Kwasi Benneh

Kwasi Benneh.

Kwasi Benneh

Head of North America Commercial Real Estate Lending at Morgan Stanley

Kwasi Benneh
By November 9, 2020 9:00 AM

What are the key lending opportunities you see as we round out 2021?

I believe non-traditional asset classes will continue to be an emerging theme in 2022 and beyond. The majority of CRE lending market players will evolve into financing assets that have been historically considered niche properties. The need to finance predictable and durable cash flows — which should not be a novel concept — will lead lenders to increase activity in assets such as self-storage, manufactured housing, life sciences and other health care-related properties. This will complement the opportunities to finance more equity transactions in the major CRE “food groups” as valuations stabilize.

What’s the one thing you wish you’d known in March 2020 that you know now?

At this point in the recovery from COVID, the persistent debate about the merits (or lack thereof) of a five-day work week in an office setting is surprising. In March of 2020, predicting a public health crisis would be a catalyst for this debate would have been very contrarian, to say the least.

Pick your poison (and tell us why you’d drink it): retail or hospitality?

The line of sight into the recovery of the hospitality sector is more apparent. The lack of an e-commerce equivalent in that sector (Zoom notwithstanding), makes lending on hospitality assets very attractive. The variables that drive the market continue to improve and are much more binary in nature — an essential feature for risk assessment — than the retail market.

Where are you seeing the most competition for deals today? What’s the greatest weapon in your bidding arsenal?

Our ability to leverage both our capital markets and balance-sheet lending capabilities continues to be our strength at Morgan Stanley. Our clients need options, and we are in a position to deliver that.

What’s your favorite secondary market and why?

One of the effects of COVID is the realization that came to light of where people really want to live. It has always been a forgone conclusion that 24-hour cities only had some nascent competition. That notion has been challenged. Secondary markets such as Denver, Austin, Nashville, etc., are now real alternatives for corporate decision makers looking to attract talent and that engender an attractive CRE investment or financing theme.

Are you adding life sciences deals to your loan portfolio? Why or why not? 

For obvious reasons, the life sciences industry has validated its importance to our very existence. Very few industries can make that claim. The resulting capital flows into that sector will ripple through several related industries — CRE being one of the most obvious. We continue to actively lend in that sector as a service to our most important clients.

What keeps you up at night?

Unknown unknowns.

Lightning Round 

First work trip post-COVID? 

Los Angeles — farthest away from Times Square in the U.S.

Fast-food guilty pleasure?  

“Eat Mor Chikin.”

“Ted Lasso” or “The Morning Show”?  

“Ted Lasso” — less nuance.

Peloton bike or outdoor cycling? 

Outdoor cycling.

“If I hadn’t pursued a lending career I’d be …”

An extra on “Squid Game.”

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