Reflections from Israel

‘Have you heard of the routing app, Waze? It’s Israeli.’ my driver asked me, as I got in the car en route to the airport for my flight home.  I could see the app predicting my arrival at the airport at 6:14pm, a full three hours before my flight.  I loathed this seeming waste of time – a common phrase in my pre-CBS consulting career was ‘if you’ve never missed a flight, you’re getting to the airport to early’.  But, we had been warned about the Tel Aviv Airport Security, and after accidentally going to Newark airport instead of JFK on my way to Israel, I couldn’t risk another stressful airport experience.  I replied that No, I hadn’t heard of Waze and wondered if it was really that much better than Google Maps?

When my driver asked me how I had enjoyed his country, it was hard not to conceal my new found love for Israel. The food, the entrepreneurial spirit, the history… so many things flooded my mind.  But being back in the states and reflecting on my trip, my favorite aspect by far is the people.

The Israeli culture is rich with history, religious background, and stories of both oppression and hope.  And what I didn’t appreciate until my trip was the clear camaraderie that binds Israelis together.  Whether this is because the nation is relatively young, because of the history of what the Israeli people have been through, or because of something else, is unclear.  But the immediate closeness I witnessed time and again amongst Israelis was undeniable.

Over the course of the trip, we visited many companies. Three companies talked to us about the same recent sale of an Israeli start-up (Mobileye) to Intel for $15 Billiion.  Even my cab driver brought it up to me.  Most people spoke about the value of their army experience.  And everyone talked about being focused on continuous improvement and their own internal hope.

Coming from the states, a country that in so many ways is about diversity, it’s striking to see such a degree of similarity across Israelis. I look forward to my next (and hopefully soon!) trip to Israel to further uncover its culture.  And for the record, we pulled up to my gate at precisely 6:14.

Haley Smith, ’18 – Group A, #Israel #IsraelChazen

#Chazippines

Philippines – Andrea Oran ’18

It has been 2 weeks since we returned home from our Filipino adventure. The jet lag is finally starting to subside and our bags have been unpacked, we have returned to school and resumed our day-to-day schedules, but the memories we formed, lessons we learned, and experiences we shared will not soon be forgotten.

I will admit, prior to the trip I did not know much about the Philippines. I grew up hearing stories of my grandfather’s experience when he was stationed there during WWII while he was in the Navy, but that was about it – and as we learned during our time there, not much remains from the pre-war days. Point being, I went into this trip very open minded and not quite sure what to expect.

Almost immediately I learned about Filipino hospitality through the way everyone welcomed us, the impeccable service at the hotels and restaurants we attended, and through the incredible welcome reception hosted by our trip leader’s family. I learned about the political climate from the inside and how they portray the direction they want the country to go in and the influence the US has had on them. I learned about the changing business climate for both large conglomerates and younger start-ups that are both navigating the constantly developing country.

But what I will remember the most is the natural beauty we saw – from the Pagsanjan Falls to the islands of Coron, I saw some of the most breathtaking views, pictured below (photo credit to many different members of the trip).

So to anyone traveling to Southeast Asia in the near future – I would encourage you to take some time to explore the islands that comprise the Philippines. Meet the hospitable people and see all the natural beauty the country has to offer.

CBS Chazen South Africa 4.0

The last two days in Capetown were filled with memorable moments, great people, and we all wish they lasted a bit longer. We toured the V&A Waterfront with members from the Green Building Council, discussed sustainability with Allan Gray Investment Management, visited a local development firm, hiked a 3,600-ft peak, enjoyed wine tastings in Constantia & Steenberg and took plenty of advantage of the coastal night life.

Firstly, our group received a presentation of the V&A waterfront from Colin Devenish, Executive Manager of Operations and a member of the Green Building Council. The Victoria & Alfred (V&A) waterfront is a mixed-use complex located on the Atlantic Shore, in Table Bay Harbor. Designed in the late 19th century, the complex is situated in South Africa’s oldest working harbor and comprises over 300 acres developed for both residential and commercial use. In light of the size and high utilization rate (over 23 million of annual visitors), we were pleased to learn the steps that management has been taking to reduce its footprint since 2008. To-date, the waterfront has invested R45 Million into energy efficiency, water savings and waste recycling across the 300-acre property, as well as introduced a number of other greening initiatives across the area. Efforts such as these have allowed the waterfront to nearly halve its waste going to landfills, significantly reduce electricity and water consumption and increased recycling and lower carbon emissions due to increased use of bicycles and public transportation.

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On the note of sustainability, our group had the pleasure of touring the headquarters of Allan Gray with Michael Smith, Department Head of Infrastructure and Security at the company. Headquartered in Silo One at the V&A Waterfront, Allan Gray’s office was built in 2014 and achieved the first ever six-star green rating in South Africa. We were delighted to hear that the modern building incorporates features such as high-performance, fully-glazed, double skin glass façade to optimize the use of natural lighting and advanced cooling system that rely on cold Atlantic seawater. Furthermore, the heat from the IT server room provides floor heating in the reception area while waste water from hand wash basins and showers is collected, treated within the grey water system, and reused for flushing water. A beautiful anchor to the waterfront, this visionary project has stunning views of Cape Town and of the surrounding harbor.

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Having witnessed the remarkable success of the Allan Gray headquarters development at V&A, our team headed to Devmark Property Group, a development firm in the Western Cape specializing in mixed-use projects across all asset classes. The firm owns all aspects of the development process from land acquisition to entitlement, development, construction and marketing. The firm’s pipeline encompasses investments such as a 1,000-unit integrated housing project, 111 luxury home and 54 assisted living facilities as well as a full-scale R3bn retail development in the Western Cape. Playing off its 30-year old local advantage, Devmark analyzes opportunities in the region with an eye toward demographic trends in urbanization and capital migration.

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Last, but not least, we had a lot of fun in Cape Town. Hiking up Table Mountain at 7 AM after a night of successive pub crawls gave each of us the opportunity to test our limits physically while enjoying the pristine views of the Cape Town skyline. Fittingly, our trip concluded driving along the coast right before the dawn. We stopped the bus to watch the sunset, gathered around, reminisced the memorable times we had had over the past few days and celebrated being in the moment with yet another standing ovation to Africa, a land of stunning natural beauty and fascination for all things (not just Real Estate). Good bye, South Africa and see you soon!DJI_0010.jpg

Final Ciao Chazen Post: Pasta and People Withdrawals

Reflecting back on our #CiaoChazen trip throughout Italy, there are so many experiences and memories that will last a lifetime, but it was definitely the people on the trip that made the biggest impression. As someone who has gone on three Chazen trips, my favorite thing about these trips in general is the ability to meet and make memories with such a diverse group of CBS classmates that I otherwise may not have crossed paths with. This Chazen was no different as more than half were first years who I likely would not have had the opportunity to get to know before graduating without this trip. Additionally, our incredible three Italian leads organized such an amazing itinerary, allowing us to see all sides of Italy through their eyes. They were so good, I decided I must only go on trips organized by Italians from now on as they thought through every minute detail and really enjoy indulging in the nicest of food and wine!

This trip was also a once-in-a-lifetime experience to see the inner workings of the many and diverse companies I wrote about in earlier blogs from Ferrari to YOOX Net-A-Porter to Villa Antinori. Each of these companies really showed us Italian hospitality as they were so welcoming and excited for our visits, with some of them like Brunello Cucinelli literally welcoming us into their hometown! These visits made it so clear that personal relationships are very important in business in Italy and are the way lots of things get done. This also makes sense given the importance many of the companies put on their family ownership or heritage like we saw at brands like Ermemegildo Zegna and also Antinori, which is one of the top 10 longest running family companies started in 1385.

Speaking of heritage, it is something that was emphasized over and over again in our visits regardless the type of company. It was very clear that there is Italian pride in everything they do. However, interestingly we still saw a willingness to evolve and push boundaries. Gucci’s recent transformation is a great example of this idea of reinvention rooted in their heritage. I think that this authentic sense of heritage but willingness to evolve will be what pushes these legacy brands into the future…

We will see were the future takes these companies…but I know that the future will definitely take me back to Italy for more exploration and gelato after such an amazing trip!

CBS Chazen South Africa 3.0 (Good Bye Jo’Burg, Hello Cape Town)

Our last day in Johannesburg represented an opportunity to hear a practitioner’s perspective on capital flows and the strength of the South African mortgage market as well as get in on a very interesting student housing project in the center of Johannesburg. Our team heard from Manie Annandale, Nedbank head of Affordable Housing Finance who was gracious with his time and provided a brief review of the banking regulatory environment, current players in the marketplace and opportunities for growth. After the Nedbank tour, we headed to the Braamfontein area of Johannesburg where IHS owns and manages Studentdigz, a 948-unit portfolio of student housing projects with access to University of Johannesburg and Witts University.

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When the Studentdigz tour concluded, our bus headed to the airport where we hopped on a 3 hour-long flight to Cape Town and the excitement of getting to discover another city in this wonderful country. The same night, we dined at Sevruga on the V&A waterfront, one of the premier coastal destinations in the world that we toured the following day (& discussed at length in our next article). It had only been a few days in South Africa for all of us, but we were each feeling very much invested in trying to find solutions to the problems of housing affordability we noted.

CBS Chazen South Africa 2.0

Our 2nd day in Johannesburg started with a visit to the Apartheid Museum, which provided all of us with a way to better understand and experience what apartheid South Africa was really like. Through the help of the museum’s various individual exhibits, we were drawn into an emotional journey of the now defunct state-sanctioned racial segregation system and the struggle of the majority to overthrow this injustice. Carefully assembled in chronological order, the exhibits showed a clear depiction of the rise and fall of apartheid, from the race classification journeys, the turn to violence, through the rise of black consciousness which culminated in the National Peace Accord and the historic 1994 elections which represented one of the few times a colonizing force had relinquished control without large scale external intervention or civil war.

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Touring the museum was such an emotional journey through horrors, injustice, sacrifice, liberation and healing that we could not help but note the harsh beauty of this country and how remarkable its progress has been in spite of staggering odds. We left the museum and headed to Sakhumzi restaurant for an authentic culinary experience in the heart of Soweto and within walking distance to the Nelson Mandela house museum.

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In the afternoon, we toured Jabulani, a 1,000-unit multifamily housing project owned and managed by International Housing Solutions (IHS), a South-Africa based vertically-integrated Real Estate investment management firm. Located in Soweto, the Jabulani project caters to the housing needs of middle-income individuals looking to live in close proximity to major transportation and employment centers. Accompanied by the IHS staff, we concluded the Jabulani tour and headed to Fleurhof, a 10,000-apartment commercial and residential development community west of Johannesburg in the Roodeport province.  Constructed in multiple phases, Fleurhof is expected to house over 40,000 residents when completed. The sheer size of this project is astounding and the completed phases are near 100% occupied, proving the exceptional growth of the emerging middle class in South Africa. Further, this project will include improved community infrastructure, easy access to schools, hospitals, shops and work opportunities, improving the livelihood of its residents.

We left Fleurhof inspired by IHS’ efforts to address the lack of housing affordability in the emerging South African middle class. Having been in the country for a little over 3 days, we realized that we were merely scratching the surface examining the size of the opportunity set. We concluded the evening with a walk at Melrose Arch, a modern mixed-use development in Central Johannessburg where our group dined at Moyo, a local favorite (if you are in town and up for a culinary adventure, you must try the mabosa caterpillar).

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It’s time for South Africa

Africa is where it all began and in Real Estate, the best way to know is it to become one with it, to explore the vastness of the continent and witness its story. Our school prides itself on being at the very center of business and upholding the highest standards of intellectual pursuit and cultural enrichment. When it came time to act upon this mission, we decided to look no further than South Africa, a bustling democracy 24 years in the making where changes in land use patterns, demographics and workforce automation are beginning to drive significant growth in the real estate market.

On March 13th, 36 students aimed to get to the bottom of all things Real Estate while embarking upon this journey. We started our trek in Johannesburg with a visit to Growthpoint Properties, an international Real Estate fund investing in industrial, retail and office assets in South Africa, where the firm’s management introduced us to broad investment strategies undertaken in the current market environment.

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Shortly afterwards, we visited Lillieslief Farm, the place secretly used by African National Congress (ANC) activists in the 1960s and where many prominent ANC leaders were arrested (Mandela was later arrested here, beginning his 27-year long imprisonment). It was there we received an overview on the current state of affairs in South Africa from JP Landsman, a political and economic analyst research macro trends affecting SA society and also heard from a treasury representative on the country’s fiscal situation. The presentations concluded with a presentation from Kecia Rust, director at the Centre for Affordable Housing Finance, a government think-tank examining housing affordability in South Africa. In the evening, our group had the pleasure of meeting with members of the South African Property Owners Association (SAPOA) where we heard from local Real Estate investors. Off to Day 2 and more adventures along the way.

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