Brooklyn Bridge
Q&A: Why Al Brooks Set His Sights on
New York
Chase Commercial Real Estate's Al Brooks sat down with Judy Guarino to talk about why he believes in investing in New York—and why now's the right time.

Al Brooks

Al Brooks
Al Brooks is the Head of Commercial Real Estate for Chase

Judy Guarino

Judy Guarino
Judy Guarino is the Northeast Regional Sales Manager for Chase Commercial Mortgage Lending


Judy: Under your leadership, Chase has grown to be the nation’s #1 multifamily lender. Why invest in a build-out of the Commercial Mortgage Lending (CML) business now, and why in New York City?

Al: We’ve learned so much from building our industry-leading multifamily business, and we want to take those experiences and apply them to retail, mixed-use, industrial and office properties, so a whole new population of commercial real estate investors can grow their portfolios with the help of our streamlined process and low-cost term financing products. In every market we serve, our commercial mortgage lending business should be every bit as big as our multifamily business. Growing CML substantially without taking additional risk is a no-brainer. CML is a wonderful opportunity for Chase’s commercial real estate businesses to grow in a safe way, and I’m so excited to see what lies ahead for us in this space.

Why New York City? If you look at all the opportunities we have across the country, New York is the best because it’s the biggest market made up of numerous industries—trade, finance, insurance, fashion and an emerging tech sector. New York is a real draw for the best and brightest in our country, and vibrant markets typically translate to growth and demand for commercial real estate.

Judy: How do you feel about New York’s commercial real estate fundamentals in 2016?

Al: To talk about that, you have to go down to the neighborhood level, street by street and neighborhood by neighborhood. Young people are driving the commercial real estate market, and we're seeing higher-priced apartment projects in parts of Brooklyn more than in Manhattan. It’s fascinating, and it shows a great deal of opportunity on the horizon.

I feel really good about our prospects in New York because we’re represented by the right people. Your team is made up of tried-and-true New Yorkers who grew up there and have a strong understanding of market fundamentals—on top of that, your whole team has a deep understanding of the business and the deal. That’s a big differentiator in my eyes.

Judy: Where do you think we are in the real estate cycle?

Al: Honestly, I never really know, and anyone who says they do is lying. For example, there’s quite a bit of speculation that the multifamily market is overheated. But that’s hard to accept considering that just last year, we delivered 8,000 units in New York alone. On the commercial side, we’re seeing a ton of activity. Markets that are solid over time, combined with great deals for tenants, are what keep us in a great position over the long run. We're in business to finance great value projects in great neighborhoods for great tenants. What makes me so proud to be a part of Chase’s commercial real estate business is that we’re built to be cycle-resistant and we support our customers the same way—with appropriate leverage through the cycle. Our business made a profit through 2009—I’m not sure any other commercial real estate lender can say that.

Our business made a profit through 2009—I’m not sure any other commercial real estate lender can say that.

Judy: What role does a strong technology platform play in the success of your businesses?

Al: Quite simply, it plays a huge role. We’ve always placed a high value on technology in our business, which has translated into simplified documentation and a streamlined loan process that gets clients closed faster than any of our competitors. Regardless of this competitive edge, we haven’t stopped investing. Later this year, we’ll roll out a new system that's going to give our commercial mortgage lending business a really strong advantage—but more importantly, our clients will benefit from the process simplicity and even greater cost savings. In my mind, this is going to be a game changer, and I can’t wait to see what we can accomplish through it.

Judy: On a more personal note, where do you like to go when you’re visiting New York?

Al: It’s easily one of the most exciting places on the planet. In midtown, I love going to Avra Estiatorio. It’s in a little neighborhood place not far from our 270 Park Avenue offices. I love seafood, and theirs is amazing. I have teenagers, so when I’m with my family, my daughter loves going to Lombardi’s Pizza in Lower Manhattan. I didn’t know this at first, but it’s known as “America’s first pizzeria.” I’m hands down a New York-style pizza guy—sorry, Chicago!

Judy: What book are you currently reading?

Al: “America's Bank: The Epic Struggle to Create the Federal Reserve,” by Roger Lowenstein. I know it sounds dorky, but the politics and controversies that surrounded the creation of the Fed are so interesting to me.

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