Managing Director of Loan Syndications and Co-Global Sector Coordinator at Crédit Agricole CIB
Are you bullish on New York City? If so, why?
YES – definitely. I moved to New York City (from Singapore) in 2000. I was here during 9/11 and the last recession in 2007-2009. I witnessed and experienced first-hand the resilience of New York City and New Yorkers. I believe that the current, soft real estate market and trend of residents moving out to the suburbs are short term; that, once there is a vaccine that is readily and widely available to all, New York City will bounce back. There are so many vested interests – corporations headquartered in the city, as well as global and national companies that do business in the city – that will ultimately drive the city to recovery. We have to look at the situation on a long-term basis.
What’s key to New York’s recovery?
Strong leadership across the board – state, city, law and order, health and safety, and public services.
How are you winning the deals for which you’re competing most aggressively today?
Relationship and pricing – Crédit Agricole is one of a few banks that have remained active throughout the pandemic. We have demonstrated to our clients that we are here to support them through the cycle. Our cost of funds did not increase significantly compared to our peers (even in the peak of COVID-19). In addition, with most deals getting done on a “Club/Arranged” basis and with limited appetite for underwriting risk, we have been able to keep pricing competitive while still meeting our return hurdles.
How has your loan portfolio fared through the pandemic?
Surprisingly well, but we are keeping an eye on our portfolio, working through waivers/amendments. So far, we have not had any loan in default. Crédit Agricole has always been very much focused on sponsorship – particularly, investment grade or credit quality, global institutional sponsors that have a diversified, global footprint. The quality of our sponsors and assets, and generally conservative/low leverage loan structure, have helped our portfolio perform relatively well through cycles over the past 30-plus years.
Which closed deal, post-COVID, are you most proud of and why?
Crédit Agricole CIB successfully arranged a $494 million senior term loan secured by a newly built, Class A, LEED-Gold certified trophy office building located in Washington, D.C. We were mandated right before COVID in February, in syndication market during the peak of COVID, and eventually closed in June — a deal that was ultimately oversubscribed, distributed to seven other banks despite COVID market dislocation. I am proud of how we demonstrated leadership during a very difficult period, when there was so much volatility and market uncertainty, and how we worked closely with the sponsor in bringing in its relationship banks. The bank honored its commitment to an important strategic client, with the end-goal of delivering for our client within four months of being mandated. Furthermore, this loan garnered the group’s first green loan agent and co-green loan coordinator titles.
What strengths do traditional lenders and non-traditional lenders bring to the market today?
Traditional lenders (banks and life insurance companies) are portfolio lenders that tend to value client relationships more so than non-traditional lenders. They take a long-term view on client relationships, typically selective on who they bank with. They are highly motivated to work collaboratively with clients on waivers/amendments and modifications to debt service. Sponsors know who to call when they encounter issues with their properties/loans, and that’s one of the advantages of working with traditional enders, especially during COVID. In addition, banks’ cost of funds (given their access to capital markets and retail deposits) are generally lower, so they are able to keep pricing competitive. Meanwhile, non-traditional lenders are not subject to government regulations. Therefore, they have more flexibility and can be more competitive with their lending parameters as long as they meet their required return hurdles.
“When I’m not doing deals while working from home, you’ll find me…”
“…working out (Peloton, gym, Pilates or Zoom yoga) or baking/cooking with my kids.”
Have you eaten inside a restaurant post-COVID, and if so, which one?
Yes – Del Frisco’s Grille and Wagamama
Any new hobbies taken up during COVID?
Yes – baking (bread), piano and tennis
Where is your COVID hideaway?
Number of haircuts in past six months – family trim or professional?
Three times – professional only!
Dream Zoom happy hour date?
MaryAnne Gilmartin (MAG Partners founder and CEO; Mack-Cali Realty Corporation interim CEO)
Home office or actual office?
Have you been on a plane post-COVID? If not, where will you fly first?
Not yet. Denver, to visit my sister.
Best book you read during COVID?
“Untamed” by Glennon Doyle
Which will rebound first: retail or hospitality?