Women Leaders

Andrea Balkan, Brookfield Asset Management

Andrea Balkan

Embracing Diversity

Editors’ Note

Andrea Balkan has held several senior management positions at Brookfield and is responsible for the overall management of the activities of Brookfield’s real estate finance funds. She has over 30 years of experience in real estate finance and capital markets. Prior to joining Brookfield in 2002, she was a Director at Merrill Lynch in New York in the Investment Banking and Debt Capital Markets groups, and before that, a Managing Director at Chase Manhattan Bank. Balkan holds a B.A. from Wesleyan University and successfully completed Chemical Bank’s credit training program in 1987.

Company Brief

Brookfield (brookfield.com) is a leading global alternative asset manager with approximately $250 billion in assets under management. They have a history of more than 100 years of owning and operating real assets with a focus on property, renewable energy, infrastructure, and private equity. Brookfield offers a range of public and private investment products and services, and is co-listed on the New York, Toronto, and Euronext stock exchanges.

Will you provide an overview of Brookfield’s activities when it comes to its real estate finance funds?

I joined Brookfield 14 years ago after a career in banking. When I joined, the objective was to create a series of real estate debt funds. Our thesis was simple – we wanted to marry Brookfield’s real estate equity ownership with the real estate debt expertise that the team we built had, and we wanted to achieve some high risk-adjusted returns by investing in the subordinate tranches of real estate debt.

Will you talk about the team you have been able to build?

We have a great team. When I came here, we started by bringing in a few people that I knew from my previous jobs, and then adding on by hiring selectively. We’re now up to 17 people on our team. Over the years, we have added on one person at a time to help us grow the business. We have a diverse group, ranging from origination to underwriting to closing, to asset management, to financial reporting – all within our group.

When it comes to how this area has evolved, has it been what you expected?

It has been even better than expected. Real estate mezzanine lending was in its infancy when I joined Brookfield in 2002. I came in with the idea that I wanted to move to the principal side and build up a business focused on owning the real estate debt, rather than a banking culture of selling the real estate debt.

Over the years, as a result of what has happened in the market, mezzanine debt has now become firmly entrenched as a major component of the capitalization of most real estate deals. That evolution was what we hoped for.

From within Brookfield, our business has become firmly entrenched as a major focus. The firm is increasingly focused on the credit businesses so that’s what we had hoped for as well.

Is there close coordination among the various Brookfield units?

The most natural area of collaboration for the debt business is with our real estate business. When we are looking at underwriting alone, the first thing we’re going to do is reach across to our colleagues on the real estate equity ownership side to solicit their viewpoints on the particular markets we’re looking to lend in, and vice versa.

Even within other areas of the company, be it private equity or infrastructure, there are definitely areas where we find each other to be helpful.