationary hedge for appropriate leverage, you know, those opportunities, the tax benefits, which are extremely important as well, when you look at all those opportunities that real estate provides, and even taking, you know, a step back and looking at some of the wealth that has been created in this country through real estate. To me, it's almost a no brainer that people should have commercial real estate exposure.
Steven Pesavento 26:29
Yeah, when you do a little bit of study on the fluent people who've earned a ton of money over two $300,000, up into the multi million dollars per year, they made their money running their own business, and then investing that money into real estate, nearly every single person's wealth was dramatically increased through real estate. So it's absolutely a no brainer. It's one of the reasons why I'm hooked on it. I also love the fact that so many like minded people who are really focused on, you know, growth. And you know, some of the Vaughn Finch values growth, giving gratitude. And you know, what I'm on a personal mission to help other people live with is more freedom, flexibility and fun. So it's exciting to have all those things come together, you know, Vaughn Finch has been growing, you know, over the last six years, we've done some incredible things, but hundreds of properties, bought a ton of commercial real estate. And there's a lot of new things that you're going to be doing as as a new member outside of the strategy. So let's talk a little bit about some of the areas that you're going to be improving. And what folks should kind of expect, who've already been working with Vaughn Finch over the past few years.
Mark Gallinaro 27:39
Yeah, so two areas that I see opportunity for improvement are on the investor relations sides, more communication, having conversations with investors, I'm always talking about this space, Stephen and I are always talking to each other about this space. And we want to invite the opportunity for investors to have more dialogue with us, as well as more communication from our end on what's going on with their investments. In addition to that, I think that, as I've said before, taking the institutional asset management model, and applying it to this space, is a benefit to all the investors as we really focus on maximizing value of properties.
Steven Pesavento 28:18
Yeah, I think that's a huge thing. It's like as you're growing and scaling, and we're buying more properties, and we're working with hundreds of investors, you know, all of a sudden, you start to see where, hey, there's a hole here, we need to fill that there's a hole here. So by being able to really bring on those institutional processes, and systems, we're going to be able to do some amazing things to make sure we're communicating consistently with each and every one of you. Because, you know, sometimes it's one thing to be in managing operating these projects. It's another thing to be making sure that we're communicating that early and often to investor. So it's great to have big wins, which we've had quite a few and a number of other projects are in a very, very good place. But it's even more fun. And it's better experience for investors to be able to communicate that clearly. So, as we wrap up today, what are some of the things that you're really excited about, as you look out on the future with what you know, is happening behind the scenes at Vaughn Finch?
Mark Gallinaro 29:18
So I think one of the things that makes me really excited is, a lot of times people associate volatility with risk. I think that as we enter this period of volatility, there's going to be opportunities. And the market has been, it's actually been pretty challenging for the last few years just with how quickly asset prices have risen. And when you take in a conservative approach, a lot of times just the numbers don't work. You still saw groups that were continuing to bid and bid on these assets. So now that we're entering this period, there's been a little bit of a reset. There's really an opportunity to step in and identify opportunities to make a return on your money. See Kevin and I were having a conversation yesterday and I said that we can't control the market. All we can do is react to it. And right now we're reacting to the market that we've been given. But we're still finding opportunities to make money.
Steven Pesavento 30:11
Yeah, I'm excited. The team continues to grow at VonFinch. We've got a lot of great, really smart people. I believe in hiring people that are smarter than me at the things that they're good at and excited to have you on the team Mark. Thanks for listening. If you guys are interested in getting involved in investing right alongside us in the same types of institutional quality assets, how to reverse unfinished.com/invest and register to join the Vaughn Finch investor network. We've got some great things coming down the pipeline. And regardless of what's happening in the economy, you can make money in real estate, the important thing is to invest with the right people. So we look for the opportunity to serve you thank you so much. Thank you, Mark. And we'll see you on the next episode.
Steven Pesavento 30:57
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