NAI Hiffman, one of the nation’s largest independent real estate services companies, and Hiffman National, the firm’s Management Services division, announced the elevation of current president, John Heiberger, to the additional role of chief executive officer, effective Jan. 1, 2024. Heiberger’s appointment will coincide with the launch of a new national Advisory Services group, including an expanded Lender Services business, in response to rapidly changing market conditions and associated client needs. Advisory Services will be housed within Hiffman National.
Current CEO Dave Petersen will transition to chairman of the board of directors, while Dennis Hiffman, a 50-year industry veteran who founded Hiffman in 1981, will transition to founder and chairman emeritus of the board of directors. The executive succession and group launch have been planned for more than two years.
“We are excited about what can go right in these times, despite current challenges in the market,” said Petersen. “We have grown significantly in recent years because of our high-touch, people-driven approach to business, along with our deep market knowledge, investor and lender relationships and data-driven way of maximizing opportunities. We’ll bring that same combination to advisory services, giving us the ability to serve our customers’ needs more broadly and holistically than before.
“Our investor clients are not looking for firms that are pulling back, laying off valued talent or pausing growth initiatives to wait out the market,” said Petersen. “They are telling us they want to work with firms that can lean into these market shifts. We are not running from but running toward 2024 with great optimism, a solid business plan and clients who want our assistance in making the most of a changing market. John is a proven leader whose deep knowledge and extensive relationships will propel our company into its next chapter of growth.”
Adding Advisory Services to Hiffman’s best-in-class brokerage and management offerings allows the firm to more fully serve its existing client base while becoming an even more attractive alternative to prospective clients, according to Heiberger.
“Since before the Great Financial Crisis, Hiffman has been working with lenders in need of receivership, investment sales, note sales, leasing and management services,” Heiberger said. “With the choppiness of the current environment, we see great opportunities to support our lending clients in the bank, insurance, private lending and servicing industries, all while bringing the same relationship-driven approach that has made Hiffman stand out in brokerage and management services. Our ability to quickly step in on behalf of our clients to stabilize troubled office, retail and industrial assets will allow us to use our core competencies to serve a wider pool of clients.”
In addition to lender services, Advisory Services will include project services, which has become crucial as owners look to update their assets to maintain a competitive edge, and lease administration, responding to client feedback and needs. Bob Assoian, currently head of Hiffman National, will lead the new group as executive managing director, head of Advisory Services. He will be based in Hiffman’s headquarters in Oakbrook Terrace, Illinois.
Heiberger joined Hiffman as president in January 2023. Prior to that, he spent more than two decades in senior real estate finance positions including the U.S. head of portfolio management at Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC), chief strategy officer at The PrivateBank, and group senior vice president, commercial real estate for ABN AMRO Bank N.V.
“In just one year with Hiffman, John has steered strategic financial decisions that have improved our bottom line and enhanced our customer-centered approach to business,” Petersen said. “As we look to grow Hiffman, we are confident in the leadership John provides. We have built a great foundation, and now with John at the helm, we’re excited to build on this growth and provide services the market is calling for now.”
Petersen, who joined the firm in 2006 and has been integral to its regional and national expansion, will continue to lead day-to-day activities and remain a shareholder and member of the board. Among other contributions, Petersen helped the firm cultivate relationships with customers, attract and retain talent, and win workplace and industry awards, including the Chicago Tribune’s “Top Workplaces” recognition for 10 consecutive years.
The new leadership structure and company growth goals have led to the hiring of Ann Wallin as chief financial officer. To ensure continuity and the ongoing development of client relationships and business lines, several promotions will take place within the company, leveraging Hiffman’s deep talent pool and philosophy of promoting from within. Carrie Szarzynski will serve as senior managing director, head of management services, while Sarah Cannella has been named managing director, head of strategy and development, a new department for the firm. Current COO, Michael Flynn, will maintain his role within the company.
“Since our firm’s inception, we have navigated numerous market cycles and understand how to help clients capitalize on opportunities, positioning their businesses for success,” Petersen added. “Now is the perfect time to expand the scope of advisory services we offer, empowering our clients to make informed real estate decisions even amid broader economic uncertainty.