An Interview with Real Assets Investor Nicholas Marine

Born and raised in Cape Town, South Africa, Nicholas Marine left home at the age of 19 to pursue a career in finance.

Marine started his career with Starwood Capital Group, one of the largest real estate investors worldwide. This experience influenced Marine's decision to focus his career on real estate investing specifically. 

He went on to work with Spear Street Capital in New York, a commercial real estate investment firm with investments across North America and Europe. 

Marine currently works for a multi-billion dollar private investment firm in New York, investing in real assets across the US and Europe.

Marine has established himself as a real assets expert in just a few years, and so when Success Quarterly had the chance to speak with him about his career and his investing insights, we jumped at the opportunity. 

It's clear that Marine places a large emphasis on the potential for positive community impact enabled by intelligent real estate investing. 

We covered all this and more during our interview with Marine, which you'll find below. 

Success Quarterly (SQ): Thank you for joining us today. To start, how long have you been focusing on real assets, professionally? 

Nicholas Marine (NM): I have been focused on real assets since my Junior year of college. I worked on the acquisitions team at Starwood Capital Group, and after lighting the flame of interest, I went back to Wharton and took a range of real estate classes in my senior year. 

I kept up-to-date with real estate publications, transactions, and people I had met in the industry and started my career in real estate private equity for Spear Street Capital, a multi-billion dollar global fund. That was about five years ago.

SQ: In your opinion, is there unrecognized potential in terms of the positive impact of real assets investments? 

NM: I think people often overlook the positive impact that real estate investing can have on the community. When one thinks of a real estate investment, there is a preconceived notion that the only objective is profit. 

While that might be true in some cases, real estate investors have a unique ability to uplift communities and broader regions through the stimulation of micro-markets and the addition of physical users into a space. Every time a new office building is built and/or leased, the entire surrounding community benefits.

SQ: Can you tell us about how some of your work with real assets has benefitted relevant communities?

NM: I worked on the re-development of a 450,000 square-foot building in Jersey City, a stone's throw from Manhattan. Despite the location, the surrounding area was struggling. There was a lack of retail and a large security issue. 

We redeveloped the asset and leased it from 0% to 94% occupancy. Thereafter, we took the commercial leasing success and sold the idea to various retail concepts, dramatically expanding dining and other retail options for residents in the area. 

We offered retail tenants space at steep discounts to stimulate street activity. The final piece was adding street security so that the area became safer. We introduced a few thousand daily individuals to the surrounding blocks, and everyone from store owners to nearby residents financially benefitted from this renewed activity.

SQ: Do you think there's a desire among many investors working today to engage in impact investing, trying to generate positive outcomes through their investments?

NM: Yes I do. Not only are investors thinking about their effect on the community in which they are investing, but they are also becoming more concerned with the environmental impact, too. 

LEED certification is one of several environmental indicators that building owners are increasingly concerned with when investing in or developing assets. In certain parts of Europe, there are new regulations that offer tax incentives to companies that chose to lease space in environmentally friendly assets.

SQ: Has the pandemic shifted your perspective on investing in any way?

NM: I think the large question mark coming out of the pandemic is the effect that remote work will have on office investing over the coming decade. My experience shows that whilst many firms have hybrid policies, so long as there is one day or more per week in the office, CEOs need to maintain enough space for all their employees at the same time. 

Even in companies that allow certain departments to be remote, there is hesitance in decreasing physical space, as employees are demanding more distance between desks. There has also been an acceleration in the bifurcation of office products. The class A superior product is significantly outperforming, while secondary quality assets are suffering more than ever. 

The challenge as an investor is finding opportunities at varying costs of capital in the class A commercial opportunity set.

SQ: Early in your career, did you expect to achieve this level of success?

NM: I was always told that hard work would pay dividends, but I never fully appreciated the positive effect that mentorship could have on my career. I have so much to be thankful for, and there are so many people who have helped me get to where I am today.

SQ: Do you have a message for any of our readers who are interested in becoming investors? 

NM: Start by picking a niche you're passionate about and follow it religiously. Read daily publications, build a sense of relative value in the investing world, and follow the themes that the top investors have recently picked. Use this information to build a view on a market, industry, or asset, and sell your view to people you think are smarter than you.

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