Published on: March 10, 2021
Peter’s role as Director of Facilities Management within the Corporate Real Estate department involves the oversight of facilities responsibilities across Neuberger Berman’s offices globally; 10 US locations, which include the 420K-SF HQ location on Sixth Avenue; and offices in a number of European and APAC cities as well.
His daily activities include oversight of NB’s mailroom/print-production facility, corporate security, regular meetings with the firm’s branch offices and with the landlord management teams for Neuberger’s largest offices, budget oversight, assisting with the management of the NY reception team, leasing renewals, and corporate housing and personnel management in both New York and London. In addition, Peter and his team are actively involved in ensuring safe, secure, environmentally sustainable operations while reducing expenses.
What is one thing no one knows about you?
“That this is a second career for me. I spent the first 14 years of my working life downtown – first as a municipal bond broker at a division of Standard & Poor’s and then working for a large specialist firm on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Both jobs were exciting and a great place to be at the time, but there came a point at which trading activity quickly started to shift toward automation and away from the Floor; the writing was on the wall to figure out another direction. Though I sometimes miss the finite hours that come with a job in a trading environment, my job today is much more varied, and I work with an incredible team at NB. I’m very grateful to be where I am today.”
How did you get into the Facilities/Workplace field?
“After the NYSE I was able to get a position in hotel management, overseeing the co-op apartments within a Fifth Avenue hotel tower that included managing the Local 6 housemen on staff. It was rather “trial by fire” – suddenly managing about 20 long-tenured union employees whereas I hadn’t managed a soul previously. The hotel took a chance on me, and it actually turned out quite well and was a huge learning experience. The hardest part was working every weekend and holiday for my two years there, being the newest manager in the hotel.
From there I moved to Brown Harris Stevens as a residential property manager, managing co-op and condominium apartment buildings. I quickly learned that even the most beautiful Park Avenue and Fifth Avenue buildings have leaks and façade issues like most every other building! In that position I met someone on the commercial ownership side who became a mentor and guided me toward the world of commercial management. Initially I was a portfolio manager at a firm that ultimately became part of Cushman & Wakefield, and then, 8+ years ago, I started here at NB on the Facilities side. It’s been an exceptionally interesting, fun and educational path.”
Tell us about a favorite project highlight.
“When I first started here my manager asked me to start hosting periodic calls with our offices outside of NY to get a better sense of the issues they might be having and to offer our assistance. When we first began these calls, we could sense a bit of reluctance; it took some time to have them understand (and believe!) that we really wanted to help and not simply tell them how things should be done. An FM has to be very careful when sitting in the company’s headquarters office and speaking to employees elsewhere so as to not come across as heavy handed. We explained that our role is to support the offices and that, while there are company standards to be maintained across the portfolio, we truly want to help make their days easier and not to simply “oversee” their operations.
With the success of these calls, we’ve developed wonderful relationships with all of these colleagues, and, as an added benefit, with all of the local building management offices as well. We here in NY are usually the ones reaching out to the landlord/building management offices directly when issues arise. This takes the burden off the local staff and also allows us to be the ones nudging the building if issues persist. It becomes our responsibility to see that situations are remedied, as it should be, so that our onsite employees can focus on their actual, day-to-day responsibilities. And finally, it gives our department a good bit of transparency around what’s happening everywhere, and the local landlords know who we are in those fun instances when we need to call them on weekends or the middle of the night!”
What is your greatest success story?
“Honestly I think it’s working with the team I do today. So much of managing space is collaborative. There are those tasks that require independent work, such as staying on top of endless emails, writing performance reviews, prepping for meetings, etc., but the vast majority of what we work on each day requires coordination and conversation with many of our colleagues, both locally and around the world, and it’s those interactions that are among my favorite parts of my role here. We learn from each other and also enjoy working for such a great organization.”
Tell us about a challenge or obstacle that you face in the Real Estate/Facilities world.
“These days I think it’s trying to increase awareness regarding sustainability. Some building owners, like ours here in NY and our new landlord in London, are fully committed to improving their environmental footprints and to helping their tenants do the same. In some other cities and countries, though, the owners or management companies view it as much less of a priority, only implementing the bare minimum that’s required by the local laws. We see utility submetering, the ability to obtain tenant-specific waste stream data, centralized trash bins on floors rather than individual cans and many other initiatives as the best ways to have tenants recognize their impact on the environment. Once you have data you then you have a starting point for implementing change. These initiatives benefit both your firm’s bottom line and even more importantly, the world we live in. So we keep asking and giving examples of how this information can help. I don’t see this as a trend, I see this as the future.”
What learning experience would you pass onto future FMs?
“It’s such a cliché to say, but ask questions. There are so many different facets to FM work and no one can be expected to learn them all in the early years. It only hurts yourself to think, “I should know this already. I can’t ask now!”.
Also, take the FM coursework available to those in our profession. You’ll not only learn a great deal, but earning those accreditations shows your initiative to current and future employers. Plus, you’ll have them for your entire career.
Build a peer network. This is a crucial lifeline; as issues big (COVID) or small (like what’s the best ID badge printer) come up, you’re then able to ask others how they’re handling the same situation at their site. You can also visit their offices and see first-hand how they might be handling a challenging situation in a better way.
Lastly, always, always have your eye on the bottom line. A Facilities department is never going to generate income; our job is to spend money, for better or worse. But we can save money; that’s one of the many areas where we can shine, such as bidding out services on a routine basis, determining efficiencies and continually finding ways to be resourceful. You’ll always need quality vendors, and they should be treated with respect, such as when you’re working on negotiating improved pricing. It’s another example of maintaining balance so that both sides of the equation feel like they’re being treated fairly.”
Interviewed by Sonya Verny, MCR, Operations Director of Business Development in the Americas at Mace Group, IFMA NYC Secretary & Executive Committee Oversight for the Communications Committee