Built to Last
“What do you do for a living?” It’s a question we all hear from time to time, and in the commercial mortgage industry, it’s not always the easiest one to answer. For example, when people ask this question to Luke Cain — director of mortgage origination for Canada ICI Winnipeg — he jokes, “I usually just tell them that I am a purveyor of capital.”
But jokes aside, after 25 years of success in the Canadian commercial real estate market, the real answer to that question is a bit more involved. “We go into the market and help borrowers find the best deal for their commercial real estate project,” Luke explains. “Whether that’s a purchase, a refinance, a development — whatever the case may be.”
For Luke, the key to successfully completing this process is understanding how each individual client has various pressure points that need to be addressed, and how they vary from deal to deal. “What we’re best at is understanding what those pressure points are, structuring the deal so it would be appealing to the lenders in the market, and then going to those lenders who would provide the best solution to move the deal forward,” he says.
Key to navigating transactions for both lenders and borrowers is understanding the variables that drive their pressure points. The way each fund is capitalized dictates how lenders evaluate risk. For example, institutional funds, who are also owners of commercial real estate, may take a different approach to underwriting risk than that of a chartered bank.
“Understanding each investor’s goals and how to structure mortgage investments that are suitable to each investor is critical to position our clients for a win-win scenario,” Luke explains.
So why is Canada ICI becoming the top commercial mortgage firm in the nation? Luke thinks it comes down to the relationships ICI has fostered over the years. “Because of our origination volume nationally, across the four offices of Canada ICI, we have established great relationships with all these lenders,” he explains. “Even if the group out of Winnipeg hasn’t talked to a specific lender for 12 months, someone in Edmonton, Calgary, or Toronto has. They always have Canada ICI on their radar.”
In addition, Luke feels that the volume of deals handled by Canada ICI provides its brokers with the experiential knowledge they need to successfully navigate a wide range of complex projects. “When you see a lot of deals, you understand structures,” he says.
“We add each one of those transactions to our knowledge base so that when we are talking to the next borrower, we have direct experience to draw from.”
Maybe the question of what Canada ICI employees do on a daily basis doesn’t have a quick and easy answer. Still, at the end of the day, Luke is able to wrap up his description with a succinct, yet thoughtful statement: “We’re in the relationship business.”