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May 14 2013

Executive Speaker Luncheon Series: Ward P. Feste of Peregrine Group

Ward P. Feste, Co-owner and President of Peregrine Group LLC, held lunch with students at the Allen Center for the Executive Speaker Series.

By Daryl Quick '13

On January 9th, Ward P. Feste, Co-owner and President of the Peregrine Group real estate professional recruiting service, presented to a group of students on the real estate job market, career development, and best practices in building their professional networks and careers.

Mr. Feste began with the United States economy at large, noting Department of Labor statistics which show that, while unemployment has fallen from just over 10% in 2009 to below 8% in early 2013 and initial jobless claims were at a four year low, the percentage of people reporting difficulty finding a job has held steady between 8 and 9% for the past four years. He also highlighted wide geographic disparity, with employment increases greater than 2% in the technology driven coastal markets of San Francisco and Boston and the energy driven markets of Dallas and Houston, and growth below the national average of 1.4% in Washington DC, Chicago, Philadelphia and New York.

Moving to a sector based analysis, while professional and business services and leisure and hospitality were leading the job recovery, financial activities were sluggish with 1% year over year job growth. Construction employment was still slightly negative at -0.1% nationally in 2012. In the same sectors, the Chicago market outpaced national job growth where it existed, but the decline in construction employment in Chicago was far worse at -3.7%.

If absolute improvement in real estate related job markets was slow, however, increasing positive momentum was clearly evident. Mr. Feste showed data provided by Simply Hired showing real estate job postings nationwide had increased from just over 13,000 in January of 2012 to nearly 18,000 in December, 2012.

As to where these openings are occurring, Feste documented that employment growth has been much higher in small and mid-size firms than in large firms since 2009. He reminded the students that the anticipated peak of commercial mortgage maturities in 2014 foretold strong demand for mortgage professionals and growth among mezzanine debt and preferred or hybrid equity investment funds in the coming years. On the equity side, Feste emphasized the importance of higher activity in core real estate assets as an indicator of job growth concentration, noting that occupancy rates of transacted properties peaked in 2012. At Peregrine, Feste personally saw increases in demand for skilled asset managers at firms with core to value-add strategies in response to this flight to asset quality.

For their personal employment searches, Mr. Feste provided students with a list of real estate news sources, blogs, free research sources, and industry association websites to augment their prospecting. While explaining that immediate post-MBA level positions were not likely to be found through a recruiter, he strongly recommended that students try to connect with recruiters such as Peregrine early in their careers through social media as a way to stay at the front of search queries. He also emphasized the importance to career development of maintaining social media presences and connectivity, in general.

In terms of career development, Mr. Feste offered that the traditionally coveted acquisitions roles in private equity firms are hard to come by, and students should be flexible early in their careers and do what it takes to enter the industry and gain experience. That said, he did not recommend prolonging tenure at the expense of responsibility increases. For the highest levels of career achievement, he emphasized a path of steady career advancement through meaningful experiences rather than short-term compensation levels. “Get the experience,” he said, “and the money will follow.”

About the Author

This article was written by Daryl Quick '13.