Managing director, Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group
The Kalahari condominium on 116th Street in Manhattan is one of Alicia Glen’s proudest achievements: modern, luxurious, LEED-certified and above all, a mixture of high-income and medium-income residents.
“It was the first time we combined different income levels, not just in rentals but in home ownership,” Glen said. “That was really groundbreaking, because nobody before has thought that somebody would spend $1 million to buy an apartment in a building [where] other people could buy [one] for $200,000.”
Thinking outside the box is part of Glen’s job description as managing director of Goldman Sachs’ Urban Investment Group, an offshoot of the Wall Street giant that looks to leverage private capital for development projects in underserved communities, be they in New York, San Francisco, Newark or New Orleans.
Glen came to the investment firm from the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development, where she developed an expertise in housing finance and construction. She took that knowledge to the private sector, where she partners with her former colleagues in the city to help advance Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s housing agenda.
“There’s a lot of smart people in this building,” she said, referring to Goldman’s lower Manhattan headquarters. “We’ve been able to figure some structures to raise more money for projects, stretch the government’s buck.”
How did you get your start?
[Goldman Sachs] had really decided that they wanted to develop a strategy around how private capital could invest in underserved neighborhoods and contribute to a broader revitalization strategy, working very much with public partners, but really using a private-sector approach in how you make those investments. And so I thought: What an amazing opportunity to be able to take what I had learned in city government and come to a place like Goldman, that was prepared to give us a lot of resources, to start to think of a strategy to invest in emerging neighborhoods.
On balance, has being a woman helped or hurt?
You gotta have a lot of balls in this business. It has a male aura: If you’re going out on a job site, and men are wearing hard hats, I have to go in a hard hat, and have to remember to take off my heels. I admit it. But I also think it’s an advantage, because you can bring the view of people’s and families’ needs to conceptualizing a project or business strategy.
What is the worst advice anyone ever gave you?
I’ve been given a lot of good advice. Sometimes you get advice that as you’re trying to work your way up and get more authority, [you should] conform to the culture of a place so that the folks at the top feel comfortable with you. And that’s the worst advice. I attribute a lot of my success at Goldman to the fact that I did come with a different perspective.
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