The following series features interviews with Black dealmakers and trailblazers in the private equity and finance community. To help us spotlight professionals making a difference in their career pathways, please email Greg Kilpatrick at [email protected] and Gerald Thomas at [email protected].
Q: Why is it important for more Black professionals and people of color to pursue careers in finance, real estate finance and PE?
Bo Okoroji: While we’ve seen tremendous progress in terms of minority representation in the engineering, accounting, healthcare and legal sectors, my own industry of real estate finance has some catching up to do. This carries enormous significance, not just for Black professionals themselves, but for savvy companies interested in tapping into entirely new reservoirs of talent, as well as for the wider communities all of us are committed to serving.
I am convinced that, as we educate more people of color about roles in real estate finance, we will be able to break down barriers to entry and take advantage of the unique life experiences and perspectives minorities can bring to the table. This is not just the right thing to do. At the end of the day, it makes good business sense.
Q: What is your approach to understanding the perspectives of colleagues from different backgrounds?
BO: There’s no better way for me to answer that than by shining the spotlight on our current team. In addition to a native New Yorker and a senior leader from Pittsburgh, we have team members from Australia, Canada and Zimbabwe, alongside my own background from Nigeria via Texas. Through having different upbringings and countries of origin, we respect one another, learn from one another and bring value to the broader team based on our own learning and life experiences.
With such diverse backgrounds and points of view, we’re able to come together, huddle up, avoid groupthink and challenge each other to look at assets and opportunities on a case-by-case basis. This especially comes into play when we’re analyzing opportunities at the asset level. Though we’re always finance-focused, each of us has an individual perspective and point of view when making investment decisions.
At the same time, we’re in full alignment in our pursuit of a retail acquisition strategy focused on well-performing assets, located in highly diverse neighborhoods and owned by local management reflecting the interests and makeup of their own communities. That’s really what we’re trying to tap into as we seek to understand assets on a deeper level than just the balance sheet.
Q: What do you see as the big challenge for minority entrepreneurs in the real estate PE space?
BO: I’d have to start with the massive challenge of obtaining access to capital, especially in the context of not being able to leverage an established network when first getting started. After all, capital is the name of the game. That said, the hurdle can be overcome if you pay your dues, roll up your sleeves, determine your end goals, and make every decision on the pathway to achieve your objectives very intentional.
To that end, I’ve spent the last 15 years working through some of the larger, publicly traded real estate investment trusts to gain the necessary experience, networks and relationships that have finally put me in position to take a highly entrepreneurial route in launching Steerpoint Capital.
Q: How do you believe Black professionals will be able to influence the PE industry?
BO: I’m seeing that influence firsthand. I’ve organically gravitated toward a cohort of colleagues — and competitors — increasingly comprised of minority professionals across diverse asset classes in the PE sector. As I’ve worked alongside these individuals, I can tell there’s an unmistakable level of hunger and desire, together with an unquestioned work ethic to succeed. When our backs are against the wall, these are the very qualities that help us navigate headwinds and ultimately achieve long-term success. We’re willing to go above and beyond to prove ourselves and demonstrate — once and for all — that we belong in this industry.
The simple fact is that we have the capabilities, the expertise and the knowledge. We’ve only needed the opportunities. Now that we’re accessing those, we’re getting down to work, bringing every ounce of our passion and talent, and laying the groundwork for outsized returns.
About Bo Okoroji
Bryant “Bo” Okoroji is the founder and managing partner of Steerpoint Capital, a boutique commercial real estate investment and advisory firm rapidly earning industry acclaim for its asset-focused, data-driven approach to value creation and the capacity to deliver consistent risk-adjusted returns.
Targeting undervalued commercial real estate in high-demand markets throughout Southern California and the wider U.S. Sun Belt, Okoroji’s highly disciplined management team draws on a wealth of institutional operating experience to approach each investment opportunity through a lens of exhaustive macroeconomic and demographic research. Ultimately, this strategic approach leads to well-timed and opportunistic decision making, increased asset-level income, and significant capitalization rate compression.
Before founding Steerpoint, Okoroji served as U.S. head of investments at Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, one of the world’s premier developers and operators of flagship retail and lifestyle destinations with a portfolio valued at $61.9 billion. In that role, he was responsible for leading the firm’s U.S. investment strategy as well as the sourcing, evaluation and execution of acquisitions, dispositions and redevelopment opportunities.
Okoroji earlier worked at Simon Property Group, where he was first recruited for the firm’s “real estate executive in training” program before moving on to hold senior-level functions encompassing underwriting investment opportunities, asset management, divestments, portfolio densification and joint venture management.
Over the course of his multifaceted career, including a successful stint at Balfour Beatty Investments and experience in investment banking as part of the “young talent program” at ARM Investment Managers in Lagos, Nigeria, Okoroji has structured, underwritten and negotiated over $11 billion in commercial real estate transactions.
Okoroji currently serves on the advisory board of Walker & Dunlop’s CRE Diversity Initiative and on the board of directors of Breathe Southern California, a nonprofit promoting clean air and healthy lungs. He holds an MBA from the LeBow College of Business at Drexel University and a BS in economics from the University of Houston.