Christina Fenwick, vice president and relationship manager in the commercial real estate group, combines her personal and professional passions to meaningfully impact her clients and the community. Here, she shares how through her life and career she has intentionally blended her interests and how others may do the same.
The beginning of my love for real estate
From a young age, I was drawn to residential real estate development, as my dad was in the industry. I did (and still do) look up to him as a role model. I would tag along with him to visit properties in various stages of construction and loved seeing the progress of not only the buildings going up, but also the spaces they created that were used every day. I saw that it wasn’t just about one individual property – it was more about the communities they collectively created and how it impacted people’s lives in terms of where they lived and enjoyed other activities such as going out to eat or shopping.
The initial stages of building my career
At first, I thought I would be involved in the real estate world purely from a development perspective – essentially, the nuts and bolts of building buildings. However, I had the opportunity to intern at a company where I learned more about loans and the finance side of real estate development. That experience gave rise to an interest in how financial institutions can play a role in constructing communities.
Finding my passion in the industry
With this new curiosity of the financing side of an industry I was already passionate about, I started at UMB as a portfolio manager. This role provided the opportunity to learn about the bank’s overall approach to credit risk and, specifically, its appetite for commercial real estate. I gained experience examining customers’ financials to determine whether they were a good fit for different types of properties and how UMB could potentially partner with them. During this time, I also began to understand how I could apply my growing financial analysis skills to improve communities and create the living spaces I was so fascinated by when I used to visit work sites with my dad.
Discovering my purpose
After a brief step away from UMB, I returned, due in large part to the bank’s commitment to community that has become my career passion. I took on the role of relationship manager specific to community development and affordable housing. My focus with this role was, and is, to make a real impact – and to do this, I work with my team to make true connections in the communities we serve to understand their needs and how we can make genuine progress in filling gaps.
What I’ve learned so far
The greatest need for many communities is affordable, attainable housing. This is critical across the board, but particularly so when it comes to supportive housing, meaning solutions for individuals and families with disabilities, chronic homelessness and other challenges. While UMB plays a significant role in creating supportive communities, we also work hand in hand with other organizations, such as medical providers, municipalities and non-profits to deliver the best solutions.
Since dedicating my career to communities through real estate financing, I’ve found that diving into work that fulfills you both personally and professionally goes a long way in establishing and maintaining motivation. For those just starting their career, I encourage exploring your passions but remaining flexible to your path. As the old saying goes, “if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.”
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