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Harrison Street: Best Real Estate Manager (fund size above USD1bn)

Harrison Street is a leading investment management firm exclusively focused on alternative real assets. Since inception in 2005, it has created a series of differentiated investments solutions focused on demographic-driven, needs-based assets. 

Withstanding black swan events

Christopher Merrill, Co-Founder, Chairman and CEO at Harrison Street, says: “We designed our firm specifically to withstand black swan events. The strength and thoughtfulness of our investment thesis, the rigor of our policies and procedures and the cohesiveness of our team and culture were built to withstand market disruptions. While we appreciate that no assets are recession-proof, we believe our assets are more resilient than those that are more correlated to the broader economic market, such as assets driven by GDP and job-growth.” 

Accordingly, Harrison’s portfolio was well-positioned to operate throughout the pandemic, and continue its success by focusing on its business, and collaborating and communicating with its teams. Merrill adds: “We also had significant levels of dry powder available and were able to step in to provide certainty and flexibility with our operating partners.” 

As Harrison Street marks its second black swan event since its inception in 2005, it has a team of domain experts and a network of best-in-class operating partners. 

“The demands of managing our USD39 billion portfolio during the pandemic have been boundless,” Merrill says. “However, the Harrison Street team persevered with its creativity, commitment and expertise.”

To build on this performance, Harrison will continue to innovate and create differentiated solutions for its investors in partnership with its network of leading universities, healthcare systems, and operators through expansion of its geographic footprint and by continuing to invest in its people.

Throughout the pandemic, the firm has expanded its proven approach and global platform, continuing to be a first mover in alternative, demographic-driven real assets including Life Sciences, European student housing/build to rent, social infrastructure and digital realty. 

Merrill says: “We have consistently espoused the importance of our operating partner selection and the due diligence necessary to find the right partners. In up markets, the importance of our philosophy and approach may not be as evident. In challenging times, our diligence and process are apparent as our partners continue to provide high quality care for our senior residents and safe and modern housing for students throughout the pandemic.”

Targeting zero emissions

In terms of key trends, Harrison identifies Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) initiatives as of the upmost importance in the PE industry. Investors across the real assets industry have joined the movement to cut the carbon emissions of their assets to zero. Some assets have a clearer path to zero, while others will require more time and creativity, Merrill believes. 

Going forward, Harrison Street will continue to build on the groundwork laid by the firm over its 16-year history, including its focus on investments that offer defensive, needs-based characteristics and attractive risk-adjusted returns for our investors. 

“We will remain grounded in our risk management while continuing to drive performance for our investors and seek creative ways to leverage our expertise and relationships with leading universities, healthcare systems, and operators,” Merrill says. 

Christopher Merrill, Co-founder, Chairman and CEO, Harrison Street
Christopher Merrill is the Co-founder, Chairman and CEO of Harrison Street, a real assets investment management firm he co-founded in 2005 that has completed nearly USD47 billion in transactional volume and as of 3Q21 has over USD39 billion in AUM. Merrill is currently the largest individual shareholder and serves as Chairman of the Board and the Investment and Executive Committees of the Company.

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