Each year with the Urban Leadership Award and its gala celebration, Schack celebrates an individual who has made significant contributions to the real estate field and community. The award also celebrates Schack’s appreciation of the “doing good by doing well” ideal. In May of 2019, the school honored Wendy Silverstein, Chief Investment Officer of WeWork and industry leader. At the sold-out event, hosts Dean Sam Chandan and Larry Silverstein (no relation to Wendy) discussed Wendy Silverstein’s leadership, mentorship, and decades-long career in real estate.
August 22, 2019
48th Annual Urban Leadership Award Recipient Wendy Silverstein: Industry Leader and Chief Investment Officer of ARK, the Real Estate Private Equity Platform of The We Company
Dean Chandan celebrated Silverstein’s reputation for perseverance and innovative thinking. From a service perspective, Silverstein has devoted considerable time to promoting and advancing women in the real estate industry, and to charitable work focused on women and girls. “In addition to being a visible woman in real estate—which I hope provides an example that encourages other women—I work on a daily basis to provide hands-on support and guidance to women of all ages who choose to be in the field,” she says.
Silverstein began her business journey at The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, where she studied accounting and later received her MBA in finance. In the mid-1980s, she started at Citigroup where she stayed for 12 years, moving into senior leadership roles. Later, Silverstein joined Vornado Realty Trust as an executive vice president where she served for 17 years. Before joining WeWork, she served as CEO of New York REIT.
In 2018, Silverstein joined The We Company as Chief Investment Officer of ARK, the exclusive real estate private equity platform for The We Company. The We Company is well known for its revolutionary co-working business, WeWork, which has taken on a significant role in the commercial office landscape globally. The ARK platform currently has approximately $3 billion of equity capital and intends to scale globally. The platform has already made a number of acquisitions in both the United States and Europe, including the flagship Lord & Taylor building on 5th Avenue.
Silverstein first developed her relationship with Schack roughly 15 years ago when she became involved in the Schack Capital Markets Conference. In recent years, she has moderated panels and participated in events that support the advancement and visibility of women in the industry. Silverstein served as the co-chair for Schack’s 51st Capital Markets Conference in 2018, and she gave the keynote address for Schack’s first Women in Real Estate conference. Notably, she was the first recipient of Schack’s Women in Real Estate Leadership award.
In addition to her ongoing commitment to advancing women in the industry through Schack events and its real estate network, Silverstein is also an active mentor to women across the industry. She believes in the importance of creating a broader pro-women environment. "I make a concerted effort in the hope that I will inspire more women to help others, which I think is key to growing our ranks in the field and being able to provide much-needed diversity," she says.
In her charitable work, Silverstein has maintained that focus on supporting women. She is on the board of Beit Ruth, an Israel-based organization that promotes empowerment for at-risk girls who have been removed from their homes due to abuse. "I support multiple charities, but the one that has my heart is Beit Ruth, which provides comprehensive care and a top-notch education to at-risk teenage girls so they can heal and break the cycle of abuse," Silverstein explains.
From a market standpoint, Silverstein’s move to The We Company underscores the significance of newer, disruptive, real estate companies in the market, and the role that established professionals can play when they take part in that new landscape. WeWork merges traditional real estate models with disruption often seen in the technology industry—it caters to all sectors of the office market globally, including the growing array of freelance, entrepreneurial, and small-business workers, as well as mid-size and Fortune 500 companies.
Speaking to students and professionals working today, Silverstein points to the growing significance of new companies that follow different models, such as WeWork, and the importance of helping to shape the future of those companies. "All industries are at risk of being disrupted by technology—real estate is no exception," she says. "Be aware of the changes that are taking place and be part of the disruption! Go work for the disruptors—companies like The We Company—or think of your own idea to make the industry more innovative and appealing to investors."
Even at a time of change and technological advancement, Silverstein emphasizes the importance of face-to-face interaction to Schack students and the larger real estate community. It is as important as ever, if not more so, to develop in-person relationships, she says, highlighting the significance of spending time with immediate coworkers, and in the professional community. "Despite most communication taking place [digitally], be personally connected with the people you do business with," she says. "Get out and socialize outside of the office or a meeting—that is still how relationships are formed."
That relationship-building mindset has helped her move through the field, and was reflected in the speeches given in her honor by the Schack real estate community at the Institute’s Urban Leadership Award gala. It is crucial, she says, to be known in one’s industry, and to develop a reputation as an honest professional who wants to develop relationships across the industry. "Build a reputation as an honest communicator. People want to do business with people they know and trust."