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Wisdom From Karen Case

Chicago Industrial

Mr. Miyagi.
Karen Case.

The PrivateBank’s commercial real estate prez is receiving CREW’s 2014 Industry Leadership Award tonight, and she shared some of her sage wisdom with Bisnow.

Lending volume is up


The PrivateBank closed more than $1.2B in new real estate loans last year, and Karen (snapped on a century bike ride for JDRF) attributes that to increased market activity and huge amounts of institutional capital being deployed, pushing up top-tier property values. These new originations, mostly within the bank’s Midwest footprint, are a healthy mix of product types (office, retail, industrial, multifamily, student housing) and loan types (acquisition, refi, construction, redevelopment). Deal structure has become more conservative than in the pre-recession go-go days, though some banks are stretching to win business in the competitive market, she tells us. While everyone’s buzzing about infill and multifamily, it’s important to remember that good loans are driven by solid real estate, sponsorship, and deal structure, she says.

Little progress for women


A member of CREW since 1989, Karen says not nearly enough women are making it into boardrooms, executive suites, or as top earners. Here’s an abysmal stat from the Chicago Network (Karen’s on the board): At the current rate, it’s projected to take 70 years for women to reach parity in those three areas. The survey included the top 50 corporations in Chicago, but real estate’s no different. “There are many really fabulous and very successful senior women, but when you truly look at the leadership ranks, it’s hard to come up with a lot of names,” she says.

Men are not the problem


If even Madeline Albright has found herself timid in meetings, women desperately need to make themselves heard, Karen says. Don’t take no for an answer, lead important projects, and take an active role in championing other women. Karen sees red when men question the relevance of a CREW event to them and even more when women call men “brave” for attending. “I’ve been to hundreds of events as the only woman, and nobody told me I was courageous,” she says. When Karen isn’t closing deals or mentoring women in the industry, you might find her skiing or taking in a play at TimeLine Theatre (its latest show, The How And The Why, above).

Related Topics: The PrivateBank