Spotlight Series: Elias Younes

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Elias is our construction team’s secret weapon, bringing valuable civil engineering skills to his role as a Senior Project Manager. And that title underplays his many talents: he’s a problem-solver, number-cruncher, out-of-the-box-thinker and deadline-smasher. He reveals how he manages to get it all done.

Elias Younes

Elias is our construction team’s secret weapon, bringing valuable civil engineering skills to his role as a Senior Project Manager. And that title underplays his many talents: he’s a problem-solver, number-cruncher, out-of-the-box-thinker and deadline-smasher. He reveals how he manages to get it all done.

Elias Younes
What inspired you to study civil engineering, and then shift into property finance with Assetline Capital?

When I went to university I was tossing up between studying finance or engineering, so it’s funny I ended up combining the two! I knew I loved the physics and challenges of civil engineering, and it was the right decision because the skills I gained in that degree changed my perspective on how to attack problems. I liked the way it stops you from being narrow-minded: there could be five different ways to solve any problem.

However, numbers have always been my strong point. So now, I get to apply all that engineering and problem-solving knowledge, and value-engineer for our construction clients. I met George Khoury when he first started up Assetline Capital’s construction finance division. At that time I was having second thoughts about being stuck behind a desk doing designs. I wanted to get out there and meet people, and keep growing. So I thought it was a good opportunity, and I was one of the first to join his team.

I think that’s the thing Assetline Capital does differently. We believe in a construction project as much as the borrower does, and we have the same end goal.”

How would you describe the role of finance in a construction project?

Finance is probably the most crucial part, because every developer has an end goal that depends on the project’s feasibility. And that comes down to the right finance, the right teams, the right consultants and the costs involved. Before you even commence, you need to be able to find a lender who’ll not only help you meet that net profit goal, but also assist if needed throughout the project. And I think that’s the thing Assetline Capital does differently. We believe in the project as much as the borrower does, and we have the same end goal.

So what’s your role in that process?

There are two critical stages for construction lending. First, getting through to settlement. A client or broker will present the scenario, and we’ll note down every moving part in that build from day one. The construction certificate, the costs in the building contracts, any pre-requisites. We do some due diligence – interview the builder, for example – and present a final project review with full development costs and risks to our credit committee.

We show them why the deal works, and the worst case scenario. That means we’re not setting a client up to fail with default interest rates, because we know every detail and have allowed for those contingencies.

Then, once we’ve settled, the build begins. And I’ll go out on site every two to four weeks, depending on the project risk, and check for any issues. Sometimes that means working with our quantity surveyors to make sure funds are being released for the right reasons, or doing compliance checks. We treat that project like it’s our own, because we’re protecting the security we have invested in.

What’s one recent project that meant a lot to you personally?

Sometimes we have to give a project a bit more love, especially if the developer is a little less experienced. There was one case in Sydney’s inner west, where the developer had some unexpected cash flow and management issues, and the builder flagged his concerns with us.

Some lenders might have foreclosed on the loan. But we still believed in the project and took a more active role to help the developer see it through to practical completion.

What’s an engineering challenge you often see people underestimate when starting a new development?

The biggest challenge is often during the substructure phase – there are many unknowns at that point, and it can cause major delays to the construction timeline, and cost blow-outs.

Engineering designs are based on geotechnical soil condition assessments, but sometimes different soils are discovered once excavation begins. We usually allocate a contingency for this – for example, we know a sandier soil can be riskier as it needs more structural foundations. That means the money is ready and can be dispersed if it’s needed during the build.

How have your family values shaped the way you approach your work and life?

I come from a very large extended family – my dad has 14 brothers and sisters and my mum has five, so I can’t even tell you how many cousins I have! My dad instilled in me an understanding of how to work around others, and compromise when you need to. And to be grateful for what comes your way – to take the opportunities in front of you. I love being part of such a big family, and for me Assetline has the same feeling. They’re more than colleagues, they’re friends, and that means you always wake up wanting to be there.

How would your colleagues sum you up in a couple of words?

Driven and helpful. I’ve been here a while, so I’m always happy to help people out because I know what it was like to learn everything about credit and property. It’s like paying it forward – they learn, you learn from them, and everyone grows. They might also mention my unusual organisation techniques! I am constantly writing down notes and have them always at hand on my desk. And I know exactly what I need to do and when I need to do it.

If you’re interested in discussing a deal or opportunity with our team, please get in touch.

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