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Aug 24, 2019

Posted on
Jan 11 2016

The Kellogg Real Estate Advisory Council has recently expanded from 13 to 21 members. Among the newly added members is Bill Vernon, Group Head and Executive Vice President of Commercial Real Estate at Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. He is based in Chicago.

Bill grew up in Melbourne Beach, Florida and has been interested in real estate development since he was young. To him, development equates to progress and improvement and results in a tangible product that benefits large numbers of people and communities. Bill went to Wake Forest University to study economics but ended up writing his senior paper on residential real estate valuation movements in Winston-Salem. After graduating from Wake Forest, he pursued his MBA at the University of Georgia (UGA) because, at the time, it was one of the few schools that had a focused real estate program. Because of its close proximity, UGA was a feeder school to the Atlanta business community, which was (and is) a booming real estate center.

It was in Atlanta that Bill began working for Wachovia, where he initially planned to only spend 2-3 years before moving on to be a developer with a real estate company. Having realized instead that he loved the banking business, twelve years later, he was still working at Wachovia but moved over to Wells Fargo to open up the bank’s Florida office. Today, Bill is based in Chicago and oversees the Southeast, Mid-Atlantic and Midwest CRE businesses for Wells Fargo, as well as the bank’s international CRE businesses in London and Toronto. His group totals about 180 people.

Bill’s decision to stay with a bank was mainly driven by his love of working with a wide array of real estate clients as well as his self-proclaimed “deal junkie” nature. Working for a big bank allows him to see many different types of deals and work with interesting entrepreneurs and investors every day, resulting in a challenging and rewarding career. The most memorable time in his career was during the financial crisis when he managed a team within the Special Situations Group at Wells, where he gained valuable work experience managing distressed assets. Building on that experience, Bill was asked to lead a successor group (Real Estate Merchant Banking) that was created to acquire distressed assets and large portfolio opportunities coming out of the crisis. One of the most exciting deals was the purchase of Eurohypo’s UK platform, which had a $3 billion loan book and was one of the leading CRE lenders in the UK market. This deal put Wells Fargo on the map in London and allowed them to begin developing a European business.

Bill is excited about being part of the Kellogg Real Estate Advisory Council because of the caliber of the Northwestern program and the opportunity to interact with the other members.

About the Author

This article was written by Adam Hines '17.