Interview with Camille Douglas, Managing Director at LeFrak
Real Estate is often criticized as being a “Boy’s Club.” What has your experience been like as a successful businesswoman in the Industry?
This really hasn’t been an issue for me. In some ways it’s nice to be different and in the minority. I think when I was younger I might have had to work harder to gain the respect of the people in the room, but that was a long time ago! I look around and I wonder why I don’t see more women in real estate because this is a fabulous industry with lots of opportunity to be creative and entrepreneurial.
What do you enjoy about working in real estate?
I love the combination of creative and analytical work. Most days I encounter a new problem involving some fairly complex information to unravel analytically, and then find, communicate and execute a proposed solution. Each development project is like a start-up company with a unique set of variables and financial structure, so this business is by definition never boring. I also especially love the architectural, design and place making components of development. Lastly, I enjoy working in different cities because each city has a unique history, economy, demographic and geography. So to me, when I am working in a different city or country and with a new cast of characters, it’s a little bit like being on a “busman’s holiday.”
You have academic and professional expertise in international real estate investing. What is your current view on international opportunities?
I think there is significant risk in the global economy today. My favorite book on this topic is Breakout Nations by Ruchir Sharma. I think that the universal rise of BRICs and the rest of the emerging world from 2002 to 2007 during a period of unusual liquidity, a commodities supercycle and business friendly political reforms was a relatively unique phenomenon that is unlikely to repeat itself to the same degree anytime soon. However, I do believe that on a selected basis, countries will get their act together and growth in emerging markets will begin again. Every country has a story and its story is a mixture of macroeconomic factors and political leadership. Today is an interesting time to invest in certain emerging economies because there are real opportunities as a result of liquidity issues and public/private arbitrage.
Source: Paul Milstein Centre for real estate