Chief Originations Officer at Starwood Property Trust
What’s been the biggest market lesson learned during COVID?
We should have listened to Bill Gates’ 2015 TED Talk prediction of an epidemic and that we’re not prepared for it.
Are you bullish on New York City? Why?
Near term: NO. Too many headwinds: budgetary issues, taxpayers fleeing, affordability, crumbling infrastructure, reliance on public transportation and concerns over safety. Long term, it is the greatest city on the planet, but hard to predict right now how long the recovery will take.
What’s key to New York’s rebound and recovery?
New leadership who understands economics 101, that embraces companies and taxpayers, the return of foreign and domestic tourism, the return of business travel and people feeling safe again.
How are you winning the deals for which you’re competing most aggressively today?
No change from pre-COVID: relationships. [We’re a] one-stop shop, our global footprint, larger loans, complexity, leveraging the in-house expertise across Starwood (STWD) Capital Group.
Which closed deal, post-COVID, are you most proud of and why?
A $105 million loan on a recently completed multifamily in Los Angeles at 45 percent loan-to-cost. Pre-COVID, this loan would likely have gotten done in the bank or life co market at this leverage point.
How has your underwriting changed post-COVID? Is there more of an emphasis on underwriting or asset management today?
We have always done a lot of sensitivity analysis around rents, occupancy, cap rates, loan-to-value and debt yield. Obviously, those are more applicable now with the uncertain outlook caused by the pandemic for many asset classes. Asset management became the primary focus for just about everyone with a portfolio, given the immediate impact of the pandemic. The global financial crisis was a long, slow car crash (12 months), while COVID was a car crash that took only a few weeks.
Do you feel urban living is dissipating as a result of COVID-19? Why or why not?
COVID-19 has certainly impacted living/behavior in urban cities, in particular, those with a heavy reliance on public transportation — some of which is likely temporary as we tend to have short memories. However, long before and unrelated to COVID, we have seen a migration out of some traditionally “blue” states with large, urban city centers with high taxes and cost of living, which appears to be a long-term trend.
Biggest overlooked market opportunity today?
Starwood Property Trust (STWD) Stock
If you had one minute with President Trump, what would you say to him?
I would probably offer some campaign advice to please stop dancing on stage at the end of his rallies (reminds me of Elaine from “Seinfeld” dancing).
“When I’m not doing deals while working from home, you’ll find me… “
“…in our Greenwich, Conn., office (we’ve been open since June 1); walking my dog, golfing, and outdoor BBQs with family and friends.”
Favorite TV show you binged during quarantine?
A tie between “Game of Thrones” and “Breaking Bad” … finally had enough time to watch all of those seasons.
Any new hobbies taken up during COVID?
Opened an Instagram account to watch the Dave Portnoy “Unboxing.”
Where is your COVID hideaway?
New Canaan, Conn., and any golf course within 100 miles.
Number of haircuts in past six months — family trim or professional?
Five. (One family, four professional)
Dream Zoom happy hour date?
Elon Musk and Bill Murray
Home office or actual office?
Have you been on a plane post-COVID? If so, where did you go?
Several. Dallas, Oregon and Arizona.
Best book you read during COVID?
Does the New York Post count?
Which will rebound first: retail or hospitality?
Hospitality (not even close)