2020 Rising Leaders Summit

Online, December 8, 2020


Tuesday, December 8, 2020 | 11:00 AM–12:30 PM EST

What has COVID-19 taught us?

The past year is likely one of the most difficult that any one of us will ever face. Yet, despite the challenges presented by the convergent health, economic, and political crises of 2020, organizations and individuals have been freed to innovate in all areas of their work.

This special AFIRE Rising Leaders summit invites established and emerging leaders from across AFIRE’s membership to pause, reflect, and ask what are the lessons we’ve learned during 2020, and how can we apply those lessons towards rebuilding a stronger and more sustainable future.

Participants will hear from panelists and participate in breakout room discussions on management, work/life balances, post-COVID office environments, and forward-thinking strategy and leadership.

Topics and supporting readings will include:

This AFIRE virtual event is a discussion presented by AFIRE Rising Leaders, who represent a diverse group of mid-career real estate and investment leaders from AFIRE member firms.

This event is free and all AFIRE members are invited to attend.


Lola Bellini is a Director at Wafra. Ms. Bellini joined Wafra in 2015 with more than 20 years of experience working in the real estate sector.

Previously, Ms. Bellini founded her own boutique investment and advisory businesses. She was also a Vice President and Senior Acquisitions Officer at JP Morgan Investment Management and, prior to that, she was with ING Clarion Partners. She began her career at Jones Lang Wootten Realty Advisors and, subsequently, at The Blackstone Group.

Ms. Bellini earned a dual BS in Finance and International Business from New York University Stern School of Business. She is a member of WX (Women Executives in Real Estate) and Co-Chair of the ULI Mentoring Program.

James is a Managing Director of Heitman’s Client Service & Marketing group and an equity owner of the firm. He leads the firm’s global sales process, relationship management, client service and marketing activities. Prior to joining Heitman, James was Senior Managing Director at Black River Asset Management where he lead global investor relations across the firm’s hedge fund and private equity offerings. Before that, he held senior roles in EMEA, Asia Pacific, and North America for BNY Mellon Investment Management. James also worked at investment management and consultancy firms that included Delaware Investments LP, Morley Capital Management and SEI Capital Resources.

James received a BA in Economics and in Psychology from the University of Notre Dame, and is a FINRA Series 24 and 7 Registered Representative. James is an Advisory Board Member for PACER Center, a North American non-profit focused on enhancing the quality of life of children and young adults with disabilities. James also serves as Vice Chairman for Volunteers to Assist Children with Disabilities USA, a non-profit organization focused on promoting and improving the well-being of children with disabilities.

Brandon McMenomy is a Senior Director of CBRE Capital Markets, based in New York. In this position, Brandon’s global capital knowledge and relationships are leveraged to assist CBRE’s investment property professionals to secure and execute world-class institutional placement outcomes on behalf of our clients.

Brandon has an intimate understanding of international capital and its acquisition ambitions in the U.S. and maintains deep relationships with prominent off-shore investors. Brandon provides complete coverage across the globe—from foreign investors with a multi-decade track record to emerging capital sources seeking their first U.S. acquisition.

Brandon has 15 years of experience, completing over $10 billion of acquisitions and sales throughout North America—the majority with foreign capital. He has executed a variety of mandates with investors from Europe, Asia Pacific, the Americas, and the Middle East.

Brandon previously worked at Colliers and Savills in their international capital markets groups advising off-shore investors as they sold and purchased commercial properties in North America. Brandon started his career at CBRE’s Financial Consulting Group which specializes in comprehensive financial analysis. Following this assignment, he joined CBRE Capital Markets advising off-shore clients relative to their US acquisition initiatives.

Principal Global Investors is a limited liability company and a wholly owned, indirect subsidiary of the Principal Financial Group® (“The Principal®”).

Founded in 1879, The Principal began managing retirement assets in 1941. A member of the Fortune 500, the Principal Financial Group serves clients around the globe, from offices in Asia, Australia, Europe, Latin America, and the United States.

The Principal Financial Group, Inc. is traded on the Nasdaq Global Select Market (Nasdaq) under the ticker symbol PFG. 

PGGM is a not-for-profit cooperative pension fund service provider, offering pension management, asset management and management advice.

PGGM manages the pensions of various pension funds, the affiliated employers and their employees. On 30 June 2020, we managed pension assets worth 246 billion euros for 4.4 million participants.

As CEO of AFIRE, Gunnar Branson brings nearly three decades of experience across commercial real estate, professional services, education, and association leadership.

Prior to joining AFIRE in 2018, he served as CEO of the National Association of Real Estate Investment Managers (NAREIM), and before that, he led strategy and marketing for Fortune 500 and other innovative mid-market companies.

As a recognized thought leader, Gunnar is a regular speaker, panelist, and spokesperson for the global real estate and investing community, focused on institutional investing, urbanism, sustainability, and future trends.

Watch this page or check in on AFIRE Global for updates.


Launched in early 2020 as part of AFIRE’s membership events program, AFIRE Virtual Events provide a recurring digital format for AFIRE members to stay connected beyond in-person meetings.

Other special virtual events, outside the weekly scheduled, focus on specialized and timely topics, as well as supporting ongoing education and research.

AFIRE Virtual Events are recorded and made available for members only.


Asmait Tewelde, Meeting Director
atewelde@afire.org+1 202 312 1404

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