Finance  ·  CMBS

Brighton Capital Advisors Hires CMBS Veteran Alison Coen for Midwest Coverage

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With the Chicago market facing significant commercial real estate distress, commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS) advisory firm Brighton Capital Advisors (BCA) IS strengthening its coverage of the Midwest with the hiring of CMBS veteran Alison Coen.

BCA appointed Coen as a principal and senior adviser for the Midwest, an area of the country she covered extensively for various CMBS platforms for nearly two decades. The Chicago native began her CMBS career on the credit side at Fitch Ratings before becoming a senior loan originator with multiple lenders. 

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“She not only is a CPA by background but she has also worked at a ratings agency, so it gives us another perspective,” Michael Cohen, managing partner at BCA, told Commercial Observer. “It adds to our expertise.” 

Cohen added that Coen’s background gives her a unique perspective for how BCA can achieve favorable outcomes for borrowers seeking loan modifications, extensions or discounted payoffs. 

After beginning her CRE finance career at real estate investment trust AMLI Residential, Coen focused on CMBS transactions as a director at Fitch Ratings and then worked on large loan securitizations for Citigroup (C)’s CMBS group starting in 2006. Coen eventually assumed the role of CMBS loan originator at Citigroup before taking on similar positions at Natixis and Barclays (BCS), where she spent seven years. She has also held senior originator roles at Greystone and PNC Bank

The decision to expand BCA’s practice into the Midwest was driven largely by recent Trepp data showing that the Chicago Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) ranks second in the U.S. for the highest percentage of office loans on the CMBS watchlist at 48 percent, according to Cohen. The Chicago MSA also has a higher percentage of CMBS loans in distress for other major property sectors including lodging (27 percent), multifamily (22 percent), mixed-use (17 percent) and retail (16 percent), the Trepp data shows.

“We have researched distressed markets that we feel are going to have a tough time coming back, and Chicago has been a primary target for a long time,” Cohen said. “It’s really fortuitous timing with the fact that we’re launching with Alison and at the same time there’s about 12 articles that keep coming out every day about Chicago and what’s going on, but we’ve been witnessing it for a long time.” 

As a managing director at Barclays, Coen spearheaded more than $2.6 billion of conduit loan CMBS deals. While at Citigroup, Coen started out originating with the bank’s large loan securitization before shifting to CMBS in 2010 when the market relaunched in the aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis. 

Coen’s arrival at Charlotte-based BCA’s New York office marks her return to the CRE finance world after rehabbing from an injury last year. She said her move to BCA was sparked partly by headwinds facing the CMBS market with many lenders now on the sidelines due to higher interest rates, and she is looking forward to serving on the borrower advocacy side of the business.

“As an originator, you’re fighting people for every last deal,” Coen said. “We’re not fighting people and we’re choosing the deals that we want or choosing the borrowers that we want to help, and I really liked Michael and the team, so it just seemed like a good way to kind of get back in.”

Although Coen will focus on the Midwest, her hiring is part of BCA’s larger vision of opening a New York office that can help service borrowers in the entire tri-state region. Cohen, who covers much of the Southern U.S. territory, said he is also looking to expand toward the West Coast given the increasing need borrowers have to combat distressed debt.

“We’re looking for experienced CMBS bankers who understand this process,” said Cohen, who helped form BCA in late 2020 after working for 24 years in the CMBS space. “An originator is only as good as what they can help and how they can help their client and their borrower and now is the time where the really experienced originators can really help the borrowers and their clients get through and that’s to navigate and through CMBS special servicing.”

Andrew Coen can be reached at acoen@commercialobserver.com