In partnership with Georgetown University’s Steers Center for Global Real Estate, the Georgetown University Public Real Estate Fund launched this semester and has so far raised $100,000.
GUPREF is a student-run investment fund that manages money in collaboration with the university’s endowment and invests in publicly traded real estate investment trusts and commercial mortgage-backed securities. The group has aspirations to become the largest student-led investment fund on campus.
The Steers Center, dedicated to offering Georgetown students access to the real estate industry, was founded in 2015 when the McDonough School of Business aligned its real estate program with industry leader and business school Robert H. Steers (GSB ’75).
GUPREF, which recruited 35 new members at its launch in September, is looking to expand further in the spring, promising prospective members hands-on experience in the real estate market. Matthew Cypher, director of the Steers Center, said the fund exemplifies one of the founding goals of the Steers Center.
“From the moment we arrived here to start [the Steers Center], we’ve always been focused on providing our students with highly applied learning opportunities where they’re actually doing real work as opposed to simulating the work,” Cypher said.
The Fund’s Chief Investment Officer James McLoughlin (MSB ’17) echoed Cypher’s emphasis on applied learning, saying there is no better way to get hands-on real estate investing experience on campus.
“My sophomore year I approached professor Matthew Cypher about potentially starting a fund, because I didn’t think the opportunities we had in the Real Estate Club were applicable enough,” McLoughlin said. “It was more general interest meetings, like going to property tours and speaker series, but there was no true investing experience. We wanted to build a skillset for Georgetown students so it would be more marketable.”
McLoughlin said the fund’s professionally led training program, which every new member completes, offers an extensive survey of real estate investment strategy with a special focus on real estate investment trust securities and commercial mortgage-backed securities.
“We have a 10-week training program where we have professionals from the real estate space coming in and teaching us how to invest in REITS and CMBS. We have people from Blackstone, BlackRock and Morgan Stanley all coming in and teaching us how real professionals think about investing in real estate,” McLoughlin said.
While other investment groups on campus, like Georgetown University Student Investment Fund and Georgetown Collegiate Investors trade in REITS, Cypher says the Real Estate Fund is the only student-led investment group in the country to trade in CMBS, which allows for a more comprehensive engagement with markets.
“When you put the REITS product with the CMBS product, that is 100 percent of the public equity and debt capital markets,” Cypher said. “It produces this very unique public fund comprising of both debt and equity, and I think it gives the students a very well rounded and robust opportunity to learn how the public markets work.”
GUSIF is currently the largest student-led investment fund on campus, managing approximately $600,000 in assets on behalf of the university’s endowment. GUPREF Chief Operating Officer Lena Duffield (MSB ’17) explained the difference between its assets and those of GUSIF (Full disclosure: Duffield is a former Hoya staff member).
“We are technically part of the Steers Center at this time, so when alumni donate money to the fund, they donate money to the Steers Center and they earmark it specifically for us,” Duffield said. “Unlike other clubs on campus like GUSIF, it can’t be taken away from us, because it is our money.”
This is also a different model than Georgetown Collegiate Investors, which currently possesses $85,000 in assets under management. Unlike the Real Estate Fund and GUSIF, GCI raises funds from within the student body and its own membership, allowing its members to receive direct returns on their investment.
Cypher outlined his vision for the future of the fund.
“I would like to see this fund be a $1 to $2 million fund at some point in the relatively near term. That’s a very high priority for us from a fundraising perspective,” Cypher said. “We want it to be the largest student-led fund on campus and be one of the larger ones around the country.”
Duffield said her work with GUPREF has been valuable and is excited that many others will have similar opportunities as the fund continues to grow.
“I have been given a lot of fantastic opportunities through Professor Cypher and the Steers Center to learn about real estate and to learn what I want to do as a career in real estate,” Duffield said. “I think that, with the addition of the fund, that will expand that opportunity to a whole lot more students than were able to take advantage of it previously.”
Corrections: This article previously stated that GUPREF manages money on behalf of the university’s endowment; the relationship between the funds is actually collaborative. Duffield was originally quoted as saying that GUPREF is part of the university’s endowment, with alumni donations flowing through the university with a specific earmark for the fund; she later clarified, saying alumni rather donate to the fund through the Steers Center, but still earmarking funds for GUPREF.