Market Musings with M&T Realty Capital Corp.’s Christine Chandler
Christine R. Chandler is Chief Credit Officer and Chief Operating Officer for M&T Realty Capital Corp., Baltimore. She is responsible for making credit decisions for MTRCC’s Multifamily and Healthcare transactions underwritten in the Agency and FHA platforms as well as managing the company operations. She joined M&T in 1991 and has more than 30 years of commercial real estate experience. She also serves as Vice Chair of the MBA Commercial Real Estate/Multifamily Board of Governors (COMBOG) and is a member of the MBA Board of Directors.
Chandler co-chaired the MBA Affordable Rental Housing Council in 2020 and 2021.
MBA NEWSLINK: The industry has entered a strong growth period with financings and sale transactions both picking up steam. Where is M&T Realty Capital focused on in terms of growth and the platform’s evolution?
CHRISTINE CHANDLER: M&T saw an uptick in the second half of 2021 after a slow start to the year. Production levels have nearly exceeded levels achieved prior to the pandemic. We have been investing in expanding our Affordable Platform and have increased diversification in our Agency, FHA and non-Agency business and we continue to look for ways to expand our financing offerings to provide our customers with the most advantageous choices to meet their needs.
Earlier this year we announced our strategic alliance launch with Marcus & Millichap, which expands our ability to provide financing to more borrowers. In addition, we have been investing in technology to transform our loan flow to offer faster service and efficiencies to enhance the customer experience.
NEWSLINK: You stepped into a leadership role as COMBOG Vice Chair and have held several other leadership positions at the Mortgage Bankers Association in the past. What is an area or areas where you intend to focus the industry’s energy and efforts?
CHANDLER: I have had the privilege to work with some amazing leaders with my MBA positions. My focus for the industry will be to find ways to expand our reach to the next generation of lenders. This focus will include getting more younger talent involved with MBA starting with mPact, expanding opportunities for women through mPower and people of color via MBA’s DEI initiative.
I feel we have an obligation to create opportunities for others to get involved in our business. I really want to get away from the “blue blazer and khaki” metaphor people often think of when they think about commercial real estate finance.
NEWSLINK: MBA is the big tent with many diverse member firms both in single-family as well as commercial and multifamily firms. What are some of the industry advocacy issues you feel are priorities for your firm’s business lines in particular?
CHANDLER: Affordable Housing and Diversity are the two leading issues that I believe need to continue to be front and center with advocacy. As the past co-chair of the Affordable Rental Housing Advisory Council, we established the council right before the pandemic hit and our timing to create the council was impeccable. Steve O’Connor and Katelyn Walker, both with MBA, provided us with guidance and tools to brainstorm ideas and create some moonshot ideas. The council is working on some initiatives to provide more options for developers of affordable housing and also initiated conversations about how we can deliver better coordination and efficiencies working together.
Recently, a few of us met with representatives from the White House to share ideas about how we might be able to make positive impacts for those residents that need assistance. With regard to diversity, we are all learning each day how to be make equality more achievable in both housing options and professional growth. Involvement with your firm’s diversity efforts and joining the MBA and other industry partners to promote progress is an obligation we all have.
NEWSLINK: From a business perspective, what are some of the most pressing challenges executives are facing in the commercial/multifamily finance sphere?
CHANDLER: Challenges that come to mind: upgrading technology, change management/transformation and staffing.
First, Technology: Our residential finance partners were early adaptors to technology and the commercial/multifamily finance sphere is late to the party…but we are showing up and want to get to the front of the conga line! Technology changes constantly and keeping up with the available options along with implementing the software/systems to ensure security and data integrity are top of mind.
Second, Change Management/Transformation: In our industry we have many folks that have been in the industry for 15-plus years and most of the people in that category are not accustomed to using artificial intelligence, technology and paperless processing. We need to modernize the way we work to remain relevant and deliver quality without extra steps. Change is hard and it take patience and training to move the needle, but when we do it is such a satisfying achievement.
Third, Staffing: A combination of the “Great Resignation”/retirements, desire to work from home and competition with limited qualified/trained staff is a one of the top challenges for 2022. During the pandemic, most companies pivoted to a virtual work environment and found ways to make this succeed. The downside of this is that people no longer feel a need to work in the office, while employers see the benefits of getting their teams to return to the office for increased collaboration and to maintain their corporate cultures. Many firms have seen attrition with employees pivoting to remote roles, which allow them to work from anywhere.
While the industry has made strides in attracting younger people, it can be difficult to fill mid-level roles at present. We need to create a culture that keeps our staff engaged and wanting to work with leaders.
(Views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect policy of the Mortgage Bankers Association, nor do they connote an MBA endorsement of a specific company, product or service. MBA NewsLink welcomes your submissions. Inquiries can be sent to NewsLink Editor Mike Sorohan at email@example.com or NewsLink Editorial Manager Michael Tucker at firstname.lastname@example.org.)