The past 4 months have changed life as we know it. In our personal lives as well as in our professional lives, we’ve all had to make changes and adjustments to adapt to this unexpected global pandemic. And while it hasn’t been easy for us at Essex Financial Group, it has pushed us to re-emphasize our service-oriented approach to business.
As with most companies, the beginning of the pandemic meant shifting to working-from-home with the hope that it would be over in a few short weeks. After a couple of weeks of retail businesses being shut down, the calls started coming in. “My tenants aren’t sure they will be able to pay rent.” “Will my lender approve this lease modification?” “If this continues for a long time, should I request some mortgage relief from my lender?” Within a matter of days, we received dozens of calls and had shifted more than half of our team to strategizing with clients on COVID, running sensitivity analyses, and preparing memos for lenders.
As the realities of COVID set in, we developed a system with the help of our best-in-class servicing team to assist in implementing action plans tailored to each specific property’s challenges. In addition, most insurance company lenders hit “pause” on lending, in a struggle to accurately price fixed-rate mortgages during a time of extreme market volatility.
Although the pandemic is not over and there are undoubtedly more challenges to come, we are happy to report that insurance companies are actively lending and in search of new business. Many lenders have processed the numerous debt relief requests, which has shifted resources back to the origination side. Similarly, borrowers have worked through initial tenant issues and now can direct their energy towards evaluating the advantages of securing financing in the current interest-rate environment. This has allowed Essex to shift our service-oriented approach back to focusing on loan origination. In July 2020, Essex closed $94M in new loans.
In the years leading up to 2020, Essex’s annual loan origination volume grew steadily, and in 2019 we arranged ~$800M in financing. As a loan correspondent for 25 insurance companies, including several exclusive relationships, Essex is able to access non-recourse, low-interest rate capital that nobody else can provide. Insurance company capital continues to be Essex’s core business strategy, representing approximately 60% of our financing volume over the past several years.
Essex was founded in 1987 as an insurance company correspondent, but over the years, we have cultivated long-term relationships with a wide variety of capital sources, including CMBS conduit lenders, debt and equity funds, national and regional banks, government agencies, credit tenant lease financiers, and other private capital sources. Essex truly spans all capital markets, which provides us with the expertise to be informed advisors to our clients. From our office in downtown Denver, Essex also services a portfolio of more than 900 loans, totaling over $5.0 billion of secured capital. We provide full cashiering services for approximately 50 institutional lenders, allowing us to provide full, hands-on customer service throughout the life of a loan.
In 2018, founding partner Jeff Riggs announced Cooper Williams as Essex’s president. Riggs did not leave or retire from the firm; rather, it was an outward representation of the intentional, calculated generational shift to keep Essex relevant and on top of its game for the foreseeable future. With the momentum of a long-standing successful track record, our commitment to helping our clients, deeply rooted lender relationships, and a strong leadership team in place, Essex is well positioned to continue being the leading mortgage banking firm in Colorado.