Travis Swenson first connected with Deloitte at an on-campus recruiting event at the University of San Diego. “Starting out, I knew I wanted to work with one of the ‘Big 4’ firms,” he said. “I also knew I wanted to be in financial services. A smaller market couldn’t offer that.”
Deloitte presented him with just that opportunity by offering him a position in the New York office, kicking off what would become a fourteen-year career with Deloitte. Travis now serves as Senior Managing Director and U.S. Leader of the Real Estate Accounting Services at CBRE, the world’s largest commercial real estate services firm. We caught up with him recently to discuss his current role and to reflect on his Deloitte years, mentors and experiences.
Describe your current role at CBRE.
I am the Senior Managing Director and U.S. Leader of Real Estate Accounting Services, which provides property and fund accounting services for more than 700 clients. I oversee the accounting hub in Minneapolis and the satellite offices in Atlanta, Hawaii, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Phoenix. In all, I have about 750 people report to me, and we are responsible for over 570 million square feet of real estate.
What drew you to Deloitte right out of college?
When I travelled to interview at the New York office, I was struck by the people, the culture and the size and scale of it all. It was an exciting opportunity for me. So, I started with Deloitte Tax LLP and spent three years in New York before transferring to Los Angeles, which allowed me to return to the West Coast to serve different types of clients.
What attracted you to the Capital Markets Advisory practice of Deloitte & Touche LLP?
I was working closely with an Audit Partner who introduced me to a principal in the Capital Markets Advisory practice. I was intrigued by the work, so I switched to that practice. I liked the variety of clients, issues and projects. Everything was different and it was not routine by any means. It gave me the opportunity to travel nationally and globally.
What advice would you give someone just starting out at Deloitte?
The path Deloitte sets out for you, might work out just fine. However, there will likely be times when you have to raise your hand and have frank conversations about your career. Maybe you want to explore something new and different? While those plans might not always align with the interests of your partners or directors, I think the leaders at Deloitte are very open to feedback and will help guide your career where you want it to go. Do what your role demands of you, but ensure you are also gaining experience you need for what you want to do five or ten years from now.
When did your current career goals start to take shape?
When I went back to school for my MBA, in my heart, I knew I wanted to run a business and to own a P&L. I worked to identify my skill gaps, and then looked for projects to enhance those skill gaps, allowing me to be more valuable and marketable.
Did you have any mentors at Deloitte?
I had many great mentors. It is important to seek out those people you want as mentors and to have maybe five or so at any given time. That way, you can draw on different points of view. Even if you get thirty minutes of time with a particular leader once a year, it can be incredibly impactful.
What led you to CBRE and were the partners at Deloitte supportive of your move?
Interestingly, I had recently gone through a long interview process to be a divisional CFO at a bank in Minneapolis. I came in second place, which was a disappointment. A month later, I received a call about the opportunity at CBRE, which was a much more significant position. While contemplating it, I spoke with a Deloitte director with whom I had worked closely. His response was not, “I can’t believe you’re thinking about to leaving us.” Rather, it was “That’s awesome. Put time on my calendar to discuss how I can help you be successful in your new role.” That says a lot about Deloitte and about this director. He cared more about my career, than about what he might be losing in the short term.
How does it feel to be on the client side?
We have a number of consulting projects at CBRE. It is great to pick up the phone and navigate my way to the experts in any given field and to continue to leverage those Deloitte relationships.