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CRE Finance Council’s Pendergast: Steering the ship through a (second) generational crisis 

As the covid-19 pandemic winds down, the Commercial Real Estate Finance Council gears up to face another generational crisis. 

The Commercial Real Estate Finance Council, which represents the interests of a wide swath of commercial real estate lenders and borrowers, is gearing up to help steer its members through a new crisis that is stemming from generationally high inflation, rising interest rates, and the fallout of the war in Ukraine.   

“I think the times we are in now really do require a lot of conversation,” executive director Pendergast said. “We will have to go back and study the past, not so much as a history lesson but to gain a real life understanding of what happened then, how did we work through it and can those lessons be applied to today. One of the key exercises at this conference for all of us is remembering the old playbook and determining if it applies to today.” 

Pendergast, who had a long career as a commercial real estate debt analyst before taking the reins at CREFC, draws on that background as the organization works to support its members through crises large and small. This can range from short research pieces to webinars to conferences to Zoom calls that happened frequently during the pandemic.   

Rent relief, the on-going affordability of housing and the potential for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to enter into the construction lending business are just three of the areas in which CREFC is trying to understand and simplify the issues for its constituency. Standardization for commercial real estate collateralized loan obligations and tracking ESG data in investor reporting packages are other important issues.   

“We try to combine today’s events with their impact on our members and the industry,” Pendergast said. “We are just continuing to do what I think we do best, which is disseminating information and insights, be it emanating from CREFC, its members, or legislators and regulators in Washington, DC. Much of this is just part of my research mentality; we want to capitalize on today’s many channels of communication.”  

The CRE Finance Council’s constituency sees fluid communication between its most seasoned and newest members, with the group working to further diversify the industry. Pendergast noted that in the past, new entrants in the industry didn’t necessarily know about securitization or structured finance before they started a new job.  

“Securitization and structured finance were not necessarily a business school topic back in the 1980s. It certainly is today,” she said. “Our young professionals are very much interested in having a voice and I’m very much interested in giving them that voice.” 

As lenders have navigated the pandemic, there has been substantial interaction between the most senior members of the group and the most junior.   

“The number of opportunities young professionals have today to be truly in the mix of things is amazing,” Pendergast said. “Senior CREFC members recognize the importance of our young professionals and the ability to work directly with them. While we continue to work on Return to Office policies that work for everyone, there is unquestionably a benefit to turning to a colleague face to face, asking a question, getting the answer and talking it through.”