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VOL. 7 | NO. 47 | Saturday, November 15, 2014

Trustmark’s Neal Finds Plenty to Like in CRE

By Andy Meek

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Trustmark National Bank senior vice president Rick Neal, who manages the bank’s commercial real estate efforts for the Memphis region, came to the bank in 2012 for a couple of reasons.

“It was a combination of factors,” said Neal, a banking veteran who caught the lending bug early and who has worked in banking for about 25 years in Memphis. “One, I consider it local. It’s based in Jackson, Miss., which is just a hop, skip and a jump down the road, and they tend to think like us as Southerners. That was important to me.

When Rick Neal decided to make the move to Trustmark National Bank in 2012, his decision was based on the company's commitment to the city and region.  

(Memphis News/Andrew J. Breig)

“I’d spent most of my career at First Tennessee, and as a lifelong Memphian, I wanted to stay here. This is home. So I wanted to find an institution that had a grounding and a kind of consistent, common sense approach to finance.”

Other draws for Neal that pulled him to Trustmark include what he said is the bank’s philosophy and commitment to the community in Memphis, as well as its scale. For the kind of work he does, he said a bank needs to have the resources to be able to lend to big projects that need it.

“There are a lot of financial institutions that I’m sure do a good job for the clients they serve, but for the market I’m in, you’ve got to have some firepower,” Neal said. “You can’t do sophisticated multibank-grade commercial real estate lending if your maximum lending limit is $1 million or $2 million. As essentially a $12 billion bank, we’re capable of doing the types of transactions that would be consistent with the CRE lending effort.”

Trustmark, he went on to say, covers a wide range of transactions, while its sweet spot includes $5 million to $15 million projects. However, there are still deals he said the bank will do on occasion that fall below $1 million, and there are also deals in excess of $20 million.

Neal, though, loves all aspects of the work, partly because unlike in other areas of banking, this is one where the lender can sit down at a table, help influence a big project and watch it grow through renovations and new construction.

“Lending is one of those things, you either like it or you don’t,” Neal said. “And if you do, it’s one of those things you can get hooked on. It’s intriguing. It can be intellectually challenging, but it’s not all just finance and numbers and sitting at a back office. You’re interacting with clients and trying to strike good, mutually beneficial arrangements.

“If you don’t want to be just one dimensional, it has a lot of different components to it that are appealing. And it’s a lot more tangible than some of the other types of lending that one might do.”

Neal was born and raised in Memphis, attended Rhodes College and studied economics and business there. He worked as an intern with First Tennessee during school. It’s not that he was necessarily focused on a banking career at the time, but the opportunity was there, and he worked his way into a permanent position, eventually settling into a preference for lending.

He came to Trustmark with the specific charge, he said, to create a specialized, professional commercial real estate lending group.

“Our goal is to go out and deal with high-quality developers and investors in commercial real estate,” Neal said. “We’re going to be typically involved in larger projects. We provide financing for people who are in the business of developing, leasing and operating commercial real estate.

“I actually started out in general commercial lending and then moved quickly into real estate after just a few years. I’ve always enjoyed real estate, had an affinity for it, and it was just the right fit for me.”

PROPERTY SALES 64 151 1,493
MORTGAGES 45 105 1,152
BUILDING PERMITS 201 410 3,466