Authentic Leadership: A Conversation with Nick Joseph (A&S ’06), Global Head of Real Estate Research Super Sector and US Real Estate and Lodging Team, Citi

Joseph says where he is today is more so the result of larger, applicable skills he developed as an undergrad at UVA.

Nick JosephNick Joseph will freely admit that public speaking doesn’t come naturally to him. Yet two important things he’s learned have helped: lots of practice and the guidance that comes from mentorship. Both have proven to be game changers when it comes to getting up and talking to a room full of people.

“I now mostly enjoy it,” Joseph says.

Warming up to the idea of addressing crowds has been great news for those interested parties who congregate to hear what he has to say. As Global Head of Real Estate Research Super Sector and US Real Estate and Lodging Team for Citi, he has amassed a great deal of experience and knowledge that he generously shares as he did during the White Ruffin Byron Center for Real Estate’s 2023 Fall Conference; Joseph served as a panelist on the session about REITs and the importance of leadership at public companies as they successfully navigate unpredictable stock, capital, and real estate markets.

But all that know-how he’s amassed throughout his real estate career is less the product of fulfilling a desire he cultivated early on or the result of what he discovered directly from the subjects he studied. Joseph says where he is today is more so the result of larger, applicable skills he developed as an undergrad at UVA.

“I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do when I was growing up—and even if I did know that I wanted to do real estate, I didn’t have the benefit of the Center for Real Estate at the time. But what I learned at the University was how to analyze information, think critically, and explain complex ideas in a simple manner,” Joseph says, expressing his belief that those abilities have proven transferable to multiple roles and given him the necessary foundation on which to build his successful professional life. “In addition, UVA and my upbringing instilled in me an intellectual curiosity, the opportunity to be challenged and to push myself out of my comfort zone,” he says.

Another important lesson Joseph learned at the beginning of his career stretches well beyond his skill set. It concerns kindness and empathy.

“Treating everyone well goes a long way,” he says.

It’s an important point for someone working in commercial real estate, as it’s often the people he has collaborated with who have shaped his views of the industry and his role in it. “Real estate touches everything: It is where we live, work, and play, and it is much more than just the land and buildings. The relationships and people are what make it fun. Everyone has different incentives and motivations, so I always try to put myself in their shoes and figure out what can be a win-win,” Joseph explains.

Embracing the Unpredictable

Being ready to face the unanticipated changes of the market means staying agile enough to confront whatever may occur on a nearly daily basis. In his specific area of expertise, the industry’s evolution continues to impact his career, with the only givens being an expectation of change and uncovering potential in surprising places.

“Every day and year are different—and that is what keeps it interesting,” he says. “On the macro side, I started my real estate career coming out of the Great Financial Crisis (GFC) of 2008, and since then, there have been recessions, COVID, the emergence of different technologies and disrupters, and everything in between. From a career standpoint, it has been about trying to deliver value to clients and find unique opportunities every day. The challenge is to try and understand the potential risks, but also to try and stay levelheaded.”

Of course, it’s impossible to predict with any certitude where the industry is heading, but Joseph does have a few ideas where it may veer a decade from now. It comes down to patterns.

“I always think about the idea that ‘history does not repeat itself, but it rhymes,’” he admits. “So, if I think about what occurred over the last 10 years specific to real estate, we had the emergence of the institutionalization of some new sectors, including single-family rentals and gaming net lease. For single-family rentals, while the business always existed, it was on a small and local scale. But the institutionalization opportunity emerged when home prices fell during the GFC to provide a good buying opportunity, and technology advanced enough to allow large-scale property management,” he says.

But like many in other sectors, Joseph is keen to see what impact AI will have on his business.

“We’ve started to see it in terms of data center leasing and some office demand, but AI will certainly change and impact many aspects of life, and ultimately the real estate associated with it,” he says. Joseph is also excited about the progress that lies ahead on sustainability efforts, citing the wave of venture capitalists who are engaging with emerging companies innovating technologies to further advance greener construction methods and zero waste practices.

A Collaborative Approach

Throughout his real estate career, Joseph’s willingness to confront complications and cultivate a mindset for remaining open to considering a wealth of possibilities in trying situations is something that he learned on Grounds—and a key skill that was further nurtured by outstanding mentors.

“Someone once told me that if you come to a fencepost with a turtle on it, it got help getting there—and that is definitely true for me, as a lot of what I have learned is the result of great mentorship,” Joseph says.

He considers himself fortunate to have benefited from the guidance of a supportive family, good friends, caring professors, and valuable professional relationships along the way.

“I think it is essential to surround yourself with people who will give honest and sometimes difficult advice, almost like a personal board of directors. It sounds trite, but I think one of the best pieces of advice I received when I stepped into my current role was ‘Be yourself.’ You can’t try to replicate or mimic someone else’s successful style, so being authentic is key,” he says.

That authenticity has been supporting his professional accomplishments and behind his ability to navigate the complexities of what remains a very extensive industry—one that Joseph says demands much of those who expect to make their livelihood in it; maintaining a good reputation and being a good partner are imperatives.

With the goal of getting everyone on the same page to ensure projects advance as they should and realizing that projects will inevitably meet a fair share of setbacks, he notes that there is a great deal of connectivity among collaborating professionals. “I’ve found that most people are happy to talk and help out, so building a network is critical,” he says, adding that he has learned and benefited from those he’s met through the UVA alumni network.

He highly recommends that his fellow Hoos follow his lead—and with good reason: Collaborating with others and sharing knowledge have formed the keystone of the experience Joseph has built over the years.

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