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Graphic: Maybeth Peralta/AL DÍA News
Graphic: Maybeth Peralta/AL DÍA News

2021 AL DÍA 40 Under Forty Honoree: Tommy Choi

At the upcoming AL DÍA 40 Under Forty event on Aug. 27, Tommy Choi will be one of the 40 honorees.

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The second annual AL DÍA 40 Under Forty event will serve to highlight and showcase some of the most diverse and impactful young professionals across the Philadelphia region.

At the event, taking place on August 27, 2021, Tommy Choi will be one of the 40 honorees. He is the director of national corporate real estate services at SVN International Corp. and senior advisor at The Concordis Group

Biography

Choi serves as a Senior Advisor at SVN | The Concordis Group, as well as, a Director with SVN’s National Corporate Real Estate Services team. He possesses over eleven years of experience, with the last eight in exclusive Tenant Representation and Corporate Advisory. Day to day, Tommy advises his clients in leasing, acquiring, and disposing of commercial real estate assets.

A licensed and seasoned corporate real estate professional, Tommy focuses on office and industrial tenant representation, property dispositions/acquisitions, portfolio management, and long-term strategic planning. His experience also includes advisory in the new FASB & IASB lease accounting standards that will be taking effect at the end of 2021 for private companies.

He also serves on the boards of two nonprofits, SEAMAAC, as its Secretary and Real Estate Committee Chair, and the National Association of Asian American Professionals, as its Chief Operating Officer.

Choi is a graduate of Temple University, with a Bachelors of Science in Architecture and a Bachelors of Business Administration in Marketing.

Here are Tommy Choi's responses: 

1. What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your professional career?

My career in commercial real estate focuses on National Corporate Real Estate Advisory Services specifically in tenant representation. By only representing the occupier, I inherently eliminate conflict of interests and can solely focus on the fiduciary responsibilities of my clients to secure the best solutions possible for their real estate needs. The biggest challenge that I have faced in my professional career is being a minority in the industry and breaking through the status quo to earn trust and build a relationship with decision-makers looking to hire and engage with a commercial real estate professional – a tall task when cold calling, emailing, or networking.

Philadelphia is very much a relationship-driven marketplace. More often than not, I did not look like their current or former advisor and that was a challenge when attempting to create new business relationships or to be invited to submit for proposals. Trust has to be earned and creditability needs to be built so I am forever grateful for my clients that looked past the cover of the book to see that my team and our collective industry experience competed just as well, if not better than their former providers.

If we look at industry data and refer to a recent study on diversity in commercial real estate, over 80% of professionals in commercial real estate are made up of white men. White women make up approximately 14% of the industry and African-American men make up only 1.3%. Asians are generally not even a numerical statistic because it is such a small percentage of the industry. The data dictated and proved that the odds of a company engaging or having engaged with a minority professional for their commercial real estate needs were slim in an already competitive industry. As we work towards a more diverse and inclusive industry, I hope the challenges I’ve faced in being a minority in the business early on will become less or hopefully nonexistent for future generations.

2. What steps can be taken to improve diversity, equity and inclusion in your industry? Why is it important to do so?

The commercial real estate is an industry that for the most part is still set in its customary ways. In recent years, strides have been made to break through the barriers for minority professionals to enter into the business, but the industry as a whole is still a long way away from other respective industries when it comes to DE&I. The main issue for our industry is exposure and education of the existence of career opportunities within the field. Exposure is key to provide the next generation of minorities an understanding that there is a place for them in this business and that they can excel.

DE&I is important in my industry because commercial real estate opens up an avenue for individuals, especially minorities, to create a platform for generational wealth. It affords us the opportunity to provide for generations to come; the foundation and security so many of us did not grow up with or even knew existed. For decades, minorities were not offered or invited to a seat at the table to invest in their future. My goal is to create new seats and make new tables for minorities navigating through their commercial real estate careers.

3. What does being a leader mean to you?

Being a leader to me means creating a vision and the pathway for others to grow, develop and reach their full potential in the pursuit of that vision. I think leadership and management are often incorrectly combined. Leaders do not have to be a manager of people; exceptional leaders motivate and inspire others to want to accomplish the goal versus being told they have to.

4. Where do you see yourself in five years?

If all goes according to plan, in five years I’ll be in the commercial real estate industry, continuing to grow professionally, helping my clients execute and implement their commercial real estate strategies. I envision my business partner and I continuing to grow our local team and tackle larger and even more complex assignments as part of our robust national corporate services platform. Outside of work, I plan to continue giving back through philanthropical initiatives. Whether it be continuing to serve on non-profit boards and leadership teams, or just volunteering for events that I’m passionate about; I’ll continue to find time and resources to give back to the community.

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