Eunice Wong is Vice President, Real Estate at Ernst & Young Orenda Corporate Finance (“EY”) and helps manage a team of over 20 people in the national practice who come from a diverse range of disciplines including accounting, financial advisory, real estate brokerages, and public sector finance.
When Eunice graduated in 2008 from York University’s Schulich School of Business, as she describes, “it was not an ideal time to graduate for a finance major” and the pool of jobs was slim. She worked for TD Securities as a Market Risk Analyst but didn’t find the work to be a good fit. Taking a big risk, she quit her job without the security of a new one. Reflecting on the university courses that interested her along with a personal interest in real estate development, city building, and architecture, she decided to transition into the world of real estate finance. Going back to school to do a degree in urban planning or architecture was not an ideal path forward for Eunice. “I wanted to get my foot in the door, but knew I had to start from the bottom,” she says.
Leveraging her background in finance, she found a job working at Colliers International as an analyst. She supported two teams in the brokerage services practice involved with national and global corporate real estate portfolios.
Moving from Colliers to EY, Eunice joined a small team performing market research and portfolio evaluations and was exposed to a new and exciting range of projects and clients.
After recently being promoted from a senior associate role to vice president, Eunice has seen her team grow from 5 to 15 people in 6 years and takes pride in the family-like dynamics of her team. Working long hours and late nights in the world of corporate finance and real estate, Eunice stresses how important it is to be part of a team that you enjoy working alongside and spending a considerable amount of time with. “There’s a lot of stressful clients and situations, but as long you enjoy working with your team and don’t mind seeing your colleagues it helps to motivate everyone during those stressful periods,” she says. Her team is a big reason she stays motivated at work and she enjoys the challenge of building and fostering a culture of continuous learning while making sure that people are happy at work. Despite the importance of teamwork and coordination, one of the challenges she faces, especially being a female in a male-dominated industry, is “making sure you look out for yourself” and advocate for yourself.
Some aspects of the growth on the real estate team over the last 6 years that Eunice played an active role in involved increased exposure in the real estate world and partnering with other industry players and various architectural and engineering firms. Her team is comprised of “generalists and Jack-Jill-of-all-trades,” meaning a lot don’t specialize in one specific area of expertise but rather bring a range of skillsets and passions to each project. This has allowed her team to take on a wide range of projects and make some risky business decisions.
Something that Eunice is proud of her team for doing is leading the charge in valuations for cannabis facilities. “It is such a new industry that not a lot of other shops want to get into that space,” she says. Despite this fact, Eunice found it to be something a lot of clients were asking for. With recreational cannabis sales and production being recently legalized in Canada, her and her team took a risk to enter that space and faced a big learning curve. Eunice saw the business and the educational opportunities for her team in taking on and attracting this type of work, and her team has been able to run with it. Witnessing and experiencing first-hand the growth of a new industry has been motivating for Eunice and her team.
A Vice President role also comes with the push to attract new clients and bring in more business. Eunice has accepted the challenge of finding personalized strategic initiatives for business development and growing her client base while having a shy and more introverted personality.
On the topic of mentors and managers that have played a part in her professional and personal development, she says “having specific people in positions of leadership that show that being stern, direct, or aggressive doesn’t have to be viewed as bringing down others” has been extremely helpful. Being a woman in the corporate finance and real estate development industry, Eunice viewed this difference as an asset in being able to “stand out” more easily. She speaks of both male and female managers who “realize the importance of being encouraging and inclusive and making sure everyone is seen, no matter their race or gender.”
Eunice has been a ULI member for over 6 years and has played an active role on ULI Toronto’s editorial sub-committee, regularly writing event recaps and member profiles. Compared to other professional memberships and associations she’s involved with, Eunice believes that ULI does a great job at organizing events and speakers that welcome and facilitate engagement with a broad range of professional disciplines.
“If you live in the GTA, are genuinely interested in city building and what’s going on with infrastructure, ULI events can relate to anyone. You don’t need to go to network for business but can go to events for personal development and knowledge,” says Eunice. She enjoys seeing people at ULI events who don’t work in real estate, planning, or development, but who are there listening and meeting people out of genuine interest or concern. Being an active member and volunteering with ULI, Eunice is able to attend events and meet people, not only for her professional development but also her personal interest and investment in topics such as city building, architecture, and social well-being.