Astoria Financial (AF) has already originated more multi-family and commercial real estate loans this year than it did in all of last year and its chief executive said Tuesday that total loans to that sector will top $1.5 billion this year.
Speaking at the Barclays Global Financial Services Conference in New York, President and CEO Monte N. Redman said that the Lake Success, N.Y., thrift had roughly $555 million of multi-family and CRE loans in its pipeline at June 30, far exceeding the $204 million of those loans it originated last year. Though the $17 billion-asset thrift is seeing plenty of new competitors in multi-family lending, it is maintaining market share by focusing on apartment loans in the $3 million to $5 million range that are subject to rent control, he said.
"We are not sacrificing credit," Redman said. "We know what we want and we price for profitability."
About 90% of Astoria's multi-family portfolio this year is rent-controlled or rent stabilized, up from 70% prior to 2011, he added.
Though Astoria is still primarily a mortgage lender the company has been diversifying in recent quarters in an effort to boost profits and capture more commercial deposits.
Still, unlike some other traditional thrifts, the company has no intention of switching regulators and converting to a state charter, Redman said. A number of thrifts that had been regulated by the Office of Thrift Supervision have opted for state charters rather than be regulated by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.
"As a national residential lender it would be hard for us to do that, so at this point we have no plans to switch charters," Redman said.
Some industry observers have speculated that Astoria could be a takeover target due to challenges it faces generating meaningful returns in this low-interest rate environment. One of its chief rivals, Hudson City Bancorp (HCBK), recently announced that it is selling itself to M&T Bank (MTB) for much the same reason.
Redman did not address the takeover speculation in his presentation.