Leslie led the launch of Commercial Direct and oversees sales and operations for the entire small-balance commercial lending division of Bayview Asset Management, headquartered in Coral Gables, FL. She has been instrumental in driving productivity and growth for nearly a decade within the Bayview organization. Leslie’s key contributions include building a banker education program, managing the top 50 correspondent relationships, and leading expansion into international markets, as well as overseeing Project Management, Vendor Management and Process Engineering groups within Bayview Loan Servicing. An experienced financial service professional with more than 20 years in the industry, she is a frequent speaker and presenter for national publications and media outlets.
- Who is Leslie Smith?
Leslie started her career in a banking call center. That experience taught her to be fast on her feet and solve problems really quickly. This is where she developed her “spidey sense” superpower and allowed her to adjust to what her customers need and adapting to that.
She later moved on to another company that was originating commercial loans which is how she got into the loan business.
When Leslie was young, she wanted to be a Supreme Court Justice. Leslie has always aimed high for her career.
- Commercial Lending
Small balance means a lot of things to lots of people. It typically means $250,000 to $2 million and Leslie’s average loan size is $400,000. Leslie’s company fills an important gap in the market because most lenders are looking to loan out much larger amounts.
Business owners that have made it through the recession have a story that says a lot about them. The person on the other side is almost as important as the data analysis that goes into making a deal.
Leslie’s business looks at more than just tax returns to understand how healthy someone’s business is. Tax returns are just a snapshot in time and don’t tell the whole story.
- What could people do better to get access to the financing they are looking for?
People often underestimate how important their story is. Lenders want to know what your objective is and what your expected outcome is. Most people that come to Leslie don’t really have a good response to that question.
After the credit score, the most common reason someone is declined is inconsistencies in their story.
- What challenges do women face in the commercial lending world?
One of the biggest challenges is representation. It’s hard to come into an industry without seeing someone like you that has done it already.
Leslie stopped taking it too personally and instead thinks about the misperception as an opportunity to open people’s minds to what is possible.
- Early Challenges
Hiring the right team is definitely a challenge. Hiring slow and firing fast is very important, as an entrepreneur you don’t have the luxury of wasting money on a lot of bodies. Look for the unicorns, people that can take on a number of different roles.
Don’t just focus on your industry, look at other industries and what’s happening around you to make your thinking freer.
The most successful entrepreneurs are focused on solving a specific problem.
Commercial lending is a problem that many people need a solution to and Leslie is grateful for her chance to solve those problems. Real estate has a place in everyone’s portfolio, one way or another.
- The Perfect Loan
There is no real perfect deal in Leslie’s world. She is agnostic to industry and business because they are looking motivation and circumstances very closely.
Leslie’s biggest challenge is getting in front of the people that want to buy commercial real estate. Many professionals that would be ideal clients may have never considered becoming the owner of the real estate they operate in.
AirBnB is market that Leslie is watching very closely. Testing new products in that market is something that Leslie is considering carefully.
- Leslie’s Takeaway
Think about your story and be comfortable with telling it. Even if you don’t have a property yet, talk to Leslie and get a preapproval. At least you can go out into the world knowing you have the financing you need to get that investment.
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