Hamburg Commercial Bank taking a ‘safety first’ approach to lending

German lender Hamburg Commercial Bank is taking a ‘safety first’ approach to lending, according to Michael Windoffer, head of commercial real estate international clients, in an interview with PropertyEU at Expo Real.

The bank, which emerged from the privatisation of HSH Nordbank in 2018 – marking the first of Germany’s Landesbanks to be privatised –  underwent a significant repositioning following a series of legal clashes and writedowns.

That ‘transformation’ period put the bank on a steady course which has helped steer it through the last four years, Windoffer said. ‘We shrank our development portfolio by around 50% in the last two years and nearly stopped development financing two or three years ago. That means that the construction portfolio is pretty mature.

‘We wanted to get into private bank deposit insurance which made us move slowly, so we were cautious throughout the pandemic and the outbreak of war in Ukraine, also due to instinct. Our equity ratio is around 18.5% now, which puts us in a comfortable position – we have ample capital.’

That said, the bank is definitely ‘open for business’ and is ‘open to practically all asset classes’, said Windoffer. ‘We look at the quality of the sponsor, the property, and the location, and how well the property matches that location. We remain open to financing offices, ideally existing offices with strong cashflow. Our mainstay used to be value-add situations, where properties are repositioned, and that will continue to be an important business for us. We will continue to favour core structures, and that also means ticking all the boxes in terms of ESG.’

Windoffer is responsible for the bank's real estate cross-border business with a focus on international investors active in Germany. He said: ‘Right now, we are not volume-driven, nor growth-driven.’

Asked if banks were contributing to a credit crunch that is slowing real estate, he suggested that there had been a need for ‘all parties to learn from this crisis’ and added: ‘For the sake of both parties, you need sufficient equity in deals. There is a liquidity shortage for secondary properties, but banks have to focus. This becomes very clear if you expose the ESG scorings: no one wants stranded properties.’


Latest news

Best read stories