Jan Sternin, SVP, Managing Director, is responsible for business development and industry relations across Berkadia’ servicing platform. She’s been with Berkadia for over 8 years and has been instrumental in growing Berkadia’s profile as a trusted, experienced, best-in-class servicing partner and helping set a strategic vision for the largest non-bank commercial mortgage servicer in the nation.
But Jan isn’t just a leader at Berkadia, she’s a leader in the CRE industry. She’s served as Senior Vice President of Commercial and Multifamily for the Mortgage Bankers Association, been recognized by Connect.Media as a Woman of Influence, and is currently on the Commercial Real Estate Finance Council Board of Governors. Most recently, Jan has been named one of two first Fellows at the CREFC Center for Real Estate Finance at the Schack Institute for the year 2020-2021.
We sat down with Jan to talk to hear how the fellowship came about, what she’s excited to learn and what she’s hoping to share.
Q: You’ve been involved with CREFC for a long time, but this fellowship is breaking new ground. How did the role come about?
CREFC is deeply committed to building a strong future for the CRE industry and a crucial part of building that future is educating the next generation of leaders. Last year, the CREFC board made the decision to create an endowment for the Schack Institute at NYU to support this commitment.
I was fortunate to be a part of the Endowment committee that shaped the elements of the program. One of the components of the endowment is the fellowship program—this year there are 11 exceptional graduate students—but we all agreed that a mentorship program to help guide the students was important to both help the students’ development and also to help create programming that would benefit the industry more broadly.
When I was helping create the role, I didn’t realize I’d be the one to fill it! But my colleagues at CREFC approached me and Jack Cohen, who I’ve worked with for years, to ask if we would be the inaugural Fellows. Jack and I have worked together on several industry initiatives over the years, spearheading industry and community education initiatives following the S&L crisis, the Crash of ’08 and other times of stress and it’s been some of our most meaningful work.
We jumped at the chance to take on another groundbreaking challenge of sorts, focused on helping prepare the next generation of CRE leaders and to learn from them in turn. And I’m so glad we did!
Q: Now that you’ve met with the students and are starting to settle into the role, what are you most looking forward to?
Without a doubt I’m most excited to mentor and connect with the students. Mentoring has always been a focus for me, both with my teams internally and across the industry. I’m thrilled at the opportunity to get to know the students better and share my experience with them, but also to learn from them. Our first meeting was a joyous interaction for me—they had great questions, unique perspectives and so much promise! But I also have homework to do—part of the Fellowship is the production of an applied research brief and a lecture. I haven’t had homework in a while, so I have my work cut out for me!
I’m also very keen to use the experience to bring new insights to Berkadia. Certainly, I look forward to the fresh perspectives I know these young leaders will offer, but I’m equally excited about the programming we’ll be developing and how we can incorporate it into our team development at Berkadia. The goal of this program is growth and for me that’s as important for the students as it is for the teams I work with day in and day out.
Q: What do you hope to bring to the role? How has your work at Berkadia shaped your perspective?
When I committed to the Fellowship, I expected I’d be mentoring the students in person. Obviously, the pandemic has derailed any in-person plans for a while but has also prompted some interesting perspectives early on. The students seem much more willing to accept the uncertainty of the future and are willing to consider an industry that looks different than it has traditionally in terms of remote working, how teams operate, etc.
It opened my eyes and has me thinking about building relationships and building a culture. Berkadia has an incredibly strong culture—our ‘Berkadia Way’ foundation and framework provides guidance on how we treat others, how we communicate and how we solve problems. It’s an invaluable tool, especially in recent months as we bring on new team members who’ve never entered our offices or met many of their colleagues in person.
As we envision new futures for the CRE industry, I’m confident it will remain grounded in strong relationships and a collaborative culture. I hope to help the students navigate as we move our industry forward, together.