Interview with Bryan Blake and Andrew Iglowski, The Seyon Group
We sat down with Bryan Blake and Andrew Iglowski of The Seyon Group (“Seyon”), an industrial focused real estate investment firm to discuss their start, obstacles they overcame, and their view on the future of real estate and technology.
Bryan and Andrew each serve as Managing Partner and co-founder at Seyon Group, and are responsible for Seyon’s overall operations and management, in addition to overseeing origination, structuring, and asset management for all Seyon’s investment activities.
Bryan earned his Bachelor of Arts in Public Policy & Law from Trinity College.
Andrew earned his Bachelor of Science in Finance from Merrimack College.
How did Seyon Group get started?
Andrew: Bryan and I met as colleagues when I joined the investment team at another local industrial platform. Rather immediately, and over the course of the next few years, we developed a very synergistic relationship relative to work ethic, work orientation, and with respect to our busy family lives. Not surprisingly, we also jointly developed what we thought was a rather compelling investment thesis which served as the catalyst for starting Seyon at the beginning of 2017. Since that time, we’ve had a lot of fun and worked really hard to execute our strategy. We have a great deal of pride in the success we’ve experienced for the benefit of our partners, employees, and families.
What drove your interest in real estate?
Andrew: Real estate, particularly industrial real estate, is really defined as the place where our tenant organizations use our facilities to invent, produce and handle physical products. These are places where innovation occurs, new products are invented, and where product demand is met through the distribution of these goods to the broader population. I’ve always thought those are interesting and important facts that continuously stimulate my curiosity and spur new ideas relative to the manner in which we invest in real estate.
Bryan: I didn’t intend to go into real estate; I had all intentions of going to law school. As time went on, I found myself working in the real estate business. Real estate is a tangible asset, and it’s relationship-based. Most operators focus on multi-family or office opportunities which leads to significant competition.
Here at Boston Private we understand that wealth rarely has to do with money. What is your wealth really for? Tell us a little bit about what motivates you – the Why behind your passion and Why you work so hard to achieve your goals?
Bryan: My WHY is my family – I do what I do for them; enjoying the work I am doing surrounded by really good people is what motivates me to get up every morning. I was once told if you can enjoy 4 out of the 5 days you come to work, you’ve found your passion.
Andrew: I’m passionate about investing, the innovation that impacts our sector, and my partners and team; I truly love what I do. Without question, though, “the why” is all about my wife and two children. I feel very fortunate to wake up each day and get to do something I excel at, but my family is the true driver behind my passion to continuously be a better investor, partner, manager, and friend. I think of wealth as a byproduct of that intense motivation to succeed for their benefit.
As a business person, what has been your biggest challenge and how did you overcome it?
Bryan: Starting the company was by far the hardest part. When we first started, we were paying employees from our personal checking accounts. Defining our company culture and working through growing pains along the way were all huge challenges. Our overall thesis is that we are always looking forward and not looking through the rear-view mirror. I’m fully aware that many firms have had success early on and then gone off track. It is important to always be thinking long-term and the challenges we have overcome have helped us to create the company we run today.
Andrew: I think of our approach to real estate as a dynamic strategy of strategies. Which takes a tremendous amount of forward-thinking to succeed. This creates the challenge of pushing the envelope and continuously executing on ever-changing forward-thinking views within our sector. Bryan and I have been fortunate in our ability to surround ourselves with a best-in-class team of professionals whose ability to execute created tremendous value for our partners.
Bryan: Hiring smart and hungry talent and providing them the same opportunities we had is important to us. I hope they stay with us for the long term, but we understand how this works, and we hope to see our employees create their own businesses in the future if that's what they choose to do.
Do you think we will see any major disruptions to the real estate market in the next 5 years? What’s your outlook on the future of real estate investing and development?
Bryan: Industrial real estate, specifically as it relates to institutional ownership and interest, provides for a lot of liquidity capital in the marketplace; both from an equity and debt standpoint. Which has changed the dynamics in markets over the past couple of years. I think it will continue to do so over time which will be a challenge for us to overcome.
When we first started, we were looking at areas that were often overlooked, but those areas aren’t overlooked anymore. Trying to identify the next opportunity in industrial real estate will be critical for our growth and important for our investors.
Andrew: There continues to be large-scale investor consolidation within our sector, which means that it’s more difficult to uncover greater value relative to our competitors. I believe that in order to do so, it will require a high level of discipline and determination to remain a boutique firm with a hyper-focused strategy. I think the evolution of the online marketplace, with cause there to be a significant advance in technology that will rapidly change the way our tenants invent, manufacture, and distribute goods. It will be critical for us to remain at the forefront of this innovation in order to continue to attract the largest tenant organizations in the world.
Have you seen any increases in the market for sustainable buildings?
Andrew: Long-term sustainability is as important to us and partners and tenants. The overall awareness and demand for more sustainable facilities continue to increase. This has required us to be mindful of how our buildings are used and how we can help minimize the impact through investments in alternative energy sources. I also think that technological advances in EVs, automation, and newer alternative energy sources such as batteries will be important considerations within our overall investment strategy going forward.
“If I could spend 30 minutes with a person of import, it would be….
Bryan: I think our brains work quickly, probably not in the same hemisphere as his, but that would be my pick.
Andrew: Steve Jobs. He was both brilliant and astoundingly creative. He effectively put the Internet in the pockets of every human being. As it relates to my business, the invention of the iPhone is probably the most significant all-time and permanently changed how people purchase and receive goods.
My favorite part of the day is...
Bryan: My favorite part of the day is the early morning between 5:30-7:00 AM because it’s the "calm before the storm" and allows me a few moments to catch my thoughts before a busy and hopefully exciting day.
Andrew: My favorite part of the day is the walk to school with my children, it sets the stage for a successful day and puts me in a good mood, and it reminds me every morning why I got up.