Paul McDermott, president and CEO of Washington Real Estate Investment Trust (NYSE: WRE), commonly known as WRIT, joined REIT.com for a CEO Spotlight video interview at NAREIT headquarters in Washington.
McDermott took over as CEO of WRIT in October following the retirement of Skip Mackenzie. He discussed some of the challenges that he has faced in the transition to his new position.
“Skip gave me some good counsel in terms of progressing through certain milestones and to continue to reach out to the networks to have a good sounding board as you make decisions,” McDermott said. “WRIT, like a number of other companies, has a lot of challenges going forward based in terms of what’s taking place in our marketplace right now and directionally in where the real estate and capital markets are going. In terms of challenges from a macro level, we’re obviously dealing with a lot of confusion and distortion in terms of what’s going on on Capitol Hill right now.”
McDermott also outlined some of his goal for the early part of his tenure as CEO, noting that he wants to focus on WRIT’s strategy.
“If you’ve looked at WRIT over the last couple of years, they’ve sold off their industrial portfolio and they are in the process of completing the execution of the sale of a medical office portfolio,” he said. “We’re really focused on three product types: office, multifamily and retail. What I’d like to see is a more granular look at each one of those asset classes. I’ve asked our team to really look at each one of those product types with a more critical lens.”
McDermott discussed how the political tensions in Washington are impacting his company’s strategy going forward. He pointed out that despite the uncertainty in the political arena, the Washington market remains strong in key metrics, such as unemployment, net population growth, median income and the education of the workforce.
“There are still a lot of positive attributes about Washington, D.C. that investors need to get their arms around. I think we can do a better job communicating that,” he said. “I’m confident that with a more refined strategy and a more focused approach, coupled with improving market conditions, Washington Real Estate Investment Trust is going to be on its way to expand its footprint and grow where we need to grow for our investors.”