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Mortgage Lending with Ian Hawk

In this ‘Day in the Life of a Commercial Real Estate Professional’ post, we hear from Ian Hawk, Associate at a real estate mortgage lending company, Dwight Mortgage Trust in New York City.

Ian has been kind enough to share his typical daily routine and discuss what it takes to land a successful career in CRE Mortgage Lending.

 Deep Dive Interview with Ian Hawk

Day in the Life of a Mortgage Lending Company Associate

About Ian

Ian Hawk Mortgage Lending Associate

Ian received his Bachelor’s degree in Finance from Yeshiva University in May 2018. Prior to joining Dwight Mortgage Trust as an Associate in their Bridge and Construction Lending team, Ian was a Senior Analyst at a capital markets advisory firm that focuses on debt and equity capital for real estate developers, and institutional and entrepreneurial sponsors across all asset types nationally. Prior to that, he was an analyst on a commercial mortgage team where he specialized in CRE CLOs and CMBS.

About Dwight Mortgage Trust

Dwight Mortgage Trust, LLC (“DMT” or the “Fund”) is an actively managed real estate investment trust (REIT) specializing in the origination and financing of commercial mortgages across a range of real estate asset classes. DMT works in conjunction with affiliate firm Dwight Capital to source and evaluate lending opportunities nationwide. The Fund partners with experienced sponsors on projects in major markets, focusing on investments with a clearly defined exit strategy.

Advice for those interested in this Position

How do you prepare for a career in Mortgage Lending?

The most important thing, aside from Real Estate Financial Modeling and knowing about the CRE industry, is networking. In short, the CRE business is all about people. It’s an ecosystem, and everyone plays a factor in it, so it’s best to connect with everyone. The CRE is also quite small, so make sure to go about your business with integrity.

Companies like Dwight Mortgage Trust specifically look for candidates who show they are invested in this industry. Examples of this would be:

  1. Degree in Real Estate Finance or Related
  2. Internships in Commercial Real Estate
  3. Active Leadership Role in your Real Estate Club
  4. Taken/Graduated from the A.CRE Accelerator program
  5. Good Writing Skills

Traits like these are important because the technical skills will provide you with a base level and they will get you in the door. Furthermore, the relationships you make will accelerate your career

What does a day in the life look like?

As an associate at a REIT, Ian spends most of his day reviewing and underwriting deals.

He starts his day by easing into it and taking a quick look at a couple of deals, giving feedback to the originators or the sponsors on, “Hey, this is where we think we’re going to shake out. Are we competitive? How do we look? Do you have interest in pursuing a deal with us?” Basically, just doing a quick underwrite and reviewing those deals at a high level and then a deep level.

Then the rest of the day is spent underwriting deals, on calls with lawyers, through the closing process, helping sign up and win new business, etc. Night shift or the evening hours are generally spent doing deeper underwritings of deals, really analyzing them, and working with the analysts to put together credit memos. Every day they’ll also look at that initial feedback given in the morning and refine based on it – deciding which deals they want to do and really putting out a full quote and term sheet to sign up new business.

Where does the money you lend come from? What needs to happen to lend this money?

Since Dwight Mortgage Trust is a Private Mortgage REIT, the debt comes from capital that was raised internally.

Typically, a deal comes in through a broker or a relationship (which is why networking is so important). When a deal comes in, it’s taken through an application process, a term sheet is issued, the deal is underwritten, and a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis helps us to determine the risks and potential outcomes.

Most companies use 3rd party reports like the following: Environmental Reports, Appraisal Reports, and Engineering Reports, all of which help give the team an unbiased opinion of the facts to supplement their underwriting.

If the deal pencils out, it’s taken to their credit committee. The ultimate purpose of the credit committee is to summarize all facts, discuss the merits of the transaction, and approve the deal.

Interview Transcript

Tucker Wells (00:08):

Hey, what’s up A.CRE fans and readers? This is Tucker Wells. We’ve also got Ian Hawk on the line. Ian is an associate at Dwight Mortgage Trust, really cool company based out of New York. We’re actually working with them on the recruitment side as well. So, if you are looking to break into the industry, we’re going to talk about what a day in the life of a mortgage lender looks like. But before that, thank you guys for watching this. I know one of our goals at A.CRE is to help prepare you and propel you into a great career.

Tucker Wells (00:43):

So, thank you, Ian. Guys, if you don’t know Ian, he is a big proponent of A.CRE. He’s really a student of the game. He’s reached out to us to do book reviews. He’s reached out to us for recruiting purposes and then to a Day in the Life. So, Ian, thank you just for wanting to give back.

Ian Hawk (01:02):

Yeah. Tucker, thanks for having me.

Tucker Wells (01:04):

We appreciate that. So, if you’re watching, we’re going to take Ian through about 10 questions today. Let’s start off, Ian. So, you’re, I don’t know, three or four years removed from college, right?

Ian Hawk (01:16):


Tucker Wells (01:19):

If you were jumping into a mortgage lending role and you were a, let’s just call it sophomore, junior, senior in college right now, what would you tell yourself to be prepared for this role?

Ian Hawk (01:30):

I would say that probably the most important thing aside for modeling and aside for learning about the industry. So, you go into your first interview and your second interview and through the process and really know what you’re talking about, but also networking and finding people you could connect with and speak to.

Ian Hawk (01:46):

Because at the end of the day, the commercial real estate industry is a really small industry, and it’s a people industry, and there are technical skills that you need as a base level. But beyond that base level of technical skills, which you could really get from A.CRE and from reading and some other modeling courses, and obviously work experience too, it’s really a people business, and building relationships, and getting to know as many people in the industry as you can. And a lot of those people will be willing to help you along your way.

Tucker Wells (02:13):

So, you talked about the people business and about relationships. Yeah, technical skills is one aspect, but would you say people is more important?

Ian Hawk (02:24):

They’re both really important. You need to have a base level of technical skills. There are certain things you need to do. And at the analyst and associate roles, when you’re lower on the totem pole, it’s more important to have those technical skills. And the technical skills are what gets you in the door, but then the people skills and understanding how to work with others and how to build relationships are really what accelerate your career.

Tucker Wells (02:47):

So, the one thing when I was a college student is the real estate industry is so broad. There’s mortgage lending, development, private equity, asset management, acquisitions, brokerage, I mean, those are just a few. What is a mortgage lending company?

Ian Hawk (03:08):

So, a mortgage lending company… And by the way, if you’re looking to network and you’re in school, I would say speak to all those different people, because they all interact on a daily basis and they all interplay within one ecosystem. But the mortgage lender is the group that’s going to be providing the debt. So, typically, in a real estate transaction, you have debt and you have equity. And the equity’s going to come from investors, going to come from family, offices, or institutional investors.

Ian Hawk (03:32):

The debt is going to be coming from a mortgage lender, someone like Dwight Mortgage Trust. A lot of mortgage lenders will specialize in a few specific product types. Some of the bigger banks, like the J.P.Morgan‘s, the City Banks, the Goldman Sachs‘, they’ll have different teams that cover different items. And whether it’s development, whether it’s stable properties, whether it’s even land, the lender’s going to play an integral role in a given real estate transaction.

Tucker Wells (04:03):

So, you mentioned key stakeholders, and if you were a college student today, wanting to learn more about the business, you’d talk with all of them. What does a day in the life look like as a mortgage lender at Dwight Mortgage Trust, and out of all those key stakeholders, who are you talking to each day?

Ian Hawk (04:23):

So, each day, I’m really talking to a good deal of them. I’m talking to developers, talking to our asset management team, internally, talking to investors that are buying new deals. So, you really end up talking to everybody. I guess specifically taking you through day of the life at the associate level.

Tucker Wells (04:41):

Yeah, take me through exactly what you did today.

Ian Hawk (04:43):

Yeah, absolutely. So, this morning I got into the office around 9:30, caught up with our head of asset management. Spoke to her a little bit, then spoke with one of our new associates, helping her get up to speed with the team. She just joined us on Monday, so walking her through some of the processes our team does. Wrapped up those two conversations by about 10:00 in the morning.

Ian Hawk (05:08):

Then immediately, I like to start my day, we review a lot of new deals. We review those new deals at a high level and then a deep level. So, I typically like to start my day and ease into it by taking a quick look at two deals, giving feedback to the originators or the sponsors on, “Hey, this is where we think we’re going to shake out. Are we competitive? How do we look? Do you have interest in pursuing a deal with us?”

Ian Hawk (05:34):

So, that usually occupies the first half hour to 45 minutes of my day, doing a quick underwrite and looking at those deals. Then the majority of the rest of the day, during normal business hours, call it from 10:00, 11:00, till about 5:00 or 6:00 is going to be spent underwriting deals, on calls with our lawyers, through the closing process, helping sign up and win new business. And then the night shift or the evening hours are generally spent with doing deeper underwritings of deals, really analyzing them, working with our analysts to put together credit memos. And then every day from the initial feedback we gave in the morning, refining based on that feedback, which deals we want to do, and really putting out a full quote and term sheet to sign up new business.

Tucker Wells (06:23):

Sweet. And then you end it by talking to Tucker?

Ian Hawk (06:27):

Exactly, exactly. And we’ve got some time after this or we still got some wood to chop.

Tucker Wells (06:34):

Good, good. Okay. So, you guys are giving debt to projects. Specifically, at Dwight Mortgage Trust, you guys are working in secondary, tertiary markets, and multifamily, and health care, right?

Ian Hawk (06:47):

We’re working primary, secondary, and tertiary markets. I would say, most of the loans we’re writing are going to be in the top 150 MSAs. But because we have a bridge to hut option, that does allow us to go a little bit broader in terms of what we do and lend in some other markets. But we do a good deal of business in the primary markets as well.

Tucker Wells (07:09):

So, if I’m a student, I’m wondering, you guys are giving out debt, where does that money come from?

Ian Hawk (07:16):

So, Dwight Mortgage Trust is a private REIT. So, that’s coming from within our private REIT, basically. It’s capital that was raised that we have the ability to lend, similar to the public rates, basically.

Tucker Wells (07:30):

Okay. And I guess, what needs to happen to actually lend that money? You talked about underwriting, you talked about talking to different stakeholders, what needs to happen for money to transact?

Ian Hawk (07:56):

So, typically, it’s just a full underwriting process. So, it’s from that initial stages of looking at the deal through issuing a term sheet, going under application, and then really going through the underwriting process and making sure we understand the risks in the transaction, we understand the potential outcomes, and getting a good grapple of that. And a big thing we rely on is third-party reports, environmental reports, appraisal reports, engineering reports, to get us through that process. And we work with third-party groups that are able to give their unbiased opinion of the facts on the ground, to supplement our underwriting and ultimately get comfortable with the transaction.

Ian Hawk (08:36):

And then typical, most debt funds will have a couple rounds of credit committee or a round of credit committee prior to closing a loan, where all of the information that the analysts, associates, VPs put together into your final credit committee memo is all summarized and outlines the strengths, and weaknesses, and opportunities of the transaction. And then you’ll sit in a room and this is similar to equity shops. We’ll have investment committee, debt shops, wealth credit committee. Rating agencies will similarly have a credit committee too. And you sit in the room, you discuss the merits of the transaction, and then you discuss where you ultimately will approve the deal.

Tucker Wells (09:16):

Perfect. Well, we want to keep these short. Is there anything else that if you were a college student, if you were a career transitioner that you’d want to know about what it’s like working at a mortgage lending firm?

Ian Hawk (09:35):

Anything else that people should know? So, I mean, I think really it’s just the base technical proficiency, and networking and building up relationships. In addition to that, I would say something, an underrated skill. Or the two most underrated skills, in my opinion, we’ll go that way, are one, empathy, and your ability to understand what people want and what people need. And that’s both when you’re dealing with borrowers and also when you’re dealing with your manager, understanding how you can make their life easier and reading between the lines and understanding what they want and what they’re looking for into writing.

Ian Hawk (10:10):

So, it’s an underrated skill, but being able to write well, being able to write coherently is something that sets you apart and allows you to communicate better. Really, in all of real estate, it’s understanding the people, your ability to communicate, and your technical skills. And those three together will really make you an all-star.

Tucker Wells (10:29):

One last question, Ian, and thank you for that. I really like that empathy part of it and the writing. I would not have thought of that. I’m not a good writer myself. But what I want to know is, you’re giving out money, you’re talking about turn sheets, you’re talking about the credit committee, where are you getting these deals from? Are brokers bringing it to you? Are you guys going out and finding them? Where are these deals coming from?

Ian Hawk (10:59):

So, it’s really both. At a place like Dwight, we have brokers coming to us and we have direct relationships. And depending on which shop you’re talking to and which lenders, some lenders rely exclusively on brokers, some lenders rely exclusively on direct relationships, and it’s really going to depend. At Dwight, we see a good blend of both. And at a lot of shops, you get different varieties and you get different ways of finding deals. And it’s interesting, it’s always an adventure.

Tucker Wells (11:26):

I love it. While you’re talking about adventures in CRE, here we want to help educate just the commercial real estate in general. And if there’s someone out there who needs help, needs guidance, where can they reach you?

Ian Hawk (11:41):

Yeah. You could feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn. Happy to help in any way I can. Adventures in CRE I think really has the best resources. And I would say, being able to help yourself and show yourself starter is excellent, and that’s why we love candidates that have taken the A.CRE Program. And it really is just a great opportunity to show that you’re invested in this industry. And it’s a great way to also get that baseline proficiency.

Tucker Wells (12:09):

Well, Ian, you did not need to say that, but I appreciate that. Thank you. Thank you for your time today. A.CRE readers, we got Ian Hawk with Dwight Mortgage Trust. If you want to reach out, please reach out. If you guys want to find another part of the industry that you think we could have a guest like Ian on, please let me know. And if you are interested in working with a company like Dwight Mortgage Trust, you can let us know as well. Thanks, bye.