After graduating from Wellesley College with a bachelor’s degree in finance, Sara Queen began a training program at MetLife and in her final rotation was offered a role in investments. She chose to focus on real estate before leaving several years later to attend Harvard Business School for an MBA.
Queen returned to MetLife in March 2021 after being named managing director and head of real estate equity at MetLife Investment Management, the institutional asset management business of MetLife. She oversees MIM’s $33 billion real estate equity portfolio, which comprises core, core-plus, build-to-core, value-add and opportunistic strategies for the firm’s institutional clients and MetLife’s general account.
She had most recently headed North America business at Singapore-based Mapletree Investments. While at Mapletree, Queen tripled the firm’s U.S. real estate equity assets under management to $10 billion. Prior to Mapletree Investments, Queen spent 11 years at Brookfield Property Partners as head of asset management for the company’s U.S. office portfolio and was a senior vice president at Clarion Partners, where she managed a $1.9 billion real estate portfolio that included office, industrial, retail and multifamily assets.
“As an asset manager early in my career I understood that my job as the effective CEO of the asset was to drive value,” she said. “Day in and day out, I was thinking about how to optimize my assets. I also understood that my clients rely on strong investment returns to deliver a comfortable retirement to their constituents.”
She credits colleagues and mentors for helping play a role in her success along with working hard, being ambitious, having an inquisitive mind and passion for real estate- especially value-add projects.
“Most importantly, I have a spouse who is incredibly supportive—a true partner—so that I could achieve my career goals while being an engaged mother,” Queen said.
Still, Queen said there were challenges, particularly because she started in asset management and heard frequently that, without more investment experience. she could not advance into a more senior role.
“Several years ago, when I was evaluating job opportunities, I was very intentional that my next role needed to have hands-on investment experience to address that perceived ‘issue,’” she said. “I realized that to get where I wanted, I needed to take this issue off the table.”
To make commercial real estate more inclusive, Queen said, the industry needs to be intentional.
“First, we need to ensure that the diverse talent already here see the career paths forward and have multiple senior people invested in their career,” she said. “Support can’t just be from women and diverse senior leaders. We need to proactively work to address the pay gap that currently exists. We need to work to increase the diversity of people coming into to the industry.”
“If you are somewhere that does not recognize your talent or is not challenging you, then it’s up to you to find a new opportunity. ”
Read the March 2023 issue of CPE.
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Executive Insights, MetLife
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