Aalto recruits banking heavyhitter

Independent asset manager Aalto Invest has given a boost to its €700 million UK and European real estate lending program by hiring the man responsible for building up Royal Bank of Scotland into a global property finance powerhouse.

Stephen Eighteen, one of the best-known names in UK real estate financing and investment, has joined independent asset management firm Aalto Invest to help grow the firm into a large non-bank property loan originator.

Eighteen, who assembled one of the biggest global loan origination platforms in the world while at Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) last decade, is spearheading Aalto’s platform, which already is geared up to lend to commercial real estate borrowers across the UK and Europe. In a statement, Aalto said it had allocated €700 million to a senior commercial real estate loan strategy, in which the firm aimed to provide up to 70 percent financing on a loan-to-value basis on maturities up to nine years. The London- and Switzerland-based firm also said it planned to add more “products” for property-related investments.

New recruit Eighteen will work alongside Mikko Syrjänen, managing partner, and portfolio manager Matthew Pritchard, both of which will continue their commercial real estate loan portfolio management and credit underwriting responsibilities. Aalto manages commercial real estate loans not just in Europe, but in the US as well.

Syrjänen said Eighteen brought a “wealth of experience” and “long-standing relationships” in the industry that would “accelerate” its strategy in developing Aalto into one of the leading non-bank lenders in the European real estate market.

After the global financial crisis of 2008, RBS was left nursing billions of pounds worth of real estate-related losses. Having played a crucial part in building up the bank’s portfolio, Eighteen was assigned to lead the deleveraging of large non-core real estate across 13 countries, which he did for the next four years. He ended his role towards the closing stages of 2012.