At Willamette Capital Management, we follow a team-oriented leadership model. We believe that our best work is done when all of our ideas and talents can be fully realized. We are committed to the principle that clients come first, and we are always looking for ways to make the company even better. Please click on the navigation to the left to learn about our founder, Steven Pontes, and to find out more about our WCM team.
Founder, Pontes Financial Group, Ltd.
Before creating Pontes Financial Group (now Willamette Capital Management), Steven Pontes founded the real estate corporation SM Pontes Properties in 1978 and then worked for five years as Senior Advisor at one of the largest pension firms on the West Coast. He left that company because of philosophical differences, believing that an investment firm should thrive not by generating commissions, but by producing results for clients.
Steven founded PFG in 1987 and retained most of his clients from the pension firm. Throughout his career, Steven distinguished himself as a brilliant and passionate businessman who devoted himself to serving his clients. At first, PFG offered a full range of financial services, including asset management, income and estate tax planning, and real estate related services—all guided by Steven’s client-driven philosophy. Against the backdrop of the U.S. Savings and Loan crisis, Steven focused on PFG’s Mortgage Lending division and entered the special situation, real estate-backed lending arena.
In 1996, Steven formed the stock and equities business PFG Investment Services, Inc (PFGIS). To focus PFG’s energies on real estate, mortgage funds, and mortgage lending, Steven sold his interest in PFGIS to Brad Sasser in 2005.
Along with Avi Ben-Zaken and Eric Cress, Steven went on to form the Portland-based real estate development and asset management firm, Urban Development Partners NW, LP in 2006. Based on his success and friendship with his UDP partners Avi and Eric, Steven arranged for both of them to join Willamette Capital Management as well.
We are saddened to report that Steven Pontes passed away in early 2008. In addition to being a visionary businessman, Steven was a dear friend and a constant inspiration. Steven truly cherished his clients and colleagues, and we are deeply committed to seeing that Steven’s core values—which were so essential in building the long-standing relationships we have with our clients—remain at the heart of the company going forward.
You can read more about Steven Pontes and PFG in this article from The Oakland Tribune.
Avi Ben-Zaken is the President of Willamette Capital Management and the sole General Manager of MFP Management, LLC, which oversees our mortgage funds. The relationships that Avi has developed and maintained with clients, borrowers, and brokers make him the ideal person to manage our mortgage funds—Avi is a perfect match for our unique client-driven business model, and he is always searching for ways to improve our services while encouraging positive energy and team work.
Avi is also the head of our loan department, and in that role he inspects properties, interviews borrowers, and reviews legal documents. Avi has also been a principal at the real estate acquisition and asset management firm Urban Development Partners (UDP) since its inception in 2006.
Avi has a proven track record as a successful business owner and entrepreneur with an extensive background in property acquisition and management, construction management, and structural engineering work. Among other endeavors, for 16 years Avi was co-owner of Quality Bay Construction (QBC), which became one of the Bay Area’s premier seismic retrofitting companies. Originally from Israel, Avi now lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife and four daughters.
Ann Jaworski has been our expert bookkeeper since 2001. She does all of our accounting and generates financial statements including monthly, quarterly, and annual reports for loans and partnership accounts. Ann also assists us with property management.
Ann previously worked as an auditor for Coopers and Lybrand in Spokane, Washington. She was also an accountant for Lincoln National Life Insurance Company and CIGNA in Hartford, Connecticut. She earned her BS in Business Administration and her Master of Accountancy from the University of Montana. Ann lives in beautiful Northern Idaho where she and her family enjoy endless outdoor activities such as skiing, biking, hiking and swimming.
Client Relationship Manager
Mortgage Loan Originator
As our Client Relationship Manager, Mark Vuong is responsible for providing and managing multi-faceted assistance to our clients. He creates financial reviews and reports.
As a Mortgage Loan Originator, Mark is responsible for managing company loan brokerage and finance where he concentrates his time underwriting loans and structuring debt/finance transactions. Mark’s responsibilities at WCM include company operations and regulatory compliance, assisting in raising funds and portfolio management, and he is the Treasurer of the Willamette Capital Management.
Mark joined WCM in 2003 and he has worked in the financial industry since 1998. He earned an MBA with a concentration in new venture and acquisition management from the University of North Alabama in 2007, and in 1997 he graduated with a B.A. in Economics and Sociology from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Mark and his wife moved to Portland, Oregon in early 2009 and had a baby boy in 2011.
Chief Financial Officer
Eric Cress is our Chief Financial Officer and a California licensed real estate broker. He has extensive experience valuing properties based on their present and future income fundamentals, which is essential in mortgage lending and real estate acquisition. Eric is also involved in reviewing financial statements, summarizing profits and losses, assessing cost saving methods, and analyzing legal documents such as operating agreements, escrow instructions, and closing instructions for loan documentation. Eric leads our mortgage loan acquisition team and brings extensive project management experience.
Eric previously worked with Avi Ben-Zaken at Pacific Bay Investments in Berkeley, California. There, Eric was responsible for real estate acquisitions, development permitting, and financing for new projects. From 1994 - 2002, Eric worked as a design engineer, managing engineering projects for Cypress Semiconductor, Maple Optical Systems, Leapfrog Toys and the National Science Foundation. Eric holds eight patents and has published several papers related to this work.
Eric earned a Masters in Business Administration with a focus in real estate finance from the Haas School of Business at the University of California at Berkeley in 2004, and B.S. and M.S. degrees in electrical engineering, both from Mississippi State University. Eric lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife and three children.
Associate Asset Manager
Anthony Stohl joined us in 2012 with more than 20 years of experience in the financial industry. Anthony is primarily responsible for loan processing and loan servicing. He also assists our team with loan underwriting, property valuation, and acquisitions.
Originally from the Bay Area in California, Anthony moved to Portland in 2007. His background includes 5 years at EGM Capital in San Francisco working as a Financial Analyst and Portfolio Manager of a $600MM hedge fund. Most recently, Anthony spent 10 years managing family investment funds.
Anthony earned a BS degree from Oregon State University in 1990 and an MBA from the Haas School of Business in Berkeley, California in 1999. He earned his Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation in 1999 as well.
In his spare time, Anthony likes to play golf, read, and work out—not necessarily in that order. He also loves hiking, swimming, and laughing with his wife and two young children.