October 3, 2019

2018 Flag Bearer Kevin Sullivan Discusses Education at Schack, the Office Real Estate Market, and His Career at PGIM Real Estate

For Kevin Sullivan, a 2018 Schack graduate, a career in commercial real estate evolved naturally out of his early work in financial services. Sullivan was a Schack Flag Bearer for his graduate work in the real estate finance and investment track—a designation for the student with the top grades in their specialty. Today, he works as an assistant vice president at PGIM Real Estate as an asset manager in its core plus funds group. "You constantly have to be thinking about trends and where things are going. [I]t’s important to know your markets, and to stay ahead of the competition," Sullivan says.

A 2010 graduate from Villanova University in Pennsylvania, Sullivan studied finance and economics as an undergraduate. He started his career at Prudential Financial in a finance leadership development program that rotates participants across three departments in three years to expose them to different areas of corporate finance. When he began to look at graduate schools, Sullivan was attracted to Schack’s strong academics for part-time students. "It was really helpful for me because I love what I do in my job, and I wanted to continue to progress in that," he explains. Additionally, unlike traditional MBA programs, Schack enabled him to "work on real estate all day, every day."

Sullivan’s experience in the Schack classroom exposed him to new opportunities. For instance, Sullivan had the chance to negotiate loan workouts during case competitions with students in other graduate real estate programs. In particular, he points to Professor Manish Srivastava’s course, Advanced Real Estate Development and Investment Transactions, which was structured around case studies of global real estate transactional situations including acquisitions in India, and land sales in the US. Sullivan explains that Professor Srivastava’s class was so compelling that almost all of its students attended the optional additional class sessions.

Sullivan started his career at PGIM Real Estate working with the core funds group, primarily overseeing office investments in the Northeast and South Florida. Always involved on the asset management side, he has covered all property types across many markets during his time with the company.

Throughout his career, Sullivan has focused on office assets concentrated in the D.C. metro and South Florida markets. A few years ago, he took the opportunity to move to the core plus funds group, tackling investments with higher risk profiles. Having worked on offices for many years, Sullivan hit the ground running and has been involved with leasing-up the buildings and overseeing major redevelopment projects, including lobby renovations and adding tenant amenity spaces. "In D.C. especially, with the amenities in that market, you need to continually make capital improvements to ensure assets perform," Sullivan explains.

In that vein, Sullivan is constantly looking at the major trends in the real estate industry today, including areas such as proptech and co-working. Proptech, he says, has major implications for the real estate industry overall, which can be slow to adapt to shifts. Additionally, co-working has not only expanded, but has become increasingly popular for the clout it can bring to a building. "There are various aspects to co-working that you really need to consider," Sullivan advises. "It’s something you can’t ignore—it’s driving most of the recent absorption in major markets. But, "it’s also [important to] make sure that you have the right credit in place," he underscores.

Sullivan also suggests that the rise in coworking "speaks to the increasing trend toward more residential and hospitality-type services for [office] tenants." Yet that desire for more amenity-laden office spaces can be challenging at a time of rising construction costs. "Trying to figure out ways to bring construction costs down is something that will be critical going forward, as well as having the flexibility to make these shorter-term deals work," Sullivan says.

Throughout his career, Sullivan has come to greatly value forming and strengthening professional relationships, and getting to know trends and different markets. In addition to the interpersonal component of real estate, Sullivan says: "it’s not what you already know—it’s your work ethic and your ability to learn. Take ownership of your responsibilities, have conviction in your decisions and be driven to succeed." That desire to grow is crucial to building a lasting career in the field. For Sullivan, who works to understand his markets closely and loves the challenge of learning more, appreciating the innovation and shifts in real estate allows him to stay ahead of the curve.

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