Chief Credit Officer at Sabal
I love working with renters and ensuring workforce housing tenants have safe, affordable living options in underserved markets.— Sarah Suther
How do you describe yourself?
A: I would describe myself as a hardworking and tough-loving business professional, wife and mom.
What is your business role?
A: I’m the Chief Credit Officer at Sabal Capital Partners. My responsibilities include setting the credit guidelines and processes, and then ensuring that all the guidelines are adhered to for each of the products that Sabal offers. I developed and established the underwriting department at Sabal when Freddie Mac launched their Small Balance Loan (SBL) product in 2014 and have been working on that business since the program started. I am also involved with Sabal’s Targeting Affordable Housing (TAH) Express and CMBS programs.
Part of my role at Sabal is ensuring there is proper mitigation, so I provide advice and guidance to loan officers and personnel that need credit analysis or loan assumptions.
How did you get started in the Multifamily Industry?
A: I started working in commercial real estate in the late 90s as an analyst on bridge, mezzanine and equity loans. My clients were investing in multifamily, buying B-class buildings and performing value-add renovations, so we would analyze their business plans and structure the loans for them.
When I first started out, I had no experience in real estate. As a mathematics major, I was looking for a job that would allow me to utilize my research and analytics skills and fell into the commercial real estate industry. The company took a chance on me – not only did I not have any CRE background, but I was the only female on our team who served on the underwriting and origination side.
Now, with almost 20 years of experience in CRE, I can say with certainty that the industry was the right choice. I think multifamily is a fascinating product type. I love working with renters and ensuring workforce housing tenants have safe, affordable living options in underserved markets. These are hard workers who deserve and need to have a clean, safe environment for their families, and I feel so fortunate to help provide that in my work with Sabal and Freddie Mac.
What is your biggest business accomplishment so far?
A: My career path and the choices I’ve made to continue to better myself are what I’m most proud of in business. In our industry, reputation is huge because the industry is so small, and having people rely on you and trust in your decisions is a great accomplishment.
From a transactional side, helping get some recent portfolio deals across the finish line was a major accomplishment. One even ended up being the largest portfolio deal in Freddie Mac SBL history.
Have you experienced any challenges as a woman in a predominately male industry?
A: Personally, I haven’t. I’ve heard stories, but I’ve never let my gender define me or my peers. We are all working to advance our careers and serve our clients well.
When I started in commercial real estate, there were very few women in the industry. But at a recent MBA event, we were all over. It’s wonderful to see how many more women are entering the industry every day.
What's the best part of your job?
A: I value collaboration and love working with our team at Sabal. There are a lot of highly educated, intuitive people with a wide variety of experiences, so I’m continually exposed to new perspectives and different ideas.
Working with Freddie Mac, especially Catherine Evans and the Credit Management team, has been a highlight of my current position. We have an invaluable partnership and it’s fascinating to work on a large portfolio and come up with solutions together.
Did you have any role models who influenced or inspired you?
A: I’ve had wonderful bosses who have helped guide me and were generous with their advice. They taught me the importance of being accountable for the decisions you make, which is one of the most valuable lessons I’ve carried with me throughout my career.
What’s funny is I’ve always been around strong women and attracted to their energy. In fact, I remember being six or seven years old on vacation with my family. At the airport I saw a woman with a briefcase and I turned to her and said, “I’m going to be just like you when I grow up.” I guess I knew even then that I wanted to be successful.
How do you in turn help other women who are coming up behind you to succeed?
A: I have always had an open-door policy, and I encourage people to ask questions. It’s something that I actively cultivate because I’ve had so many great mentors who helped me pursue my goals and shape my career path.
I’m passionate about helping people achieve their goals. Anyone can give advice, but the follow-through to help them make it happen is so gratifying to me. I’m a strong proponent in promoting from within. It’s so rewarding to help build someone up and nurture them until they rise.
Any advice to share?
A: Pursue your passions. Don’t give up and make your own path.
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