Each year, the Urban Land Institute (ULI) selects a group of corporate real estate professionals for its Real Estate Diversity Initiative program‡. For Beth DeCuir, senior portfolio manager in UMB’s real estate group (REG), this meant an intersection of three of her passions—mentorship, diversity, and community.

With a record of accomplishment of professional and personal involvement in CREW KC‡, a professional women’s organization where she served on the board from 2017 to 2022, as a new member of WIRED KC‡ and as a board member of Children’s Mercy Cancer Center’s‡ Auxiliary Board, Beth has jumped into this opportunity as a cohort in ULI’s 2023 REDI Program. Here, Beth shares her background, experiences to date and the impact she hopes to make in the future.

Career path

I began my career as a CPA at Deloitte in New Orleans and then in New York City. After five years in public accounting, I worked as a line of business controller for a major national bank in Atlanta. After my husband’s job took us to Kansas City, I stepped away from the traditional workforce for five years to start our family. As much as I love my three children, I yearned to return to the workforce. In 2005, I attended a CREW Network convention and met Cydney Gurgens, which turned out to be a pivotal moment for me. With Cydney’s help, I returned to banking but as a lender this time.

The power of team support

Since my return to the banking world, Cydney has been not only a mentor, but a friend and an advocate – she has been an inspiration every day and motivates me to continue growing and uncovering new passions. I have worked with Cydney in various capacities over the years and joined the REG team at UMB in 2021. I can honestly say that my colleagues at UMB have been among the best I have worked with in my entire professional experience.

Uncovering new interests through ULI

Through ULI’s 15-week course, I learned a great deal about several aspects of commercial real estate (CRE) geared toward creating a community that supports smaller and more diverse real estate developers. Of great interest to me are those smaller developers who are working to make a difference in their communities and create affordable housing in their communities, which is an incredibly significant need. It is a different aspect of real estate, and I am excited to delve into and help create vibrant communities in underserved areas within Kansas City.

As part of the course, all cohorts were divided into teams and tasked with creating a proposal for what type of development they would build on an assigned vacant lot in Kansas City. This was an exciting new challenge for me—one that involved conversations with city officials, working with community members to gain their insight into what would best benefit their neighborhood and, of course, working on the financing side. It also provided valuable insight on how to work effectively with diverse team members who have varying levels of experience with this type of assignment.

The exercise has already opened my eyes to some of the challenges both officials and the community face when it comes to development, and the experience was invaluable to me. I hope to use this experience to work with ULI with its future REDI program cohorts.

I am grateful to the mentors and teammates I have had throughout my career who have encouraged me to grow both professionally and personally. I now have the chance to pay it forward, both in our community and at UMB. It is particularly important for us to embrace our unique differences and help lift each other up—because when we prioritize mentoring, listening, and including those from differing backgrounds, we truly create a strong and vibrant community we can all be proud to call home.

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