Over the course of three days during the second week of January, a record turn-out of over 1500 industry insiders attended CREFC’s January 2014 Conference at the Fontainebleau Hotel on Miami Beach. On Monday night, over 500 clients found their way to Dechert’s party at the SLS Hotel to celebrate a fantastic 2013 and what most attendees think will be an even better 2014. The record attendance at the Conference and Dechert’s reception demonstrated the feeling among most attendees that the market will continue an upswing through 2014.
Although the highlight for many at the conference was Billy Bean’s standing-room only keynote address, all of the panels and seminars were extremely well attended and offered the usual insightful and entertaining commentary on the state of the industry. It was hard to find many shadows lurking around the general feeling of optimism and exuberance for 2014, but a few general trends did emerge during the conference:
(1) Most attendees expect loan origination, CMBS issuance and CRE CLO issuance to steadily increase in 2014, with CMBS issuance peaking near $150 billion this year.
(2) Many U.S. lenders see opportunity to enter the European market in 2014 as some European lenders continue to lag behind their U.S. counterparts.
(3) Risk retention remains a big unknown variable for the industry. Final risk retention rules will likely be issued by Memorial Day. Many panelists predicted that the b-piece buyer market will shrink as short-term buyers leave the market. How the risk retention rules affect the market will be one of the major trends that we will be following this year.
(4) Macro-economic fundamentals remain troublesome in some sectors, and the recovery has been jobless and uneven. Absent a cyclical trend, slow consumer growth is likely to continue to hold back the retail sector during 2014.
(5) Some investors have become concerned about the return of some common pre-crises loan features. 2013 saw an increase in interest only loans and a general decrease in debt yield levels.
As the cold reality of the polar vortex settles back in after the return from Miami, we will be able to better judge this year’s prognostications. If those attending CREFC are right, 2014 will be another exciting and challenging year for our industry.