Thrift Exec Recruits Bankers To Monitor Realty Loans

While many bankers are cutting back their real estate departments, Stuart Weiner expects to beckon about 10 officers to a new real estate division at American Savings Bank.

Mr. Weiner, 49, said the recruits will probably come from commerical banking, where monitoring loans is more of a way of life than it has been in the thrift industry.

A $1 Billion Realty Portfolio

Mr. Weiner joined White Plains, N.Y.-based American Savings last month. This month he was named executive vice president of the division created to oversee a $1 billion portfolio of commercial real estate loans. The loans are earning money, and the goal is to keep it that way.

"I think we're going to see the need for this kind of management for years," Mr. Weiner said.

Mr. Weiner figures he'll need to add about seven officers to monitor more than 450 transactions. The seven would conduct financial analysis, visit sites, and try to head off problems by keeping on top of market conditions in the areas where the properties are located.

The new unit, the real estate portfolio and commercial lending division, will also be responsible for monitoring about $250 million of loans made by an asset-backed lending unit. Three or four officers will probably be added to help with that effort, he said.

The establishment of the division was one of the first acts of W. Ronald Dietz, who took over as chairman of the $3.9 billion-asset thrift from William G. Lillis earlier this summer.

American's troubled real estate assets, including nonperforming loans and foreclosed real estate, will continue to be handled by executive vice president Philip Blumenfeld.

Gary V. Bracken, who had been president of the bank's Westchester community lending division, became senior vice president and head of credit policy, managing the new credit policy and procedures function.

To head the critical loan-monitoring division, Mr. Deitz called on Mr. Weiner, who had worked under him in an attempted turnaround of CorEast Savings Bank in Richmond.

"We knew how to fly the plane, but didn't have the fuel," said Mr. Weiner, who was charged with unraveling a portfolio of flawed loans CorEast extended for a co-op conversion project in New York. The Virginia thrift was seized by the Resolution Trust Corp. this year.

Long Career in Mortgage Banking

Mr. Weiner got his start in banking 30 years ago, when he took a summer job as a messenger in the loan department of Royal State Bank, a corporate ancestor of Chemical Banking Corp.

He later worked for 18 years in various capacities at Bank Leumi Trust Co.; that tenure was interrupted briefly by stints in the lumber and diamond-jewelry businesses.

It was while working at CorEast that Mr. Weiner saw a sea change in banking, and it became clear to him that this management and monitoring skills would be more important than his loan production skills.

Taking the Market's Pulse

Banks must take a proactive approach to real estate portfolios, keeping an eye for changes in the marketplace that could derail successful projects as leases roll over, Mr. Weiner said.

"It's not just looking at the numbers today. But I may have leases expiring two years from now. I may have leases expiring 10 years from now. What's the impact?"

"I don't run the business" of borrowers, he added. "I don't put management in place. I don't make business decisions. But I do advise them to use their lawyers and accountants" to help make those decisions.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.