Q and A

‘I’m a real estate geek’

Jerry LumpkinsRockford native and veteran banker Jerry Lumpkins joined Israeli-owned Bank Leumi USA last year. He spends 85 percent of his time on market rate loans and the remainder on community development projects, mostly on the South and West sides. His 25-year career has included stints at BMO Harris, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo/Wachovia and US Bank.

 

CRAIN’S: Why real estate?

LUMPKINS: My dad invested in apartments. Real estate always was in my family. I love the commercial part because I can go see it. I can walk and drive it, learn the intricacies of the neighborhood, the history of the buildings. I’m a real estate geek. 

 

What kinds of projects do you typically handle?

I do a lot of market-rate apartments. These are low-rise garden style buildings with 100 to 200 units. They’re called workforce housing because they’re rented to regular working folks such as mail carriers, teachers and firefighters.

 

After the murder of George Floyd, you got involved in the bank’s Corporate Social Responsibility program. What kind of initiatives are under way?

We’re looking at minority owned businesses—can we offer credit or deposit services to that company or can it be a vendor? We want to fund nonprofits that can provide financial literacy and wellness training. We also can provide volunteer hours and serve on boards. Give the disinvestment and economic disadvantages experienced by Black and Brown folks; it’s not going to take a month to fix.

 

Are banks loosening credit, requiring less equity?

Perhaps but not that much less. We don’t want to get to a situation where we’re financing 75 to 80 percent of the project cost. If the market turns, then all of a sudden we have a 120 percent to 125 percent loan to value deal. That’s not good for anyone. You now have an impaired loan on your books.

 

Developer Leon Walker has been successful in South Side projects. Why don’t we see more of these?

These deals can take 10 years. You have to plan it, get approvals, finance it and get community input. In some cases, there are 10 financing components. They all have to close on the same day. I call it lasagna financing. When you have that amount of time and energy required to put a deal together, a lot of market-rate guys pass. They can get five or six deals done in that same period of time.

 

What drives you to do these kinds of loans?

I have family in Englewood, family that gets housing assistance, so it’s personal for me. Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith. People in banking hate the word faith. For them, it’s all about facts and the merits. But you have to know your borrower. You have to believe in the vision. You have to have a passion for it. It can’t be 100 percent profit-driven.