On most days, you will find Yakhin Israel, CCIM, vice president and commercial real estate lender in Fifth Third Bank's Southeast region, calling upon fellow CCIMs in preparations for his travels to towns and cities all over the southeastern U.S.
“Nowhere else except CCIM have I found so many people willing to help and collaborate with each other so generously because of the shared experience of earning the pin,” Israel says. “They have become good friends, and those relationships go beyond any other roles.”
As an active member of CCIM Chapters in Florida, North Carolina, and Georgia, as well as being involved with the South Carolina chapter, Israel sees the connections he has made as enhancing not only his career but his personal life. Israel will be a featured speaker at the 2016 CCIM Thrive Conference, October 24-25, in Atlanta. He talked to Commercial Investment Real Estate about his experiences.
CIRE: How did you get your start in commercial real estate?
Israel: I started working in the commercial real estate industry in 2005. I have been with Fifth Third Bank for 14 years and originally moved from my hometown of Lexington, Ky., to Fifth Third's headquarters in Cincinnati to eventually become a lender in their Commercial Real Estate group.
CIRE: How do these past experiences prepare you for your current position?
My roles have changed with the economy. In 2008, I created an initiative in which I successfully sold performing loans to local community banks. In 2009, I moved to Tampa, Fla., and my role transitioned into selling non-performing loans and, in some cases Real Estate Owned properties, to distressed debt buyers and investors.
Later, I spent a year as a workout officer, working directly with borrowers to resolve problems that arose in their respective banking relationships. Both my experiences during the economic downturn and the process of earning the CCIM designation particularly shaped my perspective and prepared me for my current lending role.
Recently, I have been asked to build relationships to provide construction and term loans, along with a full suite of other products and services, primarily for multifamily, medical office, self-storage, and retail properties.
CIRE: What are the unique challenges you face in the Southeastern U.S. market?
Israel: Finding loans and building relationships that are appropriate and match well with the Fifth Third's lending strategy is a key challenge. I regularly visiting clients, prospects, and professional contacts in every major city in Florida, as well as Charlotte, N.C., the Piedmont Triad and Triangle markets of North Carolina, Atlanta and Savannah, Ga., Greenville, Miss., and Charleston, S.C., and other markets within the region. It is critical for me to have great contacts not only for loan opportunities but for market information.
CIRE: How has your involvement in multiple CCIM chapters helped you to succeed in the states you do business in?
Israel: My involvement in the Florida CCIM Chapter has been critical to my success, both in selling loans and my current lending role. I recently served as president of the Florida's West Coast District, serving the Greater Tampa Bay area and Sarasota. My interaction with members throughout that region gave me a greater appreciation of the similarities and differences within the communities that we served. When I took on the lending role that would cover the Southeast, I realized the benefits of being involved with the chapters in the Carolinas and Georgia to build the local relationships necessary to expand my network. In doing so, I reached out to people I had met previously at the national meetings. Without hesitation, every single CCIM I spoke with put me in contact with other centers of influence in the markets they operate in.
CIRE: How has the CCIM designation helped you to adapt your skills as your roles have changed?
Israel: Because of my CCIM education, when prospects send me a package, I can clearly communicate why we are interested in financing a project, and, in some cases, why we aren't. I can also provide clients with options and alternatives if we are unable to meet their requests. I am able to open up the entire CCIM network to my clients for potential properties they want to buy, sites they would like to develop, and up-to-date market information. Opportunities exist to connect with CCIMs who have access to equity.
CIRE: What advice do you have for brokers and lenders who cover multi-state territories?
Israel: Having a strong network is key, but they have to be able to make real connections with people. Becoming active members of CCIM and taking part in networking and service activities allows them to not only meet other CCIMs with the potential to do business together but to also make lasting friendships.
During my time earning the CCIM designation, I met several colleagues from Miami that hosted me when I visited the city for business. I hosted them when they came to Tampa. This happens with CCIMs nationwide. If I plan on traveling to a new city, I know that I can pick up the phone, call a local CCIM, and navigate with confidence.