“If I had to use a few words to describe what it takes to do business in a global pandemic, they are ‘Teamwork & Flexibility,” said Cambridge President Andrew L. Erkes. “Like everyone else, we had to find different ways to continue doing business during the COVID-19 pandemic, which required flexibility not only on the parts of our staff members but also by our clients, the owners, and operators that we work with. Fortunately,” Erkes elaborated, “our clients were enormously patient and understanding throughout the pandemic, and remain so, as even though things are gradually getting back to ‘normal,’ we are still in a global pandemic.”
Erkes went on: “If someone would have told me during the first week of the pandemic that Cambridge would exceed its historic volume over the next 18-month period, I would have been flabbergasted. Nevertheless, we made a conscious effort to not just flex in the face of business challenges, but to excel despite them. Thanks to the dedication of our skilled team members at Cambridge and the confidence of our owners and operators that we work with, the last 18+ months have not only been successful for us, but they were the most productive 18+ months in Cambridge’s history.” Erkes went on to report that Cambridge closed over $900 million worth of deals between the start of the pandemic and December 2021.
Erkes cited working as a team as the number one reason for Cambridge’s ability to remain successful throughout the pandemic. “We are truly fortunate here in that we have always had an extraordinarily dedicated team, with each team member working in the best position to use their skill set. But the ability to work together as a team has never been put to the test quite as it has over the last 18 months. It was a trial by fire, and I am extremely grateful that our team here came out stronger in the face of all of the challenges put before us.”
As with much of the rest of the world, almost all of Cambridge’s team members worked from home for the early months of the pandemic, with only a bare-bones staff on-site at the office. Meetings took place via the Web, and paperwork was signed electronically or, where a physical signature was required, through the delivery of paperwork to borrowers via courier. “There was a lot going on behind the scenes to make all of this happen, and aside from typical wait times for the government portion of HUD loan approval, for the most part, our borrowers saw little disruption to the loan process. This was only possible thanks to our experienced staff, heeding of Cambridge team recommendations, and the staff’s commitment to meeting the needs of our borrowers.”
Erkes noted that a significant portion of the $900 million in pandemic-period closings has been in the area of debt refinancing, specifically HUD IRR loans. “The unexpected silver lining for many of Cambridge’s borrowers was the drop in interest rates that occurred in the wake of the declaration of the pandemic. The drop was significant enough that our borrowers were able to re-negotiate lower rates once or more, saving them thousands of $’s or more over the course of their loan period.”
Erkes pointed out that as soon as the downward trajectory of the interest rate became apparent, a handful of Cambridge staff members went to work reviewing existing borrowers’ files and discovering who was eligible for and would benefit from an IRR loan. Staff then reached out to those borrowers, many of whom admit negotiating a lower rate had not even crossed their minds.
When it comes to teamwork, Erkes stated that it is important to provide an environment in which each team member can do what she or he does best, or, in other words, excel at their strengths. “The Cambridge team is a diverse one when it comes to strengths and talents. We strive to place each team member in an area where they feel empowered to succeed in their particular gifting,” adding that both introverts and extroverts are needed to make a successful team. “Take advantage of all skills from the team and place them where those skills will be maximized. It’s all about teamwork, knowledge, flexibility, and other variables, which are as much the keys to success as any of the things we can do.”
Cambridge staff are as eager as the rest of the world to see this pandemic come to an end. Nevertheless, it seems that the pandemic brought out the best in everyone. “It’s impossible to really quantify how this success happened, but it’s been a unique period for Cambridge, and the collaboration that took place over the last 18 months was clearly an essential element in our success,” Erkes declared. “I can’t say thank you enough to our amazing team.”