FM Spotlight

FM Spotlight: Lydell Simmons – E*TRADE

This month’s FM spotlight is Lydell Simmons. As Director of Corporate Real Estate, Lydell is responsible for assessing the business needs and space requirements for E*TRADE Financial. In this capacity, he examines how to optimize efficiency of all leased facilities while coordinating the safe and secure operations and maintenance of E*TRADE’s real estate assets.

What is one thing that no one knows about you?
“I played semi-professional football for the Connecticut Giants from 2000-2004. I was the starting nose tackle. We lost two games over that span and it was an incredibly fulfilling experience. I love playing football. Also, I had just recently moved to Connecticut at this time, so it was a good way to meet new people.”

How did you get into the Facilities field?
“Completely by accident. I am a Civil Engineer by training; however, most of the design work I performed was heads down work. I am sort of a social butterfly, so structural design, while very fulfilling, did not afford me much opportunity by way of collaborating with others; corporate real estate and facilities management did. I get to see and work with all kinds of people and groups on a daily basis. This makes my job and role very satisfying.”

Tell us about a favorite project highlight?
“I would say my most recent project – moving our company headquarters into a new space – is a favorite highlight of mine. It was truly an evolutionary experience where we moved into a space that represents how nimble we are as a company. I loved the fact that the employee teams here embraced the new space and all of its different offerings, such as the open plan, which definitely has its place in our world. I worked with a steering committee of the company’s top leaders and periodically provided project updates, highlighting risks and mitigation plans, ultimately holding myself and my team accountable to the overall success of the project.

I am proud to say that we completed the project on time. Changing the look and feel of a headquarters space is no small feat. I am proud of what we accomplished here at our Times Square space.”

What is your greatest success story?
“My greatest success story came from my first large real estate project in the Seattle, WA market. Early in my career I had an opportunity to sell a property that was owned by my former employer. It was the last property the company owned in its 700-facility footprint. Not only was I able to sell the property, I did so before the end of the quarter, negotiating and executing the leaseback of the space, and the sale proceeds added to the EPS for the quarter (roughly $0.01/share). I was so proud of that. Truly a great experience.”

Tell us about a challenge or obstacle that you face in the Real Estate/Facilities world.
“Real estate and facilities is always a challenge. I would say that the biggest challenge I face is the 'tough customer.' We work with lots of stakeholders and always want to do the right thing. Making sure that there is full transparency between the CRE, facilities management and the end user does go a long way to ensure that trust is built, and that we are all aligned on the same page.”

What learning experience would you pass onto future FM’s?
“I would tell future FMs to not be afraid to ask questions. My philosophy is that everyone is empowered to make choices and mistakes. Learning from those mistakes sets you apart from other peers in the industry.”

Interviewed by Sonya Verny of Colliers International, IFMA NYC Secretary