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Finance Director at a global Real Estate Company

Q: Where are you located?

A: I'm located in San Francisco, CA.

Q: What is your role title?

A: My role title is Finance Director.

Q: In your words, describe what you actually do?

A: I oversee all financial operations and strategy for a commercial real estate company. This includes tasks like financial reporting, budgeting, forecasting, capital planning, investments, debt financing, treasury, and risk management.

Q: How long have you been doing this role for?

A: I've been in this role for 2 years, but with this company for more than 5 years.

Q: How did you get to this point in your career?

A: I started in public accounting and obtained my CPA. I moved into a Corporate Controller role and then recruited into this company as a Senior Finance Business Partner. I then was promoted after 18 months into a Head of Finance role and then after 3 years, was promoted into my current role as Finance Director.

Q: When it comes to remuneration, what are your three B’s? (Base, Bonus, Benefits?)

A: My base salary is $250,000. I receive an annual bonus up to 50% based on company performance. I also have stock options, full benefits, and a 401k match.

Q: I’m not going to ask you who you work for, but, what industry is your company in?

A: I work for a privately held commercial real estate company that owns office buildings and retail centers.

Q: When it comes to work flexibility, is your work primarily office-based, fully remote, or a mix of both? Which do you prefer? Does your company allow you to be flexible?

A: I work from our corporate HQ but travel to properties we manage. I'd say 60% office, 40% remote. I like the mix.

Q: What does an average week or a typical day look like for you? Can you walk me through your day? What time do you arrive and start at work, what are your main tasks/responsibilities, who do you interact with, what meetings do you attend, etc.?

A: I arrive at the office by 7am, review financials, have meetings with my team and business units, work on special projects, budgeting, and oversee accounting. I leave around 6pm on most nights and am just checking emails intermittently in the evenings.

Q: What does a typical day look like when things are going well vs a more challenging/stressful day?

A: Challenging days involve deals falling through, financial emergencies at properties, or market downturns. Smooth days allow me to focus on high-level strategy.

Q: What skills or knowledge are most important for your day-to-day work?

A: Strong financial modeling, accounting, forecasting, communication, and real estate finance knowledge.

Q: What are some examples of recent accomplishments or contributions you've made in this role?

A: I led a capital raise of $50M to fund new acquisitions last year. I also implemented a new treasury management system.

Q: Do you have a supportive manager and do you feel valued?

A: Yes I have an excellent relationship with our CFO and feel valued.

Q: How much time do you spend collaborating with colleagues vs working independently?

A: I collaborate closely with the CEO, CFO, business unit heads - I'd say 60% of my time. The rest is working independently or with my direct team.

Q: Is there anything you wish you would have known before starting this role?

A: I wish I had known more about real estate modeling before starting. This is something that I had to learn pretty quickly when I started at this company as a Senior Finance Business Partner. My public accounting experience was useful but different.

Q: What do you hate most about your role?

A: Dealing with external auditors during the annual audit process can be draining, but my team do most of the heavy lifting here.

Q: What do you love most about your role?

A: I enjoy strategizing on growth opportunities and new investments. It's exciting to analyze potential deals.

Q: What’s the next role for you and when do you hope to achieve this?

A: In 3 years I hope to be Chief Financial Officer.

Q: Is your next role going to be with the same company or a different one?

A: I plan to continue advancing my career here as there are great opportunities. I am also on track to hopefully take over as CFO later down the line.

Q: What’s one piece of advice you could give to someone who aspires to reach your position?

A: Gain expertise in real estate finance, accounting, and business strategy. Develop negotiation skills. Build relationships across the organization. Always communicate effectively.

Q: It’s Day 1 for someone in this role. What’s one piece of advice you would give them to succeed?

A: If you’re new to the business, learn the ins and outs of the business as quickly as possible.

While finance skills are crucial, really understanding the core business drivers and operational details will be key to adding value in the finance director role. Take the time early on to learn the fundamentals of the real estate business, including how deals are structured, what makes a property successful, how construction projects are managed, typical risks and challenges, etc.

Ask a lot of questions to property managers, project managers, brokers, and executives to understand what they do day-to-day.

The more you comprehend how the underlying real estate business works, the better you'll be able to provide relevant financial analysis, strategy, and guidance. Connect often with business unit leaders to hear their priorities and needs directly. Immerse yourself in the operations early in your tenure.

This will help you be an effective finance partner right from the start, enabling you to have greater impact and success in the role.

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