Casey Khuri’s route through the commercial real estate world first started in banking in the midst of the 2008 financial crisis.
Today, as vice president at Cumberland County-based NAI CIR, the mother of three has made herself known as a business leader focused on community impact in the greater Harrisburg area.
After Khuri graduated from Temple University’s Fox School of Business with a degree in business administration in 2008, she began working for Commerce Bank, now Metro Bank, as a financial analyst.
When Khuri reflects on the launch point of her career in the financial sector, she acknowledges that in many ways, 2008 was the worst time to enter the field.
Khuri became privy to the critical conversations lenders were having with their clients in the midst of major economic shifts. These conversations became formative experiences that Khuri says helped her learn the ropes of building positive client and community relations, a skillset that would become invaluable throughout her career journey.
After spending one year as a financial analyst and one year as a junior lender, Khuri became a lender, a role she stayed in until leaving Metro Bank in 2015 to pivot into commercial real estate at the family-owned company, NAI CIR.
Khuri’s father and president of NAI CIR, Robin Zellers, had dropped hints that he wanted to see Khuri part of the company prior to her leaving Metro Bank.
Zellers had been involved in the commercial real estate world since before Khuri was in college and she remembers him driving around their community, pointing out commercial spaces that were changing ownership or gaining new tenants, telling stories of what the spaces were and what they would become.
“Having that experience and history when I was young, I really saw how a company can affect a community, if done right,” Khuri said. “Our company is 50 years young, as we like to say. We’ve been in this world for a while, but we have relationships here that go back that long and those relationships have really been the ones that have helped shape the community.”
Values of humility, community involvement, and hard work are anchors of Khuri’s career. She said she does not shy away from embracing experiences that would allow her to step into positions of leadership.
While working at Metro Bank, Khuri became involved with Harrisburg Young Professionals at the encouragement of other lenders at the bank. Khuri, a former Temple University soccer player, started playing sports with other members of Harrisburg Young Professionals. She met the people who led the organization and was encouraged to participate, joining a committee, then the board, and eventually becoming board chair for the organization.
“I saw what a small young profession not-for-profit could do [without] a ton of resources, but with the resources of people,” Khuri said. “To watch how easy it was to just donate some time and see an immediate impact on the community, I was kind of hooked.”
In addition to being part of Harrisburg Young Professionals, Khuri holds board positions on some of Harrisburg’s most notable community benefit organizations including Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Capital Region, the Whitaker Center, Capital Region Economic Development Corporation, and Herbert, Rowland & Grubic, Inc.
Khuri possesses a robust understanding of how business can impact a community, and how professionals can leverage their influence and time to build up the places where they live and work. She says this value of community service and contribution was ingrained into her at the onset of her career and is proud to have maintained it as a core value in her work.
“By being a part of these organizations, I was not only doing good for the community, but I was doing good for the businesses I represented. And you can’t discount that.”
“She just brings an energy and a focus that is welcome in our industry,” Zellers said. “Her efforts in the community have been very broad and very deep. She is absolutely not intimidated by taking a leadership role [and] she represents our industry and our company extremely well in the community.”
Growing as a Leader
With her extensive community involvement and professional experience, Khuri has become a distinguished community leader, as well as an inspiration for other women in business.
“I walked into the finance world in 2008, and luckily it was 2008, so at least there were women that [had] paved a road for me to walk, but I still walked right into the boys club,” Khuri said.
“I had confidence in my ability, I knew I was intelligent, I knew I could figure out anything I wanted to figure out,” Khuri said. “But I [knew] that I had to prove myself. I knew that I was a young female in a male-dominated industry.”
Khuri said she took, the approach of “working harder” to earn the trust of her peers, managers, and clients she was working with at the time, and prove that she could grow into the roles she would eventually inhabit.
“Your result is going to be what proves you, not the fact that you’re a woman working hard, not the fact that you’re a man trying to work hard…the fact that you’re a person in a role and you’re working hard. I think that’s what people care about the most. Do your job and do it well and that is going to be what elevates you,” Khuri said.
With the experience of working in male-dominated industries, Khuri has used the insight she has gained to create more equitable platforms for the agents and staff members she leads at NAI CIR, with the aim of cultivating a place where her organization’s stakeholders can succeed.
As Khuri has progressed in her career and gained leadership experience, she has identified key ingredients that make for positive and impactful leadership.
“I have found the greatest success with both confidence and humility, and I think most people think that they’re mutually exclusive and they are not,” Khuri said. “When you are confident, you have the courage to lead [but] you have to be humble. [Your] humility will then remind you that you can’t do it alone, and you shouldn’t do it alone,” Khuri said.
Khuri has seen the value of collaboration and advocacy for fellow professionals firsthand, and seeks to pay it forward in the leadership roles she currently holds.
“I wouldn’t be where I am at CIR or in any of my board memberships without the people that mentored me. I had women at the bank spread [their] wings to include me intentionally,” Khuri said.
As a mom of three kids, Khuri is transparent about the acrobatics required to maintain a family, a full-time job, and occupy several board positions.
“It’s not fair to try to do 50% at both of them. It makes sense that sometimes you’re going to give a little bit more to one than to another, but you have to identify that you can prioritize both family and career,” Khuri said. “I hope I’m creating a good example for my kids, especially my daughter, in demonstrating you can do that, but also in giving yourself grace to know that it’s not going to be a perfect balance.”