Jerry Lumpkins loves what he does. After 26 years in the industry, the first vice president and Chicago commercial real estate lead at Valley National Bancorp says the secret to success is finding and pursuing one’s passion. “It’s all about enjoying what you do,” he says. “It’s not work to me; that’s what makes it enjoyable.”
Lumpkins came to Valley National (then Bank Leumi USA) about three years ago from BMO Harris. He was hired to lead the commercial real estate group in Chicago and to develop a balance sheet program. He joined in March 2020, was onboarded virtually, and was charged with building the real estate book while everything was on lockdown. They closed some $100 million the first year.
“I’ve been very happy and proud of coming over here and really, there were just a handful of commercial real estate loans on the books. Today, we’re approaching $400 million, and that was during the pandemic,” he explains.
He credits five years in the Marine Corps with jump-starting his corporate career and helping refine his skills around structure and discipline. And he never misses a chance to actually set foot on a property. “I’ve been lending for 26 years and every deal that I finance I still go see. I touch it. I walk it,” he says. “For me, buildings [and] neighborhoods have character. There’s a lot of analysis involved in making sure you’re doing the right deal, but at the end of the day it’s also a gut call.”
When Lumpkins was growing up his father invested in single-family homes, so he’s always been around real estate. Today, he provides long-term loans to owners and investors of multifamily, industrial, mixed-use retail and office properties in the Midwest. Transactions can range from $10 million to $50 million.
“There’s a lot of value in this versus if you were to go with the agencies or a lender who will book your loan and sell the paper,” Lumpkins says. “As a result, I’ve been able to foster some very, very long-term relationships over the 20-plus years I’ve been doing this.”
Lumpkins makes sure his team, which is made up of two producers, an underwriter, and a portfolio manager, is focused on relationships. “You have to be proactive and constantly engage with your clients as well as the market,” he explains. “You can’t be reactive.”
He also stresses the importance of closely monitoring the portfolio so there aren’t any surprises. That means going out to properties once every six months to a year and checking in with clients periodically for existing business and new opportunities.
Whether with clients or at conferences and events, being visible is a big part of the job for Lumpkins. “It’s about building your brand,” he explains. “You have to refine it and work at it and keep it relevant. I tell my team every time we go to a conference that you should have at least one or two leads, if not a deal. And have fun—because it’s a fun job.”
One of the biggest challenges he’s seen in his two-plus decades of banking was the financial crisis, he recalls, which hit when he was working at Wachovia in 2008. The bank collapsed, later to be absorbed by Wells Fargo. During that time, he learned the importance of properly structuring deals and their related paperwork. “One of the key lessons of ’08 was keenly understanding your documentation—knowing your sponsor, really knowing your client,” he says.
With the market now in another correction, Lumpkins says he’s largely focused on existing clients. “I think ’23 is going to be very challenging,” he predicts. “It may even bleed into ’24 in terms of getting through the correction—but it’s real estate.
“Having been through three corrections previously, it gives me a sense of ‘I’ve been here before, I know what to expect,’ and that helps me lead my team to stay grounded, instead of listening to all the noise and getting caught up in the inertia of what we’re going through,” he adds.
Lumpkins is also readying himself with buying opportunities for established clients, he says, who could look at distressed sales over the next year or so.
Meanwhile, in the long term, Lumpkins looks forward to continuing to serve his clients so they can grow their portfolios, and to helping the bank reach its goals. “I’m passionate about what I do, and fiercely competitive in the market to win business,” he says. In addition to his work at Valley National, he serves on a number of boards, and is involved with nonprofits tied to community development. He has chaired several boards as well, most recently Rockford Housing Development Corp., which invests in redeveloping real estate in neglected communities. “In my retirement or next chapter, that might be something I focus more on,” he notes.
Congratulations to Jerry Lumpkins and Valley National Bancorp for being featured. Aries Capital has closed multiple bridge and permanent debt financings with them over the past three decades. Jerry has always exceeded expectations and delivered competitive terms on a timely basis with a smile. Having longstanding relationships with people we trust is fundamental for Aries Capital to successfully navigate ever-changing economic conditions. Even with rising interest rates, deals can get done with the right people on the team. We look forward to working with Jerry and Valley National to deliver attractive debt and equity solutions for our commercial, self-storage, multifamily and hotel clients nationwide.
As Chuhak & Tecson, P.C. celebrates 20 years of its Banking practice group, we recognize that a key component of our success is the makeup and character of our business partners. Jerry Lumpkins of Valley National Bancorp is a prime example of how fortunate we have been in that department. We congratulate Jerry on his accomplishments and recognition by American Builders Quarterly and look forward to many more deals together.