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LA Power Women: 5 Questions With CBRE's Val Achtemeier

This limited series profiles SoCal Power Women who have helped shape cities, neighborhoods, businesses and lifestyles in Southern California. These women will be honored at Bisnow's Los Angeles Power Women event Dec. 12.

Val Achtemeier has noticed that there are more opportunities for women in commercial real estate. But there is still more work to be done.

With more than 30 years of experience under her belt, Achtemeier currently serves as an executive vice president at CBRE Capital Markets in the Debt & Structured Finance Group. Her specialty is debt and structured finance transactions. She is also part of the National Partners team, led by two of her best friends, Darla Longo and Barbara Perrier.

In her career, Achtemeier has originated more than $32B of commercial real estate loans and joint venture equity transactions, according to her CBRE bio.

When it comes to women in real estate, things have changed since she got into the industry in the mid-1980s. 

Over the years and decades, doors have opened for women, but she said more positive steps need to be taken before there can be true equality.

"We need to be more vocal and we need to help develop qualified candidates," she said. "As advocates, I think we will collectively help move the needle to improve equality."

CBRE Executive Vice President Val Achtemeier with her family

Bisnow: Who are you and what do you do?

Achtemeier: I am an executive vice president at CBRE in the Capital Markets group. Specifically, I lead a team focused on national Capital Markets Advisory Services with an emphasis on debt and structured finance transactions. I am part of our market-leading industrial/logistics Capital Markets team called National Partners, which is led by Darla Longo and Barbara Perrier in the West, who are also two of my best friends; we have a collaborative structure where we always try to create the best strategy and excellent outcome for our clients.

Our CBRE National Partners team closed over $19B of industrial sales and debt capital markets transactions in 2018; many of the key players are women, which is unique in the industry.

Bisnow: What is the most challenging part of your job? The most rewarding?

Achtemeier: Challenging: Given the 24/7 capital markets environment and competitive nature of the business, it can be challenging for me to “unplug.” However, I have gotten better at this after 30-plus years in the business.

Rewarding: Big picture, the long-term relationships and personal connections are truly a fulfilling part of my role. At a deeper level, I find it most rewarding when I have gained the trust of clients and we collectively develop and execute the best strategy for their assets. I like to think creatively and this trusted advisory role gives me the window to do what I do best.

Bisnow: How have you seen companies change the way they address wage and gender inequality in recent years?

Achtemeier: Clearly, there are more opportunities for women today and it is a fabulous time for women in CRE! Cultures have intentionally shifted, which helps women have more growth opportunities and feel more comfortable. The brokerage advisory business is now more team-oriented, which creates various compensation options and is a positive step. Many doors are open now that were previously closed and here are some positive changes I have observed:

There are more women in boards and expanded C-suite positions now, equal starting pay, flexible work environments, prioritized recruitment and development of qualified women, more women’s networks, mentorship and advisory programs that help promote diversity and greater advocacy and support among women is much more powerful.

However, the CRE industry still needs more positive traction in the following areas in the future. There needs to be more transparency in gender data and compensation metrics, more women to be elevated to “Top 5” C-suite positions in terms of compensation, more partnerships interests, promote structures and stock option packages available to women, and more women in top leadership roles.

Now, to make this happen we need to be more vocal and we need to help develop qualified candidates. As advocates, I think we will collectively help move the needle to improve equality!

Bisnow: What do you enjoy most about living and doing business in Los Angeles?

Achtemeier: I love the energy, diversity and creative pulse in LA. The people here have a positive “can do” attitude, which is appealing. Our CBRE team focuses on industrial and logistics properties and LA is the best industrial market in the U.S. I really love my role and am thrilled to be in LA. Our culture is open to helping everyone succeed and thrive here.

Bisnow: What are you most excited about, professionally, as we head into 2020?

Achtemeier: For 2020, I am very excited about further expanding our team’s business in the industrial and data center arenas. We expect e-commerce and last-mile distribution demand to continue to draw investor appetite to new heights in the sector. Global capital will be increasingly important in my role in 2020.

As a member of ULI's Women’s Leadership Initiative and National Executive Board, I am very focused on several key initiatives. I am spending a lot of my time on internship and mentoring programs designed to attract and advance women in our CRE industry, so we can expand our talent base.

I chair the innovative ULI WLI SoCal Women’s Internship program. This year we are helping 80 women find internships in CRE. In 2020, our goal is to expand the program nationally. I am excited to “give back” in 2020, which feels really good!

Bisnow's Los Angeles Power Women event will be held Dec. 12 at the JW Marriott Los Angeles LA Live hotel in downtown Los Angeles.