Greensboro, N.C.-based Bell Partners has been assembling quite the roster of multifamily personnel powerhouses. A couple of weeks ago, it added another name to that list, pulling Lili Dunn away from Alexandria, Va.-based AvalonBay Communities to take on the position of Bell's chief investment officer.
Multifamily Executive senior editor Les Shaver asked Dunn what brought her to Bell, the 10th-largest manager of apartments in the country, and what her goals for growth are.
MFE: What attracted you to Bell?
DUNN: It was certainly hard to leave 20 years of history and many friendships at AvalonBay. AvalonBay is one of the best apartment companies in the industry, and I am grateful for the experience that I gained there.
I joined Bell Partners for many reasons. Their strategic vision, entrepreneurial spirit, and warm culture creates an environment that's inspiring. They are also a well-established and respected company that has a strong track record of providing superior returns. Bell Partners is the 10th largest apartment management firm in the country and has completed more than $7 billion in transactions since 2000.
MFE: What are Bell's strengths as a company?
DUNN: While many real estate companies were retrenching during this last downturn, Bell actually pursued a contrarian strategy. They strengthened their company's platform in order to be well-positioned to take advantage of emerging opportunities when the market recovered. I believe they've built a best-in-class leadership team with seasoned professionals from some of the best firms in the industry. I'm excited to join the group and enhance the company's platform.
MFE: You're a bit of an expert on the D.C. region. Does Bell want you to help them move into the D.C. area?
DUNN: We will thoughtfully consider further geographic expansion or contraction in order to continue to deliver strong returns to our investors. Based on our collective experiences, I believe we will seek to deepen our presence in the D.C. area.
MFE: What's your role at Bell?
DUNN: I will focus on four key areas: refining of our investment strategy, broadening our access to capital, enhancing our investment and portfolio management infrastructure, and expanding our acquisition platform.
Over the past four years, Bell Partners has raised three high-net-worth funds and attracted significant institutional sidecar capital without using an investment banker. The have a strong following because they have delivered exceptional returns to their investors given their in-depth local knowledge, extensive relationships, strong operating platform, and seasoned team. Some of their institutional partners include DRA and Covenant Capital. They fly under the radar and have quietly gotten very large.
MFE: What does the future look like for Bell?
DUNN: As apartment fundamentals continue to recover, ample and attractive liquidity remains available, and tolerance for risk increases, investor appetite will further strengthen and I believe that Bell Partners is well-positioned to take advantage of the compelling acquisition and capital market opportunities that are emerging.