Leading in Tough Times: Melissa Farrell, Head of U.S. Debt Originations, PGIM Real Estate

Throughout the month of August and through the first week of September, Connect CRE is running a series titled “Leading in Tough Times.” We’ve asked leaders around the U.S. and across the commercial real estate spectrum to share their wisdom and discuss lessons learned. In this installment, you’ll hear from Melissa Farrell, head of U.S. debt originations at PGIM Real Estate.

Q: What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned about leading in a challenging environment?

A: A lesson that I have incorporated into my leadership approach is acknowledging that the people you work with are your greatest asset. It is important to invest time in them, allow them to flourish, and delegate trust. This enables them to pay it forward down the line as they grow in their careers. I believe that we need to view the real estate industry as neither black nor white, but “gray”. If you encourage people to voice their own opinions drawing from their individual experiences, the best and smartest decisions can ultimately be made. This is especially true during challenging market environments, as the tough landscape can teach many valuable lessons.

At PGIM Real Estate, this is top of mind for leadership, and we are constantly shifting resources to develop our people and strengthen their skillsets, allowing them to handle any type of market environment or downturn.

Q: What’s the most valuable leadership advice you’ve ever been given?

A: Through the course of my career and working with numerous colleagues and mentors, the most valuable advice that has shaped my approach to leadership are the three keys to success: reputation, integrity and strong work ethic.

Overall, it is important to always do the right thing for your people and the business, as well as yourself. Another piece of advice that I’ve found guiding me is to not be short sighted. Always focus on the long game, especially in real estate where the market and relationships are lasting. Deliverability is also very important – if you say you can do something, it must be delivered as such.

Q: What’s the most common mistake leaders make in an inhospitable market?

A: In an inhospitable market many leaders tend to retrench or pull out of the market. It is much more beneficial to stay in the market and become creative and opportunistic. A challenging environment allows for chances to engage with current or past relationships and address their specific needs. This way, the business can strategically fill the ‘gaps’ in the market directly.

This approach to tough market situations is why I have spent so much of my career with PGIM Real Estate; PGIM Real Estate is always looking for the next opportunity created from market dislocation. We make the best loans for our investors in an inhospitable market, because it allows us to think outside the box and focus on the specific needs for our lasting relationships.

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