Trimont Real Estate Advisors: Managing credit in a crisis

Bill Sexton, EMEA president of Trimont Real Estate Advisors, winner of this year’s Loan Servicer of the Year: Europe, discusses loan management during covid-19.

This article is sponsored by Trimont Real Estate Advisors

How did you grow your business amid 2020’s uncertainty?

Bill Sexton
Bill Sexton

It helps that we are unconflicted, independent and truly global. We are known for commercial real estate credit, for managing complex credits, and we are very focused on what we do. Last year, there was a scramble for information, data and advice. We were proactive in providing that advice, assisting the client and pre-empting challenges. It was important to provide clients with eyes and ears on the ground, giving market context to help them re-evaluate credits.

Our team is close to the market, has a broad understanding of that market and it is helpful for clients to rely upon that experience. There was a marked growth over 2020 in the credit and asset management division, through which we provide that advisory element.

Our technology was also a big part of our success. It enabled us to present the data back to the client with the clarity and immediacy they need.

What were the challenges of 2020?

They were fairly substantial. The economic situation changed on a daily basis. There was an ever-changing environment for our clients, some tenants were unable or chose not to pay rents. Supply chains and closed construction sites were a challenge for clients. We have also had ever-changing government policy and the upcoming change from LIBOR to SONIA as the risk-free rate to consider.

On the managerial front, having a team totally dispersed for most of the year inevitably threw up the challenges of training and onboarding the team when they could not come into the office, and I missed meeting people face-to-face.

What do you expect from 2021?

Coming into 2021, we have witnessed roughly two rounds of forbearance by lenders. The lenders’ ability to continue this will come under pressure in the second half of the year. There is distress out there; the uncertainty is around the timing, not the direction of travel.

We have brought in people who have experience of being in a downturn, and of managing performing and non-performing assets. Trimont has a specialist retail and hospitality team and they are sectoral specialists. We are going to have to provide expertise in those areas.

What are your priorities in these challenging times?

Trimont will continue to focus on the clients’ needs, keeping them informed and helping them make better, quicker decisions that postively impact their returns. We will continue to be reliable while constantly striving to improve our global service provision.

The client is going to expect more than simply processing debt. We are not just managers of our clients’ investments – we are part of the investment management team. Loan servicers will be differentiated by the quality of their people and their advice, but also the technology that can feed into a client’s systems and reporting.

For real estate as a whole, I think the next five years will bring more changes to the built environment than we have seen in the past 30 years. There will be enormous challenges, but the real estate industry has been adept at solving the challenges of the market. Trimont’s job is to be informed, knowledgeable and pro-active in the advice we give.