Annemarie DiCola, chief executive officer of New York-based analytics firm Trepp LLC, has steered her company's expansion with the acquisition of Foresight Analytics, the California-based real estate research firm.

She has deepened the already formidable database of commercial mortgage information at Trepp, which specializes in analysis of the commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS) and lending market.

A decade after joining Trepp in 1990, she became the first woman president of the trade group of the CMBS industry. At the same time, she was Trepp's chief legal and administrative officer.

Many commercial real estate investors and lenders now consider Trepp's data on loan delinquencies essential to their decision-making. “We are watching 25% of the mortgages in our country roll, and we're watching how they're performing,” says DiCola. “So what's occurred is that our loan database has really become our proxy for what is happening in the broader commercial mortgage market.”

Trepp is not without competitors. “One other firm provides mortgage-backed data. But what we have typically heard in the marketplace is that while other firms have the breadth to cover a few assets in the fixed-income sector, CMBS included, people have always appreciated the intense depth and granularity to which Trepp goes in CMBS. So I would venture to say that in terms of our depth in CMBS, we are unrivaled.”

A fundamental aspect of DiCola's success has been innovation, she says. Trepp devised new ways to package data and develop revenue streams even at the height of recession. Now the company's data helps investors capitalize on distress investment opportunities. “Certainly in a downturn like we've all experienced, I think the message is to never stop innovating,” says DiCola. Trepp now lists loans for sale, and provides online links enabling users to underwrite loans.

A new approach to client needs can help a company not only survive, but thrive, says DiCola. “When news is scary, especially when the outlook is grim, that's precisely when you most need to innovate. That's precisely when you have to think differently. It's what you have to do to get through the tough times.”