Anyway, after some convincing, she headed off to Citibank in 1989, where she had a front-row seat, in the early 1990s, to the value that private banking could bring to commercial real estate transactions during tough times. “Many banks, including Citibank in the real estate department, had shut down and reduced the financing,” she said. “Private banking became the only place to get real estate loans, and so from 1990 to 1993, I had tremendous growth in my portfolio.”
It was a period of growth for her business at Citibank, despite the difficult economic times. She stayed until 1995, when NationsBank recruited her away. “Then in 1997, NationsBank came to me and said, ‘We just bought Montgomery Securities in California—it’s a brokerage group, and we’d like you to go out and set up a loan production office there for us,’” she said. “I moved out there for 18 months, from 1997 to 1999, which was great. I was there for a tremendous amount of wealth being created for the IPO guys.”
Still, New York had exerted its familiar pull, so when Bank of America merged with NationsBank on Sept. 30, 1998, she took the opportunity to move back East and return to New York to run Bank of America’s private wealth management office in New York.
Related Companies’ chairman and founder Stephen Ross said that it was around this time that he first met Ms. Vrablic and became a client.
“She brings knowledge—and the fact is that if she tells you something, you know it’s going to get done,” Mr. Ross said, when reached by phone. “We’ve really grown as a company, and me as a person, in terms of my business career. She’s been there and seen it grow.” He added that the majority of the real estate transactions Ms. Vrablic has secured for him have been for him personally, as opposed to Related Companies, which he founded in 1972. These included acquisition financing for land and properties and short-term cash.
Deutsche Bank called in 2006, and she left Bank of America.
With growth being a stated mission of the division, Ms. Vrablic said that she’d like to “add new names, new relationships every year”—ideally two new relationships, though each relationship can include several different clients. This was enough, she reasoned, to grow the portfolio of names while giving each the feeling she calls a “high touch.”
“You want them to believe that they’re the only client when they call up, and I think if you get too big, you can’t do that,” she said.
Asked what it is she likes about private banking, Ms. Vrablic didn’t hesitate. “I think I have the best job in the whole world,” she said. “I love my job, and if you love your job, you’re probably really good at it.” She most values the client relationships, she explained—the direct access to the decision-maker.
“We deal in relationships, so it’s sitting across from someone and saying, ‘So what’s important to you? Tell me why you’re doing this,’” she said. “That’s what’s interesting about my job. I take what the bank wants, because the bank has its requirements and their products, and the client has what they want and what they need. And I’m sort of the filter trying to make that happen. That’s kind of fun, because I get the best and the brightest ideas from the bank, and I have the best and the brightest people that I deal with. And that’s my job.”
Ms. Vrablic’s past clients include Observer Media Group publisher Jared Kushner.