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First National’s commercial leader reflects on stage 1 of the pandemic

  • Jeremy Wedgbury, Senior Vice President, Commercial Mortgages

It’s almost two months since the economy was locked down due to COVID-19. As governments begin the slow but hopefully steady reopening of the economy, I want to share my thoughts on what could be branded stage 1 of the pandemic – the most difficult period of adjustment that is now behind us. 

While there are many ways to describe stage 1, based on the actions and outcomes I’m seeing within our part of the world, the word that comes to mind is resiliency.

Across our customer base, we have seen apartment owners move through this period with remarkable results. Payment issues have been much less acute than expected, which is the reward for skillful management and your decision to own multifamily apartments – still the property industry’s most cashflow-stable and defensive asset class. 

Other asset classes such as industrial and self-storage have also performed very well, while retail and hotel have struggled for obvious COVID-19 related reasons.

Many tenants have also shown remarkable resiliency by making their payments, where necessary with targeted government assistance. A desire to protect one’s home – whether rented or owned – runs deep in our society. With so many of us working at home now, it has become even more important.

Resiliency is also on display in the world of property development. Despite the challenges, construction continues, generally with only minor delays in scheduling, lease up and occupancy. Our new project pipeline remains healthy as evidenced by several clients who are actively buying land.

Despite the extra burden associated with the administration of new government initiatives – including the commercial rent deferral program – our partners at CMHC are taking care of our business at a extraordinary pace. I must commend the national housing agency for its resiliency, which we have experienced on many occasions over the years including during the 2009 financial crisis.

On a personal note, I must give credit to my First National colleagues for their resiliency. While working from home has been a significant adjustment, made more challenging by higher than normal volumes, our team continues to contribute with smart solutions and competitive financing options ranging from 1- to 10-year terms and new construction loans.

Finally, I am particularly pleased to note that First National itself showed resiliency with record first quarter mortgage originations. You can review our Q1 results press release here and as you will see, our Q1 commercial originations of $2.6 billion were 113% higher than last year, and our commercial book now stands at over $32 billion.

The pandemic is not over, but I am proud to serve with and for Canadians who will let nothing stand in their way. On behalf of First National, I wish you continued success. Please let us know if we can help in any way.