Mark Joshua Gunalan: A career in real estate

An image of Mark

We recently spoke to Mark Joshua Gunalan (MSc Finance, 2011) about his career in real estate, how he reached this position and his time studying at Bayes Business School. Find out more…

As you approach your one-year work anniversary at Barclays as the Director – Real Estate in the EMEA regions, we’d love to hear about what your role entails and what a typical day look likes for you.

I have been with Barclays for over four years now and I work as a Director within the Investment Banking franchise covering real estate clients across EMEA. My wider team cover all sub-sectors such as commercial, residential, hospitality, etc. across our key markets which include UK&I, DACH, Benelux and Iberia. I focus my efforts on covering a few select sub-sectors which include house builders, residential, social housing, asset managers and hospitality in the UK. I am responsible for providing strategic financial advice which includes M&A, delivering capital market solutions in equity and debt and also selectively deploying Barclays’ balance sheet in relationship lending.

My day starts fairly early with getting up to speed with news, research and earnings. Usually, I also have client materials to review from my team which come through overnight for various current deals, pitches or upcoming client meetings. I typically have two to three client meetings which could be virtual or face-to-face, and I also end up meeting clients more casually for a drink or a meal to end my day. I usually aim to get back home before my toddler goes to bed every evening but that isn’t always the case. I reconnect with my team later in the evening to take stock of the day and plan for the next.

The Real Estate industry must have been impacted by many of the events of the last few years. What trends do you expect to see in real estate in 2023?

The rapid change in monetary policy across most western economies has led to repricing of risk assets. The real estate sector has grown quite rapidly, fuelled by cheap post-GFC debt. Whilst repricing in other asset classes such as debt and equity happens more quickly because a large portion of these assets are relatively liquid, we are still witnessing repricing within real estate and this will continue for another two to four quarters in my view. I expect yields across key sub-assets to widen further in the first half and stabilise in the second. I also see strong investor demand for core assets in good locations with high-quality tenants and environmentally sustainable specifications.

Please tell us about how your professional journey has led you to this point of your career?

My professional journey in real estate started at an MBA internship with Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) way back in 2005. After graduating the following year and a brief stint in media, I gravitated towards real estate strategy consulting. I spent the next four years with CB Richard Ellis (CBRE) in South Asia working through a very exciting time in South Asian real estate with FDI having opened up in the region. I then took a career break, moved to London and spent a year at Bayes pursuing an MSc in Finance. I secured a job within the Deals Business Unit at PriceWaterhouseCoopers whilst studying; I was a generalist for the first year and found myself gravitating towards real estate for the second time in my career. I then navigated my way to the Real Estate Corporate Finance Team back in 2015, focussing on strategic M&A advisory and fund raising for mid-tier clients and sponsors. In 2019 I moved to the Real Estate IB team at Barclays. Along the way I benefitted from working with some extremely bright colleagues and fantastic mangers who sponsored my career.

Thinking about your studies and the skills you developed during your time at Bayes, how have they equipped you through your different roles?

Bayes was definitely an inflexion point in my career. The greatest lesson is the one that teaches you how to think, and I had many of those lessons at Bayes. Apart from all the hard skills you learn in various courses, the co-curricular activities develop your soft skills and teaches you the way of life in business.

Where did your interest in finance and real estate originally come from?

My interest in real estate dates back to my time in JLL. I saw an early opportunity to ride the wave in a sector that was professionalising itself. My interest in finance and real estate finance more specifically comes from my time at CBRE. My clients there were primarily global capital providers and I was very drawn by their perspectives which led me to pursue a mid-career master’s.

Looking back, why did you choose Bayes to study your MSc Finance degree?

Well, apart from the usual things that students generally look for such as high FT Business School rankings, strength of the alumni, early career support, etc. the prospect of living and studying in the City of London was quite exciting to me. Looking back, I think I made the right choice.

We’d be delighted to hear more about your time at the Business School. Do you have any standout memories that you would like to share?

I have quite a lot of great memories from my time at Bayes and to cite a cliché, I worked hard and partied harder. My class was a melting pot of culture and ideas and the course had students from about 50 different countries. The atmosphere was always buzzing and that was perhaps the standout memory for me.

What happened after you graduated? Were you able to make use of the Careers team?

I joined the Deals Business Unit at PricewaterhouseCoopers once I graduated and spent the next couple of years qualifying as a Chartered Accountant whilst working on various corporate transactions.

I found the Careers team really helpful and I still remember my various useful conversations with Charlie Statham, MSc Relationship Manager (who is still around), on how to position my CV with recruiters. Thanks Charlie!

What advice would you give to others looking to follow in your footsteps?

Giving advice makes me feel old, so I’ll be quite brief here. Follow your passion, put yourself out of your comfort zone and never give up.

Thanks to Mark for sharing his story!