Business Monday

Manuel Martín of financial giant TIAA is moving to Miami to make big deals

Manuel Martin of TH Real Estate.
Manuel Martin of TH Real Estate. ALBION COMUNICACION

Manuel Martín moved to South Florida from Spain in January. So far, he likes what he sees. So does his employer, TH Real Estate, the real estate investment management division of financial giant TIAA.

Martín is opening a regional headquarters for the firm in Miami that will cover Latin America and 11 U.S. states, including Florida. Hailing from the Andalucía region of Spain, Martín grew up in a family of real estate developers.

TH Real Estate owns office, industrial and multi-family properties in South Florida. Martín is bullish on growth here and in the wider region, and also wants to expand investment in Brazil, which some analysts believe is heading toward economic recovery.

Soon, his family will be joining him from Madrid.

“My wife and two kids are coming over in the spring and it’s great to give them this international experience and enjoy the new adventure together,” Martín said.

Q: Explain why TIAA is opening additional offices for its RE investment management division, TH Real Estate, including one in Miami. What are the advantages of having a local office in South Florida?

A: We’ve been investing throughout the US for decades and have offices in many of our target markets such as San Francisco and Boston, but with TIAA’s U.S. real-estate operations recently integrating with TH Real Estate, we are now even more regionally-focused. TH Real Estate is a well-known investment manager in Europe and also has a presence in Asia-Pacific. The platform currently has 20 offices globally including the recent additions of Miami and Washington, D.C.

The other major U.S. offices are in New York City, Charlotte, Newport Beach and Boston, and we will still consider others in cities where we invest heavily. This ensures that we can add the most value for clients — via local expertise and execution combined with the global perspective and consistent approach across the wider platform. A best-of-both worlds offering, we think.

Q: What kind of assets are most attractive to you in South Florida and why? What about in the wider region you cover?

A: We own office, industrial and multifamily in Miami and have an interest in shopping centers and regional malls throughout the state. A few well-known office and multifamily assets include Waterford at Blue Lagoon, 701 Brickell, 801 Brickell, the Edge at Flagler Village and the Residences at Merrick Park. We are investors with Simon and Taubman in Miami International Mall and International Plaza in Tampa, respectively.

We will continue to consider all four major asset classes in South Florida but are most interested in core industrial and retail at the moment. Throughout the 11 Southeast states that our new office covers (from Texas to North Carolina) we are very well diversified across asset types and investment profiles and will remain so. We take a city-based approach to investing rather than just a country or state-based perspective. Each city’s demographics and other fundamentals are unique, so we create profiles that examine multiple factors and routinely refresh target markets. We also look at the bigger picture of how mega-trends will impact all real estate sectors 10 to 20 years down the road, to ensure we are not preoccupied only with market cycles.

Q: What do you think is the biggest threat to economic growth in 2017?

A: Real-estate fundamentals are very solid, so I would be surprised to see something like the last downturn occur again in the short-term, especially given the lower level of debt as compared to 2007. The new U.S. administration needs to deploy clear policies: If fiscal and infrastructure plans crystalize, we expect increased liquidity and rental growth for several years and this is good for real estate.

Q: You recently moved to Miami from Madrid. What do you think about the city? What do you like? What do you think could be improved?

A: For a Spaniard, Miami is a second home. I feel very welcome, and it is going to be a great experience for the family. I love the vibrant atmosphere and dynamic culture. It’s exciting to be here at a time when the population is growing and so many infrastructure and public transport projects are underway. The changes the region is undergoing are very positive for me, both personally and professionally.

Q: Latin America is a volatile political and economic climate. What markets there do you think have the most room for growth? Why?

A: We like Brazil — Rio and also Sao Paulo. We already own a stake in a Sao Paulo mall called JK Iguatemi and $1 billion in agribusiness. We are also monitoring Santiago, Chile. The new office will allow us to explore opportunities and monitor geopolitical events in the region more closely. I would say we have an open mind so that we can discover the right opportunities.

Q: Explain how the business model of TH Real Estate works and how it fits into the larger structure of TIAA Global Asset Management.

A: TH Real Estate has always been solely focused on third party real-estate investment management. On the TIAA side, the real-estate staff managed both internal capital (TIAA’s General Account and TIAA Real Estate Account, an annuity product) and external capital for other pension funds and insurance companies. The TIAA accounts are now clients of TH Real Estate. The asset management arm of TIAA — TIAA Global Asset Management — is also the parent company. It has $915 billion in assets under management and works with institutions, individual investors and advisers to achieve long-term financial goals through both traditional and alternative asset classes.

A benefit to this structure is that TIAA has often provided co-investment and seed capital for many TH Real Estate funds and investments and will continue to do — when strategies align — and many clients appreciate that we have similar goals and interests.

Nicholas Nehamas: 305-376-3745, @NickNehamas

Manuel Martín

Hometown: Malaga, Spain

Title: Head of the South East Region, U.S. and Latin America, TH Real Estate (a division of TIAA Global Asset Management)

Education: MBA from the Universidad Comercial de Deusto (Spain) and Bradford University School of Management (UK).

Personal life: Wife, Alejandra. Children: Manuel 6, María 4. Hobbies include sailing and golf. Martín also works with impaired students to provide exposure to this career field.