Alexandra Cooley, Jessica Bailey and Jason Hernandez
CIO and Co-Founder of Nuveen Green Capital; President and CEO of Nuveen Green Capital; Managing Director and Head of Debt at Nuveen Real Estate at Nuveen
Last year's rank: 31
Amid the myriad market shifts of 2021, Nuveen quietly saw its own long-term transition bear fruit. In 2018, the firm did $50 million in structured finance, which ballooned to $2.7 billion last year. A core part of its record-setting year was $6.5 billion in closed deals as the portfolio shifted to higher risk-adjusted returns and higher-margin credit investments.
One highlight, a refinancing of 321 North Clark in Chicago for partners Hines and American Realty Advisors, felt like a smart, strategic play despite the risks associated with office space over the course of the pandemic. Jason Hernandez felt the firm was getting paid an attractive return to take the risk that capital markets would be open for a riverfront trophy asset in a few years.
It was a rare foray into office for the firm, because with more action elsewhere, Nuveen can be selective about where it directs its energy. There’s a search for alternatives, one reason why Nuveen added approximately $600 million to its life sciences exposure last year. That mindset also pushed the firm into manufactured housing, with a $260 million deal for two portfolios with Crow Holdings. The sector’s seeing excellent demand amid a lack of supply.
“Risk premiums are wider today than they were last year, returns are higher than they were before, and there’s more risk for sure with inflation and proceed levels,” Hernandez said. “You have headwinds for sure. I think it’s an attractive time to go long on real estate credit. We didn’t see any industrial deals last year, and have already closed three this year. The structural volatility in the system makes it really attractive for us, and  will be better than 2021.”
Nuveen, which has a diverse debt business leadership comprised of half women and people of color, is also expanding its bridge lending expertise with a new strategy focused on emerging managers of color and women majority-owned funds.
Jessica Bailey and Alexandra Cooley founded Greenworks Lending in 2015. Led by several of the C-PACE industry’s policy developers and standard-setters, Greenworks Lending completed the industry’s first rated securitization of C- PACE assets in 2017 and went on to complete its second rated securitization in December 2018. Each of these securitizations received the highest possible score (E1) in S&P Green Evaluations.
Nuveen acquired Greenworks in April 2021. As the investment manager of TIAA, Nuveen was responsible for $1.2 trillion in assets under management as of Sept. 30, 2021. Greenworks was rebranded as Nuveen Green Capital in 2022. It is now a national leader in sustainable commercial real estate financing solutions. Following its acquisition, Nuveen Green Capital has doubled its origination numbers, expanded into 25 states, and completed the industry’s largest 144A securitization of C-PACE assets. —P.S. and E.F.