Leading By Example | Tricia Mitchell, Archwest

Tricia Mitchell

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For this episode, Kevin interviewed Tricia Mitchell, Archwest Capital's President and COO. Tricia dove into how she started as an intern fresh out of law school and worked her way up to becoming the President and COO of Archwest. She discussed the company's strategy of starting out small and focusing on methodical growth over the years and emphasized that Archwest's success stems from listening to its client's needs above all.

Tricia Mitchell is the Co-Founder, President and Chief Operating Officer of Archwest Capital. She is a licensed California attorney who has worked together with the founders of Archwest for over a decade. Her experience has included the facilitation of complex real estate transactions, corporate law, real estate finance, capital markets and regulatory and compliance matters. Most recently, Mitchell was the Vice President of Legal at 5 Arch Funding Corp. (acquired by Redwood Trust), a business purpose direct origination platform.

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Kevin Kim:
You’re listening to Lender Lounge with Kevin Kim, a podcast dedicated to the private lending industry. I’m Kevin Kim, and my goal is sit down with key figures in the private lending industry, to talk about their business and their personal lives. We’ll get their takes on market conditions, the industry at large, and their personal stories. Overall, I really want to learn more about how they started and grew their businesses. So whether you’re a lender, a borrower, a vendor, an investor, or anyone just interested in learning more about private lending, this podcast is definitely for you. Thanks for tuning in and enjoy this week’s episode of Lender Lounge with Kevin Kim.

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Hey guys, Kevin Kim here for another episode of Lender Lounge with yours truly, Kevin Kim. Thank you for joining us today. Today we are on Zoom and we are interviewing my friend and colleague, Tricia Mitchell, with Archwest. You squeezed us in on the schedule. We figured it out.

Tricia Mitchell:
I did. I did.

Kevin Kim:
We figured it out.

Tricia Mitchell:
So glad to be here, too. Thanks for having me.

Kevin Kim:
So we always start with, who are you, what do you do? Tell us a little bit about yourself and Archwest. We’ll get started that way.

Tricia Mitchell:
Yeah. I’m Tricia Mitchell. Again, so happy to be here. I am the President and Chief Operating Officer of Archwest Capital. Archwest Capital is a national lender that helps investors either want to fix and flip, bridge, or hold and rent real estate across the nation. So very happy to be here. Thanks for having me.

Kevin Kim:
Love it, love it. So, you and I have known each other for a while.

Tricia Mitchell:
We have.

Kevin Kim:
Because, you were at another company before Archwest.

Tricia Mitchell:
Yes.

Kevin Kim:
With a similar name. Give us a little bit about your background because you’re relatively young.

Tricia Mitchell:
Thank you. Thank you.

Kevin Kim:
People are like, I was shocked when I first met you like, “Wait, hold on. You’re Tricia? You’re so young.” So, tell us about your background and how you got in this space.

Tricia Mitchell:
Right. So yes, I kind of fell into private lending, similar to you guys. Have a legal background. Always knew that I wanted to be a lawyer, like seventh grade. My dad was a homicide detective. I was around district attorneys. I was around the law my whole life and I was like, “That’s what I want to do.” Went to law school and then I had on-campus interviews with Gene Clark, who has always been the chief legal officer for all the companies that they’ve created, and managed and operated. And he interviewed me for an interview. And I love this story, because he didn’t pick me. He picked someone else. That person ended up dropping out after a couple of weeks and they said, “Hey, are you still interested?” And I was like, “Yes, I want to try something new. Corporate law sounds really fun,” and I never left.

Kevin Kim:
Where’d you go to school, by the way?

Tricia Mitchell:
University of San Diego.

Kevin Kim:
Oh nice, nice.

Tricia Mitchell:
Yeah, yeah.

Kevin Kim:
It’s right on the street. I like that.

Tricia Mitchell:
Yeah, exactly. So fell into it. Started working from the bottom. I was an intern and I’ve been together with the same guys for over a decade now. So, that’s a long time.

Kevin Kim:
So, you’ve been in this game just as long as I have. Basically, the same time. I’m like 10 years in this sector now.

Tricia Mitchell:
Oh, nice.

Kevin Kim:
I was doing other stuff before I came here, but yeah, I’ve been in this role about the … So wait a minute. So what was the first company that you, because I don’t even remember the name of the first company. Was it?

Tricia Mitchell:
So it’s 5 Arch Funding Corp.

Kevin Kim:
That was 5 Arch. So that was 10 years ago. Okay.

Tricia Mitchell:
Yeah, 2012. And the first thing I was doing was running due diligence on our investors, taking a look of their projects, understanding the flip, because Gene has a very Mr. Miyagi style of teaching you law. It’s, do you understand the business? Do you understand the goal? What is the clientele trying to do? And so, he wanted me to learn that from the ground up. So I started in processing. I was in law school, doing due diligence on our investor base and kind of grew from there.

Kevin Kim:
So, that’s you all summer, you’re doing, doing diligence on borrowers. All right. All right.

Tricia Mitchell:
That’s right, that’s right. And so, learned it from the bottom up. 2012, 5 Arch Funding Corp. They created it, they managed it. We did about $3 billion of direct origination. 5,000 units. Grew it really, really big. And then our friends at Redwood Trust purchased 5 Arch in 2019. Fantastic firm, the best people. And then, we looked around and we said, “We want to do it one more time.” They’re very entrepreneurial and so they said, “We’re going to do it again.” And that’s when they launched Archwest Capital. Kind of focused on similar things, but certainly a firm that we’re super proud of, and we just created from the bottom up. Yeah. Last year.

Kevin Kim:
Yeah, as I remember, we got the phone calls. Like, “Wait a minute, I know this name.”

Tricia Mitchell:
Yes. The Arch name.

Kevin Kim:
I’ve heard of this person before.

Tricia Mitchell:
Yeah. People always ask, “Where is the Arch from?” So Shawn Miller, he’s our CEO, and one of their first companies was 3 Arch Financial Services, that we did a lot of special asset work back in the day. Before 5 Arch, they had Arch Bay Capital. And just because of the success, he has now a superstition that Arch is going to give us good luck. So got to keep it in the name, that’s right.

Kevin Kim:
You got to keep it in the name. You got to keep it in the name. I got that. But that’s really, really cool. So interesting kind of fact though, is this market is, people in your position and the executive level have been, we’ve been seeing a lot of lateral movement in the sector in the past two, three years. You’ve been with the same team. The same team, group of people, right?

Tricia Mitchell:
Yep.

Kevin Kim:
And you guys came back. So was there some downtime after ’19 and then you guys came back? Or was it?

Tricia Mitchell:
I wish, because I would love to have taken some time off, but no, it’s just one of those hit the ground running. I mean, building a direct origination platform is, it’s a lot, right? So you’ve got to have knowledge and how to get it started. Your loan documents, your legal regulatory requirements, your licenses, all different in every single state. And my background was in the law. So there was a lot that we wanted to do. We wanted to also get the Archwest named trademarked.

And so the fun part of my job is, I get to pair up with people like you guys, like the Geraci Firm, or people like Bradley, Arant, Boult, and Cummings, Rutan and Tucker, and I get to learn from the best lawyers in the business on how to do things the right way. And I love that. So for me, I got to pair up with the smartest people, learn from it, grow from it. And I was just ready to implement that into a new firm. So law is the best, because you really can understand what your guardrails are, but it allows you to make a business grow. Right?

Kevin Kim:
People forget about that.

Tricia Mitchell:
People forget about that.

Kevin Kim:
And lawyers forget about that. And I think that that comes from your training with Gene. That’s a good thing to think about is, a lot of attorneys don’t think like business people, and understanding what’s problems you’re solving for who. Your client is the company. But let me ask you this though. So most people in your position would’ve headed toward a general counsel position or chief legal officer position, but now you are COO and president. How’d that happen?

Tricia Mitchell:
Right. Total natural progression would’ve been, I was an intern, an associate attorney, senior associate attorney, vice president. I literally grew all the way up and then they said, “Look, you have an opportunity. You’ve seen it all.” Because in my law career, I started to do real estate transactions, loan documents. I was writing substitution provisions, I was writing subordination agreements by myself. I was looking at leases, you name it, on the real estate transaction side. But then, I was also getting a lot of exposure to what I love, which is capital markets. So working with street banks on master repurchase facilities, warehouse lines of credit, creating SPVs myself. We worked on a mini securitization of assets. I’ve worked on single family rental securitization. And I just fell in love with, not only how we can originate the deal, but how we can manage that asset post origination, see the success of our clientele, look at what they’ve done, package it up, and make it even better.

So because I got to see it from the very beginning to the very, very end, they said, “Well, you could also just run the operations of the firm.” And I looked at myself and I was like, “Well, I can apply all that legal knowledge,” right? I can hear Tom Haja like, “Do you have the local lending license? Do you have the referral fee based? Are you lending to individuals in Georgia?” All that stuff just can get put into an ops based role. Shawn had said something to me eight years ago when he was, he’s very much like a mentor. And he said to me, “Look, not all the time you’re going to be handed opportunities. So sometimes you have to make the jump and do it.” And so, I kind of took that to heart.

Kevin Kim:
Were you reticent at the time? Were you kind of like?

Tricia Mitchell:
I was scared, yeah. I mean, it’s a heavily regulated space. I tend to grow my way up and I have to be a hundred percent confident in what I’m doing, to do it. And I said to myself, “You know what?” I was like, “I have the best team around me who are going to help me and collaborate with me.” And I was like, “I know I can do this. Even though I’m young, I can get this done. I know how to do this.”

Kevin Kim:
And that’s an interesting conversation to have, because what you said also with your team, because the person that was telling us, “Don’t do that. The attorney on the team is now telling us how to run operations.” So talk about, for me, to me, I want to know more about that transition, because we’ve had that happen internally here at the law firm. Nema goes from an attorney, now he’s not really an attorney anymore. He’s really leading, helping our operations team, leading them, leading lightning docs and that kind of stuff. It’s a different type of position to be in. And I see it in the struggles that he’s going through. I’d like to hear more about your struggles.

Tricia Mitchell:
You know what it is? Yeah, it’s getting into the trenches, right? So literally, when we would trade or when we would do stuff, I was there with the custodian team packaging up. I was an attorney then. So I didn’t have to do any of this stuff. But I was like, “No, I need to understand what the lawyers write in these contracts and how it impacts the operations. Can I deliver the custodial documents in five days? I don’t know. Why don’t I actually help and package those documents together and send it to the custodian?” So it’s getting in the trenches. And that also builds a lot of respect and rapport with the people around you because we’re like, “Oh, that’s kind of cool. She’s not only helping us do our job, but she’s now understanding what we have to go through.” And so for me, it’s just the team that I’m surrounded with.

So Archwest is really unique because even though we started last year, the team that we pulled back together have been together for a really long time. The women that run my closing department, I’ve been with for six years. The people that are my head underwriters, I’ve been with six years. My controller and I have been together for eight years. So that’s a family. That’s truly a family. So for me, progressing my career was really helped by the people around me. They were familiar, they were helpful, were very collaborative, were very, very supportive. So that certainly is what dictated my career, for sure.

Kevin Kim:
Well, I mean I want to get there a little bit more, because the interesting fact pattern there to me is there’s a lot of interesting dynamics going on. Because you’re now, you’re telling yourself, “Okay, I’m in charge of operation. I got to learn how to do this stuff, because if I don’t know how to do it, so I can’t do the processing procedures and that kind of stuff.” But you also, I mean, I don’t know how, I don’t want to be, this is going to weird. You’re young, right? You’re young.

Tricia Mitchell:
Thank you. Thank you. Yes.

Kevin Kim:
And you’re in a male dominated industry, and you’re a woman. And that must have been very challenging because now, sometimes, and especially capital markets. I mean, sometimes it’s not easy. It’d be easier-

Tricia Mitchell:
Right, it’s not easy, it’s certainly not easy. So I wrote an article in the Originate Report, Women Helping Women, and thank you by the way, for giving people an opportunity to really talk about that topic.

Kevin Kim:
It’s important. It’s important.

Tricia Mitchell:
It’s so important. Like you said, it’s a very male-dominated industry. I am very much accustomed to walking into a room and it being all men, and-

Kevin Kim:
And, they’re all a sort of kind of guy too. They’re usually finance bros.

Tricia Mitchell:
They always start the conversation with football. Always. Whether it doesn’t even, but even brokers, borrower, it’s a very male-dominated industry period, from all aspects.

Kevin Kim:
A lot of blue suits, a lot of brown shoes.

Tricia Mitchell:
A lot of them. A lot of them. And the question’s always like, “Oh, where are you from? Ohio? Oh yeah, okay, so how are the Browns doing this year?” And it’s kind of like you have to be conversant in it. You have to be approachable. And so, funny enough, I study football sometimes, just so that I can keep, swear. Just so that I can keep up. But being around people, even men who support women and what they do, and judge them by what their output is, that’s the kind of people that I’ve really been around. And so Shawn, he has a very powerful wife, she’s a very smart attorney and he’s been surrounded by powerful women all his life. So for him, taking a chance on someone like me, a very young women, very driven person, was kind of like, “Yeah, you can do it. I know you can.”

So it’s men also giving women that chance is really important, I think. But then, because now I’m in this role, it’s my responsibility to make sure this is a culture of diversity and inclusion, right? So again, the women that run my closing department, I mean they’re closing fix and flip deals in five business days. I hear other lenders, me they’re like, “Oh, it might take 30 days, 45 days.” I’m like, “Whoa. My girls, they know what they’re doing.” They know how to, scalable and repeatable processes. So I’m supposed to help cultivate that and give them the power to do that, because they earned it. So that’s kind of an important thing in the firm at Archwest now, is really just collaboration. It’s really inclusion.

Kevin Kim:
And that’s, I mean, that happens from the top down. It’s very challenging, because I mean, in this business, I mean you’re dealing with things coming from all sides. You got the borrowers, you’ve got the brokers, you’ve got the capital markets, you’ve got the other lenders, you’ve got marketing people. And there’s a lot of, I mean, unfortunately in our sector, it’s still very much a lot of guys in this space. And things have become more, much better for women, especially young women in our sector.

And what I’m really proud of, that Ruby and our team started with that new private lending thing and I was like, “That’s a great idea because they’re.” And I’ve noticed a significant improvement in the number of women that get engaged with industry events. And I love that. But what’s fascinating to me is that there are, at the same time though, there are very few women, C-level executives. And so, I’m really glad that we’re able to talk. And, speaking to someone that is a C-level executive, but also so young, which is cool. Which is really cool.

Tricia Mitchell:
Thank you. I like this conversation. I like the things that, yeah.

Kevin Kim:
Well, yeah, I mean, listen, most of the folks are, they’ve been in the game for a long time. And I think it’s pretty cool that you were given an opportunity and you took it. And I’m sure it was hard.

Tricia Mitchell:
It was hard. Yeah.

Kevin Kim:
I bet. Yeah. That must have been so hard.

Tricia Mitchell:
It still is hard, right? We want to be the biggest, we want to be the best. We want to serve. We want to provide financing, we want to be a really good capital provider. I’m still on a lot of these meetings. I’m still sourcing and being on the broker meetings. I want to be as much involved as possible. And my kind of tactic has always been, lead by example. Really get in the trenches, like I said, really do the work. But it’s been really hard. Certainly, my life decisions about, I mean, I’m married, I don’t have kids. I mean, those are things that you have to think about when you’re trying to grow your career. I am putting this job as the top priority and making sure that it’s running well. And I know that comes with pros and cons, for sure. Yeah.

Kevin Kim:
And I did a bunch of short-term content at Apple, APL, forgive me, Linda. APL, last month. And I ran a quick little interview with Eric Abramovich, and the theme that we came away with, it’s sacrifice. No wins without sacrifice, and they’ve grown immensely. And I really appreciate that sentiment from him. And what I’m hearing is the same sentiment from you. And I think it’s important. I’ve sacrificed a lot to be here where I am today, too. And you guys have also, interestingly enough though, kept the band together, right? And you’re sacrificing together as a team, which is also a really, really rare phenomenon. After an exit, usually folks get picked up by different firms, they move, there’s NDAs, there’s non-competes, and talk about getting that band back together.

Tricia Mitchell:
And we had non-competes, we had all that stuff. But the one thing I could say about the entity that bought us, Redwood Trust, is it’s run by the best people. The nicest people. Oh, they’re just amazing. I always think about that.

Kevin Kim:
They’re really all in our space, too.

Tricia Mitchell:
Oh, I mean, fantastic. The president of Redwood, when we were departing 5 Arch and starting Archwest, he was handwriting cards of appreciation to people, and I still have mine. He was handwriting thank yous to closers, and it was just really a testament to who he was as a person and how he ran things. So it was really smooth, because we choose to work with people who are long-term relationship people. And so, this is such a small industry. Don’t you feel like this industry is so tiny?

Kevin Kim:
I have trouble calling it an industry sometimes. I call it a sector lately, because I want it to seem bigger than it really is. It’s tough. It is a very tough, we’re a national industry. People lend to all the country, but if you look at the events, there’s always the same faces and we all know each other.

Tricia Mitchell:
Yep, exactly.

Kevin Kim:
Industry gossip, it comes around and it flies around.

Tricia Mitchell:
It comes around.

Kevin Kim:
But that was the thing with you guys, it was, I didn’t see it coming and maybe because I’m not that in tune with it, but I didn’t see it coming. And I was like, not only did I not see it coming, when you called me and I was like, “Wait, really? This is happening.” But number two, you’re telling me right now that you got the band back together. It’s the same group of people, it’s also the same employees too. You brought the same team back together like it was supposed to.

Tricia Mitchell:
We did. We brought a lot of people in. A lot of people transitioned with us. And then what had happened was they said, “Wait a minute. We’ve got Gene, Shawn, Tim, all together again. I want back in, let me come back in.” And so we were able to do that. I mean, they know the kind of work we put out and the efficiency we do, and the process that we have. We’re big process nerds and we’re big collaborators. So every single day you’ve got underwriters talking to closers, talking to capital markets. And we really listen to the people on our sales team, too. The market is tough, and they’re the ones on the front line. And so when they come back to me and say, “Tricia, your requirement for credit pooling is really tough, because you want them to have a good credit score, but you’re hard pulling them.” And I was like, “Yeah, I mean I guess that makes sense.”

And you’ll take a look and you’ll see a credit score, and you’ll see all the competitor lenders that have pulled in the last five months. But then we ding them and say, “Well your credit is low.” It’s like, “Well, it’s because you guys keep hard pulling my credit every time I want a loan.”

Kevin Kim:
Which isn’t right. Yeah.

Tricia Mitchell:
Right. So then we listen to our team and we say, “Okay, well how do we improve our process without increasing risk?” Soft pulls the same thing. You get to see all the same things. And so that fast, quick decision, we did that in one week, because our sales team and our broker team, “Hey, can you?” And people love that. So they want to come back to that. The sales people want to come back to that.

Kevin Kim:
How big is the team? Because this sounds like there’s a very little bureaucracy between the teams, but that doesn’t happen with a big team usually.

Tricia Mitchell:
Yeah, no, it’s not a big team. We have about 20, 25 people right now.

Kevin Kim:
Yeah.

Tricia Mitchell:
Yeah. We hired a few sales guys, which is making our team a little bit bigger, but only a few. But you know what? Again, they’ve been working together for so long-

Kevin Kim:
Right? They know each other’s styles.

Tricia Mitchell:
… they know each other. They’re like, “Hey Kathy, what do you think about this? Or what have you seen about that? And oh, okay, let’s just do it this way. Done.” A decision is made, they bring it to the us for the answer.

Kevin Kim:
No, here’s the question though, because the goal right now is you guys launched this year, you guys want to grow it, grow it, grow it, and with growth comes back office growth, and adding staff and adding bureaucracy. How do you balance that? The level of camaraderie, and collaboration and growth?

Tricia Mitchell:
It’s always over communication. So I mean, it is, it always is. And so I’m kind of a freak about that. I will talk to, I’m a C-level position, but I literally have a call with my lead processor every single week, just to check in on how she’s doing. “Okay, we added a few more sales people. Are you sure you don’t need another junior associate to work under you? How many loans can you do? How fast is it going? Is there a difference between the beginning of the month, the end of the month, quarters? What are you seeing?” I talk to them every day. And so, it’s kind of anticipating it and it’s trusting what they need. So the lead management will say, “Okay, I can do this many units with the staff that I have. The minute I get to this many units, I’m going to need to add one more person.” It’s very methodical and it’s over communication, and it’s listening to what they need and why they need it. But you’re right, the more loans you do, the more small balances you do, too.

Kevin Kim:
And that’s where the opportunity’s right now.

Tricia Mitchell:
That’s where the opportunity is. Especially from a rental perspective. It’s really hard to do a nice cash flowing deal in California, and California has high loan balance, so that’s attractive, so.

Kevin Kim:
Right.

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And I do want to kind of talk more about Archwest and the kind of, you guys have launched, and talking about what the objectives are, and what you guys are doing these days. Because a lot of folks, when I’ve talked to other folks about Archwest, they’re like, “Yeah, it’s just 5 Arch 2.0.” It is, but it sounds, it’s a little bit different in the sense that they’re scaling it differently, it feels like. So talk about what’s the objectives of the company right now, and what you guys are doing right now. Because it sounds like you’re already gone national. Right?

Tricia Mitchell:
Yes. Yes. And that was the quickest part, because I have such a law background and I love regulatory compliance. I know that sounds really strange, but that’s kind of where my background really flourished was, “Okay, I need an Arizona mortgage broker license. I don’t want to do individuals in Georgia. I want to get a North Carolina registration. I want to get the Tennessee Tilt Act stuff.” So you learn a lot from a decade of working in a national space. And so for this time around, I didn’t have to do the research. I didn’t have, I knew. I was like, “This is what I want. I’m going to go get these things.” We have a fantastic regulatory compliance lawyer who has really taught me everything that I know. His name is Hayden Richards. And he is just, especially in this, it’s not a niche lending space anymore.

It’s really populated. We have a lot of really great competitors and I wanted to build it quickly and build it efficiently. So in March of this year, we started to build our fix and flip program. And we did it all in 30 days. Loan documents, licensing, LOS systems, marketing campaigns, you name it. All of it was done in one month, while we were still doing about $30 million of originations the same month. It’s a big broker network, that we have a lot of repeat clients, a lot of borrowers. We like to start small, scale it, put it on auto, and then start the next thing. So 30 days ago, someone, a really big firm came to us and said, “We really want you to be an approved seller on our SFR rental platform.” So we said, “Yes, absolutely.” Built that in 30 to 45 days.

Configured our LOS system. Dennis and your firm has helped us so much with scaling our loan documents nationwide. I mean, we’re doing batches of approvals every single week. And so, we’ve done it before. We can scale it. Now, you get surprised now and again on things that change, like Nema’s email about the default interest in California. That was very interesting. Again, legal background. So when I see things like that, it really intrigues me. I’m like, “Okay, we need to understand that. What do we do next? What’s our strategy? How do we think about it?” And Nema’s the same way, but sometimes we get surprised a little bit. But hey, that just comes with the territory of lending, right?

Kevin Kim:
Right. I mean, there’s always a random landmine pops up somewhere and it’s hard to keep up with all of it, but it’s important. A lot of it’s from the legal world and a lot of people, for a background that kind of, and that really comes, goes a long way. The adding it. But also, I mean, from a business standpoint, what’s been fascinating to see is you guys have been weathering this storm. It’s been, for our audience, this is going to air in early 2023, but we’re recording right now in November of 2022. We’re in the middle of it right now.

Tricia Mitchell:
We are in the, oh man. We in the middle of it for sure.

Kevin Kim:
And you guys aren’t trying to … When you guys launched, I didn’t see a lot of times, at that time it was still pretty hot and heavy, and it would’ve been easy just to blow out the marketing budget and just go to everything. And I didn’t see guys out there a lot.

Tricia Mitchell:
No, I would love to say that we always see everything coming. I would love to say that. But the truth of the matter is, we’re a very observant group. Shawn has a very good pulse on the real estate market and he wanted to grow this firm, kind of 30 month, 30 days in advance. He was seeing, “Okay, interest rates are going to go up. We don’t want to have a portfolio of really, really low interest rate logs.” I mean, we could do it and we could go gangbusters on it, but is that the smartest thing to do? Is that the right decision?

And so it was a very prudent course of growth. We stuck with our bread and butter and the things that we knew, which were more of the shorter term deals. And now we kind of have the benefit of being a very good lender that is remaining. I mean, our marketing materials going out there being like, “We’re not slowing down. Come to us. We can be your consistent partner. We’re not going to leave you at the loan document table. We’re going to be here.” And I think that’s built a really good rapport with the clientele that has stayed with us. They’re like, “You’re right. They’re not going to leave us hanging.” And, I think that’s really important.

Kevin Kim:
And capital markets, you guys have adjusted to capital markets as it comes, because that was the big pain points.

Tricia Mitchell:
That is a huge pain point.

Kevin Kim:
Once June hit, it was like freakout mode. What the hell do we do?

Tricia Mitchell:
It was, yeah.

Kevin Kim:
But a lot of people figured it out, it seems like, and you guys use capital markets, so you guys have a balance sheet. You just kind of do a little bit of everything, so.

Tricia Mitchell:
Yeah, we do it all. Again, just we had a really big, we’ve learned a lot in capital markets. That was the thing that I loved. And so we were constantly talking to people on the street, “What are you hearing? What is your portfolio looking like?” We’re taking a look at securitizations and seeing what was being produced. So we’re a very methodical group. We do a lot of research before we jump into a product or a market. And so, that certainly helped with what we were deciding to do next.

Kevin Kim:
And, how is Archwest structured from, are you guys institutionally partnered with anybody or are you guys?

Tricia Mitchell:
Yes. Yeah. So last year when we actually launched the company, thinking that we were going to go crazy on really large commercial real estate. So we, I mean we have that system built out and we absolutely think we would love to get into that. Probably next year.

Kevin Kim:
It’ll come.

Tricia Mitchell:
It’ll come, oh 100%.

Kevin Kim:
And next year’s the year, I agree. Yeah.

Tricia Mitchell:
And we’re ready for it. We have our LOS system, we have our documents, we have everything kind of created for that. But our partners, so we have a minority investment from a company called Ares Management Corporation.

Kevin Kim:
Oh, okay.

Tricia Mitchell:
Yeah. And so we’ve been working with them and kind of grow … They do trust us and they understand that they invested in a company with a lot of experience, with a lot of people that kind of know what they’re doing. In not only good times but in bad times too.

Kevin Kim:
Right. Do you have the benefit of the background and also their balance sheet as well to help, I’m sure?

Tricia Mitchell:
Yes, exactly.

Kevin Kim:
And capital markets background, and access and history, relationships with that. And so when June hit, how did you guys react? How are you guys ever able to weather? Because a lot of folks are still trying to solve that problem. Like, “What do I do, what do I do?”

Tricia Mitchell:
We never had an issue. So we just avoided it all together, to be honest with you. There was nothing for us to have to reassess. There was no portfolio that we had, that we had to reassess. There were no borrowers that we had to re-quote.

Kevin Kim:
You didn’t have any loans that were too, priced weird or?

Tricia Mitchell:
No.

Kevin Kim:
That’s good. That’s good.

Tricia Mitchell:
No, so we were very methodical about it. And it is also probably a little bit of luck in timing too, combined with it as well, because we never really had to go back on anything, which is great.

Kevin Kim:
How soon did you guys react on the rates? Because a lot of folks have still, I got a lot of phone calls in June, “Kevin, should I raise my rates or not?” My position’s always been, “What do your borrowers expect?”

Tricia Mitchell:
Yeah.

Kevin Kim:
If they expect it, it’s fine. Right?

Tricia Mitchell:
Yeah. So no, that’s very key. So Tim Gannaway leads, he’s our chief analytics officer. From probably June until maybe a few months ago, we were trailing the market, not by a lot, just a little bit. Because you don’t want to be the only lender or the first lender that’s kind of increasing all these rates. And these borrowers are like, “Hey, what’s going on?” But we want to be safe, so we’re not going to not raise it. So you just kind of trail it a little bit. And then you get to a point where just like you said, borrowers just become accustomed to it because everyone, they understand that that’s where the market was heading. So it became just a lot more. It just became easier to quell their fears and be like, “But don’t worry, we’re still your partner. We’re going to work with you on this. We’re going to get through it.” But we were checking in with cap markets, our sales team every Friday. And we still have that meeting, every single Friday.

Kevin Kim:
And, you’ve never had any freeze outs? You’re still able to?

Tricia Mitchell:
Yeah.

Kevin Kim:
Oh that’s great.

Tricia Mitchell:
Yeah. Yeah. So again, a little bit of luck, a little bit of timing on how we launched things, and we were able to observe in a small scale before we went really big, which was great. So yeah, that’s kind of how we did it.

Kevin Kim:
And on the capital market side, were you able, with your past experience, were you able to go upstream a little bit and access that market? Or was it just a more of you guys just didn’t enter into MLPAs that were too restrictive, or it was?

Tricia Mitchell:
Yeah, that’s exactly. From a capital markets perspective, we didn’t enter into a relationship that wouldn’t understand how we were going to grow. And so we kind of timed it very slowly with a few partners, not with five or six, with only a couple. Don’t overdo it, right? I think what is important is when you’re trying to build a good product and when you’re trying to build a very seamless process, start small. Start small, and then scale it. So, you get it to your needs.

Kevin Kim:
And you guys are in that weird, that middle space where you can, the volatility is not going to hurt you as much, as compared to some of these bigger shops. Now, they’re in a weird place because they’re …

Tricia Mitchell:
Yeah. No, it’s interesting.

Kevin Kim:
It’s cool.

Tricia Mitchell:
We talk about age a lot, too. I wasn’t really around when there was a financial, the distressed market. We’ve seen stuff in this real estate cycle that I thought was very interesting. COVID was a very interesting time when I was in, and I was in legal then, so I saw a lot. But it’s really interesting to see people … who succeeds. And that’s the people who are very calm about it. They kind of see past it and they say, “Okay, here’s the three-step solution in getting it done.” Gene’s really good at that. Seeing a very large skill issue, boiling it down to three simple steps to solve it, and working towards those goals. You have to be calm in this space. You have to make tangible steps to a solution in this space, in my opinion.

Kevin Kim:
Yeah. You got a level head.

Tricia Mitchell:
Level head.

Kevin Kim:
Don’t freak out. And I agree, I mean you did see a lot of freakout and this is different from COVID in the sense that, COVID was a temporary freeze out on capital markets. This is more of a permanent freeze out until, I mean a longer term freeze out. I mean, we’re probably looking for another, I’m hoping June of next year, but maybe even longer. But who knows?

Tricia Mitchell:
And this is where I think we’re still succeeding, is because we’ve proven that we can manage and operate these types of companies in good times and in bad times. That’s really important. When I was a lawyer, or it’s funny saying that because I still am, but when I was doing a lot of law, I was also doing a lot of workout stuff. So I was drafting forbearance agreements and modifications and all that good stuff. That’s such an important part of learning the job. It’s because you get to help people avoid that situation. And again, it goes back to communication with your investors, with your takeout partners, with your internal team, too. It’s just about over communication at that point.

Kevin Kim:
So what are you guys working on now? So it’s almost the end of the year. We’re going into ’23. What are you guys working on now? Is there anything that you’re excited about?

Tricia Mitchell:
Yeah, I’m super excited about rental. So we launched it 30 days ago. We got a couple products.

Kevin Kim:
Long term, or short term, or both or?

Tricia Mitchell:
So we’ve got a portfolio style, five, seven, 10-year bullet loan, matured loan. And then we’ve got a 30-year loan that we’re advertising right now. I’m super excited about that. We launched from a marketing perspective a couple weeks ago.

Kevin Kim:
Oh, wow.

Tricia Mitchell:
So it’s really, yeah. Yeah. And we’re really in it. So I’m excited to talk with you when this launches and discuss what it’s been like and how it grows and stuff.

Kevin Kim:
Yeah, I mean, and just, because we were at APL last month. We were presenting data and everyone was kind of surprised because the data was showing that DSCR had stabilized relatively quickly. It’s just a matter of pricing. And people were like, “That’s not true. That’s not true.” And we were, “Hold on guys. Portfolios are no longer a thing. It takes a little bit more time for portfolio strategies to stabilize, expect that later in the year.” And here we are. I mean, it’s funny how that kind of mimics. The sentiment kind of mimics. And what I’m fascinated to see is how this is received, that seven and a half percent at 8%. It seems to me though that it’s being, they’re accepting the reality. It is what it is kind of, and they’re having to make the cap rates work. They just have to figure it out.

Tricia Mitchell:
Right. It’s really interesting. I feel like it all goes back down to something that’s always really important, which is the housing shortage. There’s still a deep need of housing creation across this nation, especially in California. My gosh, we need so many. Oh my gosh. We need so many units.

Kevin Kim:
We also need, pricing is just a little bit too high. Your average house now is half a million dollars. I mean, what are you going to do with that?

Tricia Mitchell:
Exactly. And I also come to this lending space with a lot of perspective as a person of this generation. My husband and I have been trying to find a house for five years. Finally, we got one. But a lot of people in my generation, they are missing out on first time home buying. And why is that? It’s because there’s a lack of housing creation. A lot of it. And also the people in my generation and the next generation, they’re kind of thinking about work-life balance a little more than maybe previous generations. And the ability to be mobile and not be a permanent fixture in a certain area, or be close to their work, per se, because maybe someone’s allowed a remote working hybrid kind of situation. That’s also changing how people are looking at housing and where they’re going to be.

Being of that age, I get to bring that kind of narrative to the group and say, “Look, this is a real thing that we have to be aware of and thinking about,” which is why rentals are so great because it allows people to do those things, be a little bit more flexible.

Kevin Kim:
More flexibly, but to live in a home.

Tricia Mitchell:
To live in a house.

Kevin Kim:
And, it really is an important thing. And I think we, oh, I forgot her name. The lady from Zonda when we were at APL was talking about that. And that seems to be driving the conversation of, the millennial generation is the current home buying generation. And they want to rent a home.

Tricia Mitchell:
They want to rent a little bit.

Kevin Kim:
They don’t want to live in apartments, they want to live in a house. They’re having families, they’re growing, and they want to be, but they want to be mobile.

Tricia Mitchell:
So it’s funny, because we’ll sit in an investor meeting and someone will pull that data. And I literally like, “Yeah, that’s me.” That data is a reflection of someone like me, which is kind of fun, to apply yourself into the numbers.

Kevin Kim:
And that’s the interesting part is that the demand, at least the millennial generation, demand is high. And so that’s a good thing, I feel like. I think we’ll see some help with, I mean, valuation stabilizing. I think we can use it. I think we can. That’ll help in the grand scheme of things. But it’s going to be interesting because people, we’re worried about that. As lenders in our industry, we’re worried about, well, how much of a dip are we going to see and how fast, and how bad it’s going to be. We haven’t seen anything too crazy just yet. And it does make nervous. It makes me nervous.

Tricia Mitchell:
Yeah. No, you’re right. And I think it’s a fun time where the sales team, at least my sales team who are just such smart guys, when they talk with the underwriters and we spend 30 minutes talking about the ARV values that we’re seeing, they’re listening and they understand, because that’s a serious thing of measurement these days. “Is it 5% off? Do you think we’re 10% off?” We talk about that. And we also do that because we want our investors to succeed. And our investors appreciate our feedback too. Because this is the data that we see every single day. They see it from a personal level. We see it in a little bit of a more portfolio style, so we can actually see little trends. So I think they actually appreciate that color.

Kevin Kim:
They want to know the data standpoint. What’s the town? What’s the average high market in this county, in this neighborhood? They want to know that, because that’s massively important for them. But, so I mean, the rental program is, that’s a great thing. I’m glad you guys added that.

Tricia Mitchell:
Yes, we’re excited.

Kevin Kim:
And I think it’s going to be, we’re going to have a high demand for that coming into the next year.

Tricia Mitchell:
We think so too.

Kevin Kim:
And for you personally, are you in the trenches on that as well? You are there?

Tricia Mitchell:
Oh, yeah.

Kevin Kim:
All right.

Tricia Mitchell:
I am there. I’m literally helping to evaluate our product cards. Reading the language and our loan documents. I am and I say I, but it’s really a team. We all are doing it every single day. We meet and we discuss what makes sense. Our head of credit is a really smart guy. He’s seen it all. And so, I think that’s how you succeed. When I talk about mentorship and when I talk about how people can grow their career, actually, that’s kind of what I’m going to be talking about, the IMN Panel in Scottsdale. It’s really hitching your wagon to very smart people who are literally the experts in their department and learn from them. Because, I am-

Kevin Kim:
But, you have to ask. You have to ask these questions. Yes. You have to be willing to ask these questions.

Tricia Mitchell:
Yes. And you have to be like, “Just CC me on all that. I will read everything. I will put in the work.” It’s hitching your wagon to those people and then learning from them. And it’s okay not to be an expert in everything from an operations’ perspective, but you have to know what every department goes through in order to really grow a firm, especially in private lending.

Kevin Kim:
Agreed. And I’ve been in wondering about that. So the guys, I get the question a lot like, “Who can I talk to?” I tell them, “Well, listen, these guys are generous over time, but you’re going to have to be willing to ask them the questions that you want to ask. They’re not just going to sit there and twiddle their thumbs and just volunteer to help you. But they’re also very generous people.” And that’s one thing, I was like, I tell people in our space, “You’d be surprised at how generous people in this space are, but you also have to be willing to ask and also be respectful of their time.”

Because there’s a lot of people that have struggled through the space and built quite the nice business, and they’re willing to teach and willing to be mentors. But there’s also this weird, strange, I guess, vibe of asking. Some people have that weird vibe, that block about asking for help. Other folks have the opposite block where they ask for too much help, and they want this mentor to show him everything or give him everything. So it’s a balancing act, I feel. It’s very, very tricky to find.

Tricia Mitchell:
The way that I do it is, I try to be super helpful to people that need the help, regardless of whether they’re a vendor or where, capital markets provider or whoever it is. And even if we can’t do business together, I’ll still give as much time and help them out and say, “Oh, I can’t help you with that, but you should talk to this person.” Because this industry is such a relationship focused one, I can’t tell you how many times I will literally talk to that person two years later, and then we’ll be able to do something together. And so, it’s putting out as much as you’re going to take from someone is really important, too. You can’t always just be the taker. Sometimes you have to really help others and then it’ll come back to you. And I think that’s an important thing that I’ve learned over the last 10 years as well.

Kevin Kim:
So, I don’t normally ask this question because we have very, very few, and unfortunately this is not by my choosing, but we don’t have as many women, C-level executives on the show. But when we do, I always want to ask them, do you have any advice for the young women out there right now who are new to the space, who have recently joined or making their way up right now? We’re talking about mentorship right now. So I want to ask about that, because it’s a tough time right now.

Tricia Mitchell:
It is, it is. Mentorship is really great when you find someone that can help lead the way. But what I tell people, women, or anyone who thinks that they need the help, is have a manager. Or, really try and get your manager to give tangible steps to your goal. Not only just listening to your goals and saying, and trying to get, because mentorship can be one way. Do this, do that, whatever. But if they’re not helping you towards your goal, then you’re really not getting there.

So what I like to do with my team is say, “Okay, you want to be an underwriter from a processor, that’s great. Here is your plan that I’ve laid out for you. Here is your 10 steps that you’re going to need to achieve in order to get there. And I’m going to help you every step of the way. And then you’re going to have to meet me at each step and each goal, and you and I are going to have to hold each other accountable. Let’s talk every month. Let’s put something on the calendar every single month, until we get you to that goal.” So if someone’s not setting these tangible steps to get you to where you need to be, you need to make sure that, that happens for you. Don’t sit around and wait for it.

Kevin Kim:
Using actual deliverables and actual milestones they need to achieve.

Tricia Mitchell:
Actual milestones, yes. Because otherwise, it’s a great pie in the sky dream.

Kevin Kim:
You’re just talking.

Tricia Mitchell:
You’re just talking. Yeah. And, people kept busy.

Kevin Kim:
So putting action behind the mentorship, putting action behind the coaching, that’s important. Agreed.

Tricia Mitchell:
Yes. And I think it’s okay if you’re doing it in a respectful way with your manager to say, “Okay, but can we talk about it every couple weeks? Can we talk about it every month so I can get there?” And for women, especially in management, you have to be okay with growing your team and letting them be very successful. I want my team and the women who work for me, and the men who work for me, and whoever works for me to be as successful as they want to be, and be better than me. Why wouldn’t I want them to be? It’s being okay with other people’s successes is also really important. And I think I was very lucky. I had Gene, who was totally okay with me growing, and totally okay with me being kind of brought up. Because he knew that, that would help him in the end too. And he was proud. So partnering up with a mentor like that, that’s going to get you to where you need to be. And I think that’s a real piece of advice to hold onto.

Kevin Kim:
Yeah. I mean, that’s not just like, “Go find a mentor and ask him questions.”

Tricia Mitchell:
Yeah. Exactly.

Kevin Kim:
That’s easy. You can go anywhere. But that and demanding that, being willing, being brave enough, having the courage to demand that level of attention. Because the counterparty may not be thinking that way and say, “Hey.” But I bet our audience, especially the young women out there who are listening, if you took the initiative to say, “Here’s what I’m want. Here’s what I want to do with you. Here’s the plan I want to make, and I want you to help me.” I don’t think there’s anyone out there that would say no to that. Not everyone’s thinking that way from an execution standpoint, but everyone loves it. Everyone loves it, high execution. I don’t know anyone.

Tricia Mitchell:
I always tell, when we’re talking about women focused, but I always tell the women in my team, “Don’t say sorry, if you’re not sorry.” There is little things.

Kevin Kim:
I’m dealing with it with my five year old. Shit, I’m telling you. Stop saying, sorry, so much.

Tricia Mitchell:
Stop saying, sorry. It’s okay. But sometimes you’re so ingrained and trained, even me. When I’m on an email, sometimes I will throw in a happy face because I feel like I need to. Why am I doing that? Every single day, you kind of have to sit there and think, “You know what? My actions are going to speak really loud. I have the best team. I have the best mentors. I’m going to rely on what I know, because I know stuff. And I’m willing to share it.” And so breaking that kind of societal mold of how women should be every single day, that’s something that you really have to tell yourself every single day. It’s okay. Don’t say sorry. Just do it. Do the work. Yeah.

Kevin Kim:
I like that.

Tricia Mitchell:
Yeah.

Kevin Kim:
All right. So we’re going to transition to our rapid fire questions.

Tricia Mitchell:
Oh gosh.

Kevin Kim:
We’re going to close on the show a little bit. We have the first question. What was your very first job?

Tricia Mitchell:
My very first job. Do you guys, do you know The Country’s Best Yogurt? TCBY? Have you heard of it?

Kevin Kim:
There’s not a lot of those left.

Tricia Mitchell:
No, there’s not.

Kevin Kim:
There’s not a lot of those left, yeah.

Tricia Mitchell:
That was my first job. And I remember going to college at UCI and the yogurt machine broke, and I was able to take it all apart and put it back together again.

Kevin Kim:
In the cafeteria?

Tricia Mitchell:
They erupted and they were all so excited. Because it broke. I’m like, “Oh, I got this.” And I took it all apart and I put it back in. They’re like, “How’d she know that?” I’m like, “I don’t know. I just figured it out.”

Kevin Kim:
You worked at a frozen yogurt shop. Was this in high school or?

Tricia Mitchell:
Yes. Frozen yogurt.

Kevin Kim:
That’s awesome. That’s awesome. All right. So let’s talk about the business things today. So, one of the things I’d like to ask about, is there a business tool that you use, that you just cannot live without?

Tricia Mitchell:
That’s really hard because with these days, Slack, Teams, Chat or all that good stuff.

Kevin Kim:
So many things, so many things.

Tricia Mitchell:
There’s so many things, can we please pick one? But we did. It’s honestly, Salesforce with part op configuration. We have a best operations’ analyst, and he kind of built it all into one, so that we’re just using one system. Just one.

Kevin Kim:
That’s going to go. It’s Salesforce with part, it’s a really hard thing to build and use. And getting adoption too. It’s not-

Tricia Mitchell:
We didn’t give anyone a choice. We said, “This is it, guys.”

Kevin Kim:
It’s a very complex system, too.

Tricia Mitchell:
Yes.

Kevin Kim:
That’s cool. And that’s like the lifeblood of the business. That’s your nerve center. That’s cool.

Tricia Mitchell:
It’s the one system.

Kevin Kim:
I like that. I like that. Another question we like to ask is, when you’re not out there, boss ladying it up, out there in private lending world, what do you do in your own personal time for fun?

Tricia Mitchell:
So my husband and I, we love to go camping. And he loves to kite surf and go to the beach.

Kevin Kim:
Kite surf?

Tricia Mitchell:
Yeah.

Kevin Kim:
Do you do that, too?

Tricia Mitchell:
Oh no, no. You don’t want to see that. I’m behind him like, “You go.” No. But all that outdoor stuff, that’s really important to us. So work-life balance is important. And I think kind of getting yourself out there in nature, kind of level sets perspective.

Kevin Kim:
Is there a favorite place you guys go to? Is there a place?

Tricia Mitchell:
We live in the Central Coast, so Big Sur or Montana de Oro. Cayucos. Those are the places that we go to.

Kevin Kim:
How’d you guys deal with the fires they had a couple years ago, back then?

Tricia Mitchell:
It’s tough. It’s super tough. I personally think we could talk hours about this, but I won’t. I think climate change is going to have a really huge impact on the housing market, and I think it already has. How we see insurance, how we see people, windstorm coverage, that’s going to be a thing.

Kevin Kim:
With the calamity insurance already starting to come back, right, so. Makes sense.

Tricia Mitchell:
Yeah, exactly.

Kevin Kim:
Because you have to adapt.

Tricia Mitchell:
You have to adapt. Yep.

Kevin Kim:
You have to adapt. That’s cool. I didn’t know you were an outdoors person. That’s cool.

Tricia Mitchell:
Yes. Yeah. This is the most makeup that I’ve done in a while, so.

Kevin Kim:
We were just busting Nema’s chops for going camping for the first time recently.

Tricia Mitchell:
First time? Was it at least a tent? Tell me it was a tent.

Kevin Kim:
He borrowed a tent. Yeah. He got a tent, yeah.

Tricia Mitchell:
Good job. Proud of him.

Kevin Kim:
Cool.

Tricia Mitchell:
Awesome.

Kevin Kim:
Well, I love these kind of interviews because we had a good time. I really appreciate you squeezing us in for this. I know it’s very busy.

Tricia Mitchell:
Oh, thank you. No, I appreciate you. Yeah.

Kevin Kim:
And we’ll hopefully see you. The next conference you’re going to be at, is at the Inman Show?

Tricia Mitchell:
Yes. I will be on the young professionals panel there.

Kevin Kim:
Oh, fantastic. Fantastic. Well, this is going to air in 2023 for our listeners, but we should make sure we connect about sharing notes, about what shows we’re all going to be at next year, so.

Tricia Mitchell:
Awesome. Love to.

Kevin Kim:
All right. Well, Tricia, thank you so much for joining the show.

Tricia Mitchell:
Thank you.

Kevin Kim:
And for our listeners, Tricia is a boss lady over at Archwest, and I’m really happy to have around the show. And please, listen into the next episode of Lender Lounge, with yours truly, Kevin Kim. Thank you very much.

Thanks for listening to Lender Lounge with Kevin Kim. I hope you’ve enjoyed this episode as much as I did. If you did enjoy, please leave us a five-star review on your podcast platform, and be sure to follow our show to be notified of new episodes. If you’re on YouTube, don’t forget to smash that like button and hit subscribe for more content from all of us here at Geraci. Lender Lounge with Kevin Kim is available on all podcast platforms. Referrals really help us spread the word, so please send this over to someone you think might enjoy it. See you next time. This is Kevin Kim, signing off.