If you are one of Utah’s real estate investors (or have been interested in how real estate stacks up against other investment classes), the insights of AIG investment honcho Doug Dachille would likely get your attention. Dachille is American International Group’s Chief Investment Officer. That makes him the decision-maker for the insurance giant’s $350,000,000,000 (that’s billion) portfolio.
Last Friday, Bloomberg TV aired a candid interview on the subject of how he feels real estate investors are likely to fare. The attention-getting interview ran under the heading, “AIG’s Dachille Rejects ‘Bubblicious’ Critique of Real Estate.”
It might seem that your typical real estate investor in Utah has little in common with the director of such a gigantic bankroll, but that’s not necessarily the case. It turns out that insurer AIG—just like any local real estate investor—labors under the necessity to safely maximize returns in order “to back obligations to policy-holders.” With government debt interest rates unappetizingly low, it has set the giants (like AIG, MetLife Inc., and Prudential Financial Inc.) scrambling for investment outlets. One answer has been to enter the arena of real estate investors, principally as lenders.
“Insurers hold funds for long periods of time… so they have been counting on real estate lending to obtain higher yields available to investors who are willing to sacrifice liquidity.”
So where does the “bubblicious” headline come in? It turns out to be a rejection of an earlier analyst who appraised the current real estate market as looking “a little bubblicious”—one that could face shocks should interest rates climb. That kind of worrisome analysis could cause some sleepless nights for Utah real estate investors with memories of the previous real estate bubble.
A return to peaceful snoozing would have been restored if they happened to catch Dachille’s response. With a very sizeable ($22.9 billion) portion of AIG’s stake in direct commercial mortgage loan exposure, he sees the ability to raise rents as a satisfactory counter to the inflation risk. “Commercial real estate is very similar to an inflation-protected bond,” he said; “What’s…bubblicious?”
Dachille regards the sector as presenting an attractive place for long-term returns—with a risk factor on a par with alternatives currently offering much lower yields. He revealed that AIG has been scaling back investments in hedge funds for a number of reasons. One that might ring true for Utah real estate investors is many funds’ relative lack of transparency. As Bloomberg summarized, “He was uneasy about funds when he can’t track their trades.”
Investors like AIG’s Dachille have a peculiar—and stupendous—problem in having to find suitable venues for billions in assets. For local investors, it’s a lot less complicated to uncover single opportunities in today’s Utah real estate market. Call me if you are interested in exploring them!