Amanda Lombard is CFO at Veris Residential, Inc. (NYSE:VRE). Before joining the REIT in 2022, she served as CFO of Seritage Growth Properties as well as chief accounting officer at Gramercy Property Trust. Lombard began her career at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP.
What are some of the key issues you’ve dealt with as Veris Residential transitions to a pure-play multifamily REIT?
Since the beginning of 2021, Veris Residential has been working toward its goals of simplifying and focusing its business, strengthening its balance sheet, and enhancing its operational platform in pursuit of its new multifamily strategic direction. Transitions are never easy, they take hard work, perseverance, and a positive attitude.
Despite volatility in the market, I have worked diligently alongside other members of the executive and finance teams to execute transactions and cost savings strategies that have helped to advance those goals, with Veris Residential closing on over $2 billion of non-core asset sales, repaying over $1.2 billion of debt, and adding approximately 1,900 units to its residential portfolio. Navigating through a highly transactional environment requires careful coordination amongst our teams to ensure that proceeds are redeployed in a thoughtful and timely manner.
Additionally, as CFO, I am responsible for managing our balance sheet. As we transition to a pure-play multifamily REIT, I have been mindful of ensuring that we continue to reduce leverage, maintain a flexible capital structure, and have sufficient liquidity in order to execute the transformation. As a result, we ended 2022 with 96% of our debt fixed or hedged at an average rate of 4.4%, further strengthening the balance sheet and limiting the impact of the near term interest rate increases.
To what extent has recent market uncertainty made your role as CFO more challenging?
As CFO, I regularly advise our management team and board of directors on long-term strategic planning and scenario analysis designed to drive shareholder value and earnings growth. We have worked to build a resilient multifamily-focused business and have proven our ability to navigate complex market conditions, particularly given the strides we’ve made on our transformation despite recent market volatility.
Since the Federal Reserve started its aggressive rate hike campaign, the transaction and capital markets have slowed down significantly. During this timeframe, we have remained committed to executing on our transition to a pure-play multifamily company in a timely and thoughtful manner and increased the share of our multifamily business to approximately 98% of net operating income (NOI) by year-end 2022 on a pro-forma basis for sales under binding contract. That compares with 56% of NOI at the beginning of 2022.
We have been able to continue to make progress by ensuring we are transparent with our stakeholders, communicating regularly with our partners, lenders, investors, and advisors to keep them abreast of our progress. This has been particularly important to keeping our stakeholders engaged and aware of how we plan to navigate through the recent market uncertainty.
How has your previous career background shaped you for this role?
Many of my previous roles helped prepare me for my role as CFO of Veris Residential today. For example, when I joined Gramercy Property Trust in 2010 (then Gramercy Capital Corp.), it was a $300 million, over-levered hybrid mortgage and equity REIT. Over the next eight years, we grew Gramercy into an $8 billion, triple-net industrial investment grade REIT. My prior experiences have taught me that true change and growth requires the courage to make mistakes. Rather than striving for perfection, I learned to lean into the road bumps and use them to improve and identify new opportunities to advance. That’s how I think you can build something great.
What are you most excited for Veris Residential to achieve over the next 12 months?
I am very much looking forward to completing our transformation to a pure-play multifamily REIT. Our team has worked tirelessly to simplify Veris Residential’s business, strengthen our balance sheet, and enhance our operational platform —all while focusing on unlocking shareholder value, adhering to best-in-class corporate governance principles, and remaining committed to all our stakeholders. I believe we are in a position of strength right now, and I can’t imagine anything better than completing the transformation we’ve worked so thoughtfully on over the last few years.