Bader Elkhatib began his career as an investment banker before catching the real estate bug and moving into the world of land development in Toronto.
He chose to study at the University of Western Ontario’s Ivey Business School program. “A top business school will help open doors to a challenging career,” he says. Bader recommends going to school away from home to experience the collegial environment that can help form long lasting friendships and a diverse network. He graduated in 2011 and was a recipient of the Dean’s Honour List – Ivey Scholar, ranking in the top 10 percent of his class.
Bader offers two recommendations for summer and full-time employment. Firstly, take what you can from each job. “Don’t write off any of your work experience, every job can provide some key life lessons,” he says. Secondly, “try different jobs in order to find the right fit and set goals that will ultimately make you happy”. This will help you immensely on your career path.
For example, Bader had a summer job as a salesperson at the men’s clothing chain Harry Rosen. He said it was a great job since you quickly learn a customer’s needs, and what’s important to them. “Emotional intelligence is important. Know your customer and their motivations. These are the soft skills important in finance roles,” he says.
Bader also worked in accounting and it was during this time that he decided that he wanted a faster paced and higher stress career. This led him to a full-time role at CIBC World Markets in Toronto after graduating university.
Between 2011 and 2013, Bader was employed in the Technology, Media and Telecommunications group as an Investment Banking Analyst. At CIBC, Bader was involved in fundraising, mergers and acquisitions and cross border transactions.
In 2014, Bader joined Tricon Capital, where he started as an investment analyst and later moved into an associate role. The attractive aspect of this job was taking his investment banking skill set and applying it to real estate private equity investments. Bader primarily worked on U.S. single family land developments and land lease communities which deepened his knowledge of the residential real estate industry.
In mid-2017, Bader joined his current employer CentreCourt Developments, a GTA residential high-rise developer. The nimble company has a strong development business model, which provides an abundance of learning opportunities. “It is complicated and higher risk. I wanted to learn more and expand my knowledge, including the full entitlement and construction process,” Bader says. He was also attracted to the company’s strong leadership and the ability to apply private equity-type financial analysis to development transactions.
Bader eagerly took on any opportunity within the organization that he was offered. This transformed the role into an incredibly multifaceted experience. He recommends that one should “take a positive job approach, be flexible, and learn as much as you can from each role.”
In his first year, Bader was a generalist with very broad responsibilities. Most of his first year was spent focused on getting up the learning curve and exploring residential condominium sales and marketing initiatives. Later on, Bader focused on assessing new acquisition opportunities and raising capital for land development deals. His experience led to promotions and his current role as Vice President.
When asked to describe a typical work day, he says “CentreCourt is project-driven so every day is different. I’m primarily focused on site acquisitions, but this can include meeting real estate brokers, talking to and negotiating with land owners. In addition, I prepare pro formas, handle underwriting to manage risk, develop investment memos, and complete due diligence and financing involved in the closing process.”
The most challenging part of Bader’s work is finding good deals that provide the best return. “There are always multiple deals, most of which do not meet our needs or return thresholds, but it’s important to stay positive, patient and not get discouraged,” he says.
His role is very people-oriented so soft skills are key. “It’s important to know your counterparty and what they want since it helps understand their motivation and help close a deal,” he says.
Bader enjoys his job and the organization, describing it as having an entrepreneurial and meritocratic culture with a focus on great business outcomes.
Bader believes in volunteering and giving back to the community. About six years ago, he joined ULI at the recommendation of a mentor. For the past three years he has volunteered on the ULI Toronto Program Committee. His most recent contribution was organizing the Modular Housing – Faster, Cheaper, Greener event on May 30, 2019.
“Attending ULI events is a great way to meet key people. You meet brokers, architects, and get to learn what each firm does and identify people you may want to work with. Volunteering at ULI is a great way to network and see issues from other people’s perspective, what’s important to them and what the implications are,” he says.
Bader also recommends finding a mentor who can assist as a sounding board for career decisions and help recalibrate one’s expectations. A great mentor can help you set long term goals and provide objective career insights.
Reflecting on his career choices, his advice for job seekers is to find a job that increases your exposure to new ideas and worry less about the compensation. The more you can learn and see, the better.
“Be less rigid, don’t look at the title, look for a role and organization that will teach you,” he says. Even though a job may include some mundane, difficult, or less rewarding tasks, embrace the position and try to identify the learning opportunities.
“Every career move should be deliberate and well thought out, do not change jobs for a marginal pay or title bump. Focus on the role, responsibilities and learning ” he says.