CityBusiness Named Robert Hand one of the Top 50 Financial Executives in New Orleans for 2012.
“It’s possible to spur redevelopment along a dilapidated corridor and bring affordable housing to a community while still making a profitable investment. Just ask Robert Hand, who has played a key role in securing more than $200 million for new developments in the past five years to bring affordable housing to New Orleans.
Inherited real estate accounted for a sizeable portion of the city’s housing stock before levee failures during Hurricane Katrina wiped much of it out in 2005, so properties don’t often change hands. When Hand’s clients came to him after Hurricane Katrina looking for profitable investments, he helped them develop affordable housing in areas where property was not rebuilt. “We took vacant industrial sites and parking lots and helped clients see the opportunity in them and commit to the development,” he said. Hand negotiated the development of an abandoned warehouse on a 6 acre site on Poydras Street into The Marquis apartments. He also helped revive abandoned buildings into new businesses, such as The Saint Hotel on Canal Street.
His work has fueled the transformation of Mid-City, where the former Baumer Foods Hot Sauce factory site is now The Preserve apartment complex. He also transformed a former empty parking lot for a former auto dealer on Tulane Avenue into the Crescent Club apartments. Across the street, he helped turn a block of delapidated houses into a shopping center with Subway, Capitol One Bank, an upscale wine bar and a high-end yogurt store.
“That was at a time when nobody wanted to be on Tulane, so we were going right when everyone else was going left” he said. “Each of those developments was at least a $20 million investment, so it was a large undertaking.”
Hand continues to use commercial real estate in addition to stocks, bonds, mutual funds and other strategies to help solve his clients’ investment problems. To his knowledge, he is the only Registered Investment Adviser in Louisiana with an MBA and the Certified Commercial Investment Member designation. He is also past president of the International Association for Financial Planning.
Hand got his start in the industry on one of the unlikeliest of days in 1980, when he came to New Orleans from Jackson, Missississippi, to interview with Merrill Lynch on the day that came to be known as Silver Thursday when Bunker Hunt tried to corner the silver market. Silver prices crashed, and panic ensued on the commodity and futures markets. There was gloom and doom. In spite of that, Merrill Lynch asked him to start the following Monday. It marked the beginning of Hand’s 32-year career in the investments field. He joined FSC Securities in 2003.