ATLANTA—Access Point Financial’s recently appointed CEO isn’t wasting any time—and that’s precisely why the company tapped him to lead the way.

“I expressed my interest in the CEO position after its vacancy due to the retirement of our former CEO,” said Dilip Petigara, the company’s new top executive. “Some of us have been together for nearly two decades and I felt that, as one of the principal architects of the business, I wanted the opportunity to continue to guide the business while leading it through our current phase of expansion. I am grateful to have been entrusted with the role and feel energized to be able to continue to serve our various stakeholders in this capacity.”

Prior to his new role, Petigara held the position of COO for the company. He also previously served as SVP of Specialty Finance Group, and as assistant VP and senior underwriter at GMAC Commercial Mortgage.

His 90-day plan is to build out the company’s functional teams and implement technology designed to better serve borrowers and manage Access Point’s loan portfolio proactively.

“We’ve already commenced this process and begun to hire experienced persons…in order to continue to capitalize on our value proposition,” he said. “Part of this will include key hires in senior positions, such as a chief credit officer, general counsel and managing director of business development. We’ll continue to remain an active and engaged sponsor to the various brands and conferences in order to strengthen and deepen those relationships. I plan to build a collaborative group of professionals focused on growing the portfolio, credit quality, product offerings and celebrating each of our contributory strengths to round out the enterprise, to continue to be the premier lender to the industry.”

Access Point has serviced $7 billion of loan projects, but it’s ramping its growth efforts. One reason why the company appointed Petigara as CEO was he’d fit with the company’s “aggressive corporate growth initiatives,” which were designed to keep up with the growing demand for financial services in the global hotel sector, according to the company.

“Our growth initiatives include top-line loan volume growth by continuing to focus on our core loan products and selectively pursuing accretive new-construction projects, but also include establishing and developing our infrastructure to ensure that we are most efficiently using our capital to meet both the market’s demands and needs, as well as those of our investors and constituents,” Petigara said.

The CEO has a view on the lending market that may sound familiar: Things are going well, but stay alert.

“This current cycle of growth has been very long, by historical comparison, but the growth has been deliberate,” he said. “Although we don’t expect to see 8% RevPAR growth because demand and supply have been generally balanced during this cycle, we still predict slightly positive RevPAR gains. When RevPAR is driven largely by ADR gains, owners and operators must manage costs and variable operating expenses in order to maintain margins. Of course, they have to do all of this while facing pressure from the cost of—and general availability of—labor for operating properties and cost of construction materials and goods for hotels being PIP’d or under development.

“Generally speaking, however, I remain cautiously optimistic and focus our credit analyses on the qualitative factors that help drive prospective success: sponsorship strength and experience; ability to execute on the business plan; brand; diversity of demand generators; and location,” he said.

Despite the positive market outlook, challenges remain—especially for lenders with more than one specialization. “As a specialty lender in the hospitality space that is focused on financing brand-mandated PIPs, value-add projects and new-construction loans, our challenges include underwriting credit risk based on a sponsor’s ability to execute on their stated business plan, whether that means renovating and modernizing their hotel in the most efficient manner while minimizing disruptions to the guests, or building the hotel from the ground up on time and under budget,” Petigara said. “This effort requires us to not only perform the required due diligence during the credit decision process, but also to establish and maintain a robust portfolio team to review and monitor these projects.”

His answer to some of the company’s challenges is leveraging technology.

“Over the course of the remainder of the year, I’d like to utilize our technological tools to maximize our internal efficiencies and reporting,” he said. “By doing so, we’ll free our portfolio team to spend more time in the field with our borrowers and observe their progress, while learning their challenges and enhancing our loan product offerings or structures in order to position their hotels and our assets for maximum success. I expect that developing closer relationships with our customers and the brands will help us become more than just a lender, but a valued partner.”

As for Access Point’s future, Petigara already has a plan in place for the next several years. “We have a passionate and dedicated team of professionals and supportive stakeholders all working toward our common goals, and I am energized for our future,” Petigara said. “Over the next few years, I’d like to see a fully built out model focused on process workflow and quality loan assets. With the full development of our infrastructure, I’d like to focus effectively on doubling our balance sheet by offering our customers various financing solutions to meet their every need.” HB