Nearly 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 years old each day, and many industries are bracing for the long-term economic impacts that the “Silver Tsunami” will have on the market. For the real estate industry, this means anticipating the sale of roughly one in three homes as retirees look to downsize over the next 10 years. And that’s just in the United States.
As the overall number of senior people rises in many economies in the world, businesses like Greystar Real Estate Partners are enlisting the expertise of analysts like Sonic Cho to use predictive modeling to forecast returns for adult active and multifamily rental properties. As Cho explains, it’s uncharted territory.
“There are few to no comparables in the market; we get to develop the investment and operational thesis ourselves,” the Taiwanese native says.
Cho’s team asset manages over 40 development lease-up deals and more than 10 acquisition deals. His cross-functional approach ensures each deal is a financially sound investment using the methods he learned while in the M.S. in Global Commerce Program at the University of Virginia’s McIntire School of Commerce.
“Every real estate deal we touch is unique, which means we face challenges in all areas, such as marketing, sales, leasing operations, cash management, or strategy implementations,” Cho notes. “Understanding all aspects of a deal, and developing and executing well-thought-out business plans, while managing expectations of various parties can be daunting, but it’s also exciting at the same time.”
Gaining a Global Perspective
Before enrolling at UVA, Cho studied Business Administration in Finance, Real Estate, and Risk Management as an undergrad. Drawn to the buy-side of investing, he wanted to pursue a career working for an investment firm.
Although his business bachelor’s degree provided a good basis to understand how a business works from a theoretical perspective, the scope of the education was primarily at the domestic level. When the triple major found McIntire’s M.S. in Global Commerce Program, he knew it would help him to bridge the gap.
“More investment firms nowadays are exploring opportunities globally for better portfolio diversification and ways to achieve higher risk-adjusted returns,” he says. “The M.S. in Global Commerce Program was beneficial for learning how to analyze risk versus return and implement strategic business plans at an international scale.”
Cho embarked on the full-time, 10-month journey starting in fall 2017 on UVA’s campus at the McIntire School. He spent the fall semester working towards his M.S. in Global Commerce by focusing on the different economic, social, and geopolitical factors that influence business.
After the holiday break, he traveled to Lingnan College at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, China, where within several months of study, he earned a Certificate in International Business. Cho wrapped up the program in Barcelona, Spain, earning an M.S. in Global Strategic Management from Esade Business School. Each school emphasized active learning and collaboration with a diverse set of teammates, which helped Cho to contextualize different business practices and strategies using a global lens.
“Learning about international business on paper and experiencing it in person are two completely different things,” he explains. “Having a constructive debate on a business topic with peers of various backgrounds and getting exposure to different perspectives and logic structures are some of the best classroom experiences I’ve had.”
Outside of the classroom, Cho bonded with his international classmates over unique opportunities to explore in each destination. Though they all had vastly different personalities, communication styles, and cultural backgrounds, Cho was able to form lasting connections that he still maintains today, including with his German and Belgian roommates.
“It’s always a great time catching up with them, and they are both doing extremely well in their professional careers,” he says. “I definitely made some lifelong friends throughout the program. These international connections, both from a personal and business perspective, are invaluable.”
Navigating the Global Marketplace
Since completing the Global Commerce graduate program, Cho joined Greystar and moved to Charleston, SC. He works as an Asset Management Analyst for the U.S.-based international real estate developer primarily in the Active Adult division.
The managerial and analytical skills he gained in the program have certainly contributed to the success he’s had as an Analyst, but the diversity of his classmates in the M.S. in Global Commerce Program is what truly prepared him to be successful working on a team that’s situated in a dynamic, globally focused environment.
“Since our entire class consisted of people with drastic differences in not only cultural backgrounds but also in strengths and weaknesses, the team dynamic in many instances becomes the single most important element that dictates the success or failure of a project,” he says. “My current team is filled with some of the best people I’ve ever met. It’s great to be in a position that allows me to pursue both meaningful work and meaningful relationships.”
Cho and his asset management colleagues serve as the primary touchpoint for various stakeholders as they work through the challenges that come with significant real estate investment deals. Cho says it is imperative for him to understand how different aspects in business interact with one another in order to guide his team through the strategic execution of their business plans. He attributes his time in the M.S. in Global Commerce Program learning the cross-functionality of different assets in a global business ecosystem to his ability to now speak at a higher level with confidence.
“The M.S. in Global Commerce raises one’s business IQ,” he says. “Being able to, at least at the fundamental level, have a conversation with others in various aspects of business is extremely important in making successful decisions.”