From advertising to debt and finance leader for CRE: Q&A with Four Pillars' Afshan Kabani

Originally published by Dallas Business Journal

Afshan Kabani found herself surrounded by early 20-somethings as she entered a new field in her 30s.

The Dallas native took a sizable pay cut as she eyed a shift to a more sustainable career, making a move from a radio and television advertising sales executive in New York to a commercial real estate analyst.

Despite the learning curve entering the origination space, Kabani rose quickly through the ranks, relying on skills that earned her success in advertising: an innate attention-to-detail and the ability to connect with clients. She eventually landed in a role working on financing matters with developers and owners as an associate director at Marcus & Millichap. And those same skills served as a boon yet again when the pandemic sent markets into disarray last year.

“2020 was my best year,” reflected Kabani. “I had so much deal flow even though there wasn’t deal flow in the market, and it was because people trusted I could get the job done.”

In September, Kabani moved to a Dallas office director role with Four Pillars Capital Markets, which provides debt and equity finance solutions for commercial real estate investment properties.

Kabani, who attended Southern Methodist University and grew up in Dallas, spoke more about what she sees in terms of deal flow, access to capital and more:

How creative are folks getting in terms of financing? What are you seeing in terms of deal flow right now?

There are many ways to get creative when it’s necessary. However, many of the basics are the same with local, regional and national banks, credit unions, CMBS, conduits and agencies on the multi-side or with some commercial, too.

There are geographical restrictions for the lenders per se, but the borrowers are going everywhere. It’s fun because it’s like a puzzle when somebody sends you a deal and you can picture what might work.

We’re very net-lease heavy with industrial, medical office and multifamily, and lenders are super aggressive in those asset categories.

We’ve seen a lot less office and hospitality, which is more a function of the market. There’s less access to that capital, and there’s also less activity.

Some asset classes performed well through Covid, and others didn’t. Rates are super low across the board, so as lenders are looking for adjustments to the risk, they can also provide quality financing across all asset categories.

We’ve been active and have that access to capital.

Are y’all worried about inflation in your space?

I wouldn’t say I’m worried about it. We’re all going to feel the effects of it. Not knowing the timing doesn’t make me necessarily worried because we can’t predict it.

Generally speaking, inflation leads to higher rates, but in our world, that makes clients act. They’re looking to lock in those long-term rates now, figure out their long-term solutions on the acquisitions, and re-fi now instead of waiting. It’s more about urgency, and for us, that’s resulted in a ton of volume.

Coming out of 2020, did you find anything surprising?

What was surprising was how different the perception of Covid was in every market – not just in Texas, but compared to other states.

Our team is national and works with banks across the country, so with the capital markets, there’s a fluidity between those markets, and lending also differs, especially when there’s a retail component. While each market had its perception of Covid, it was nice to see that lenders were really quick to pick up on and anticipate who had that ability to generate revenue.

Post-Covid, it was also interesting to see how well certain industries performed coming out of the pandemic. The supply chain was an issue of preference. Take toilet paper as an example. Those little supply chain issues were large, and they did trickle down in our industry. When it came to the timing and supply and even simple things like title and third-party, it all manifested.