Surrounded by platters of sandwiches, fresh fruit, and cheese, the Young Leaders spent a Wednesday lunchtime with Jon Zehner, Global Co-Head of Client Capital Group at LaSalle Investment Management, to learn more about his life, career and contribution to the ULI.
The proud father of a British Army Captain, and undoubtedly European in all but accent, Jon is not your average American. Having spent 28 years at JP Morgan, working across three continents, with a subsequent spell at AREA, Jon joined LaSalle in 2012. He is responsible for capital raising across the globe, and ensuring that the firm’s $60bn assets under management continues to grow.
Despite having the spent the majority of his career on the investment banking side of real estate, Jon’s passion for the industry was sparked by development, and the desire to “create something that is part of the fabric of the community”, which may go some way to explaining his unparalleled contribution to the ULI over the years. Having joined the ULI early in his career in New York, Jon co-founded ULI Europe, and, having played a key role in driving its expansion across the continent since that time, was appointed Chairman of Europe in July 2016.
Jon explained the changing patterns of global capital flows, with many multi-billion (or in the case of some of the larger ones, trillion) dollar pension and sovereign wealth funds now mandated to substantially increase the weighting of real estate assets within their portfolios, particularly in Asia. With London a clear favourite for many Far Eastern investors, Jon does not anticipate a quiet workday any time soon.
Inevitably, despite Jon’s attempts to keep the conversation away from a topic which obviously fascinates him, but mention of which he feared would segue into him asking a barrage of questions to the residential agents in the room, the conversation turned to the Build-to-Rent (BTR) sector. Having lived in New York during a time when institutions were still hesitant to enter the multi-family housing market, Jon is obviously delighted to be experiencing first-hand the rising institutional involvement in UK BTR, and believes the sector will only benefit from the professional management and processes which this type of investor will inherently bring.
An experience that Jon is clearly grateful for is his time spent in South Africa. In 2005, having spent his career to date between the US and UK, Jon was appointed Head of Sub-Saharan Africa for JP Morgan, and immediately took up residence in Johannesburg. Given a different perspective on what it means to be a “minority” by his time there, Jon is one of the most active proponents of the ULI’s drive to increase diversity in the industry, which, in his own words, means “young, old, male, female, Portuguese, Hungarian.” He is a supporter of Urban Plan, the ULI’s inspiring initiative to drive participation in the industry in 16-18 year olds which may not otherwise have an obvious route into real estate.
Jon ended the session by discussing some of the core issues that he has faced throughout his career, from knowing the right time to move on from a company, to how to successfully balance one’s work and family lives, and even how to convince his colleagues that investors’ money is to be “invested” rather than “spent”, and that, believe it or not, they actually do want it back at some point!
The Young Leaders are grateful to Jon for imparting so much of his hard-won wisdom and knowledge in such a short space of time, and hope to Lunch & Learn again with him in the not-too-distant future.
Words by William Polisano, Lipton Rogers Developments LLP