One of First National’s points of distinction is experience. Many members of our team have been with us 10, 15, 20 and 25 years – and in a few cases since we began operations in 1988. We salute those committed individuals who are celebrating a milestone anniversary by presenting their stories in their own words. Today, we profile Ryan Paquet, Director, Commercial Financing.
Congratulations Ryan. When did you begin your career at First National?
November 2006. I started after graduating from Carleton University with a Criminal Justice degree.
How did you jump from Criminal Justice to commercial lending?
After studying criminology, I started thinking about the future and if this was the career path for me. I was always interested in real estate and spent my downtime when I was a student educating myself about the industry. Simply put, most people need access to capital and I thought this was a stable career to pursue. At the time, I was still in Ottawa and a friend moved to Toronto and joined First National. I asked her what the company was like, and if there were any employment opportunities knowing I was making the move to Toronto. She helped me arrange an interview and I was fortunate enough to be hired.
What was your first job?
Commercial Mortgage Administrator. To give a little further context, the Servicing department then was completely different to what it is today. Now, we have someone who manages our portfolio and is involved in all aspects of servicing our files. When I started, I was responsible for one thing: confirming that clients had paid their taxes. I was in a single-purpose silo. That lasted for eight months before I asked my manager if I could take on more responsibility.
My manager was receptive and gave me the opportunity to move into the Commercial Mortgage Backed Securities group as an Administrator. This was 2007, so just before the 2008 financial crisis. This was my first experience with underwriting. We would re-underwrite each loan annually to ensure it was performing in comparison to when the loan was originated. It involved a deep dive into financial statements and rent rolls. I was very green at that time, but I was fortunate enough to have people share their knowledge. It was a great steppingstone in my career.
The CMBS market disappeared due to the financial crisis. What happened to you?
As the last person hired into the CMBS group, I assumed I would be the first to go if there were any changes to the group. To avoid this fate, I went to management to discuss the role of commercial default analyst. In the fall of 2008, I joined that department as an Analyst.
What does an Analyst in Commercial Default do?
In the beginning, it involved calling borrowers if their mortgage payment did not go through. However, as I quickly learned, there was so much more to the job.. Very high level, I was working with lawyers, hiring property managers, collaborating with CMHC and generally protecting the property and First National’s security position. Looking back, this role played such an important part in my career development and gave me firsthand experience in what is required to protect our security.
Dealing with defaults must have been draining.
Sometimes it was. However, most people wanted to work with us to come up with solutions that served both parties. We always tried to find alternatives. Working with borrowers under difficult circumstances forced me to think outside the box and certainly prepared me for my present role.
What is your role now?
Director, Commercial Financing. I moved from Commercial Default in 2012 to become a Commercial Analyst, then four years later Manager and in January of this year, Director. When I joined my current department, the originators were doing everything from analyzing deals to placing them with investors and having them funded. First National realized we needed our originators originating rather than analyzing, so, they created Analyst positions. When I started, my time was shared between two originators – Brian Kimmel and Ed Kieser. They weren’t certain they would each need a full-time Analyst to begin but after a year, it became clear that there was too much work for one Analyst so I transitioned full-time to Brian’s team. I’ve been with him ever since.
What are your responsibilities?
We wear a lot of hats so to speak. I am responsible for analyzing financial information such as rent rolls and operating statements and financial/net worth statements to determine the appropriate loan sizes, terms and pricing. I review third-party reports to determine compliance with lending guidelines and prepare financial analysis and credit documents to assist in the loan approval process. I also liaise with our funding and servicing team to make sure clients’ needs are met both pre funding and during the life of the loan.
That’s great career progression. How different are Manager and Director roles from that of Analyst?
When I started, I was Brian’s first and only Analyst. Over time we expanded the team to include others and that created managerial and mentoring responsibilities. As my experience and knowledge grew, this provided me with more opportunities to be more client facing. I’ve been fortunate to have been given this exposure and opportunities that have advanced my career.
Do you like those added managerial responsibilities?
100% yes. Brian and others put the time in to help me get to where I am today and I’m more than happy to pay that forward for others. To me, career advancement is one of the best things about First National. I’ve had every opportunity to further my career during my time at First National. I like to return the favour to others through similar mentorship.
Looking at your career path, what’s next?
I really like what I’m doing now so I would say I won’t deviate from it, but you never know what the future holds. I think it takes time to get an understanding of the role and to be able to sell our product offerings to our existing and future clients. Every transaction brings a new learning opportunity. I’m proud to say I’m still learning. After 15 years I know I want to be in commercial real estate and I enjoy building client and partner relationships. I don’t think that will change.
What’s your advice for those just starting careers at First National?
Be a sponge. Don’t be shy, ask questions to learn more. And don’t be fearful about speaking to your manager about how to advance your career. This is a collaborative, entrepreneurial place to work so make the most of it.
If you’d like to join us in congratulating Ryan on his important career milestone, you can reach him at email@example.com.