1. Why did you choose private lending?
I had a bit of an unconventional path to the private lending sector. I’m a Computer Engineer by training but ended up joining a residential mortgage trading desk in New York City right after college. I knew nothing about mortgages at the time, so it was quite the learning curve to understand how mortgage credit, capital markets, and economics work. I spent the next 10 years in various roles at Barclays in the non-agency mortgage space.
Joining Kiavi back in 2016 was initially about getting back to my technology roots, and the fintech sector seemed like a great opportunity to do so. I really liked what Kiavi (LendingHome back then) was doing to modernize the mortgage lending space and solve some of the process gaps and thought my mortgage credit experience paired with my engineering background would be a good fit for Kiavi. It didn’t take long to discover the limitless opportunities in the private lending space: a small, non-institutional start-up like ours could bring scalability and improvements to a legacy business model. Kiavi’s use of technology and data to advance the private lending space is why I continue to stay in private lending!
2. What is your current role and what do you do day-to-day?
I was appointed CEO and Board Member earlier this year, but I’ve been with Kiavi for over seven years (my prior role was COO). As CEO, my top priorities are: 1. continuing to grow our lending presence – we are already a leader in the bridge loan / fix-and-flip space and we want to continue to grow our leadership position by expanding our product suite and acquisition channels, 2. focusing our technology and data advantage on next-generation customer experience and underwriting models, and 3. ensuring our capital markets execution and partnerships continue to strengthen. Continued growth in these areas will enable us to scale our business, which empowers more and more real estate investors to create move-in ready housing for families across the country.
3. What excites you about your role today?
As CEO, I am excited to guide the company forward and focus our leadership team on the second- and third-order impacts of what we do so we can execute better and faster for our customers. We have an incredible team here at Kiavi. I’ve been fortunate to work in many different parts of the company during my tenure, which has given me a really good feel for the impacts of CEO-level decisions across the organization.
Talking about guiding the company forward, one thing that continues to get me excited – and why I love the private lending space – is the opportunity for a company like Kiavi in this space. We have a real opportunity to apply our strengths such as our digital-first online experience, our machine-learning models or our capital execution to enable the mom-and-pop/”Main Street” types of real estate investors. These investors are doing incredible work revitalizing aged housing across the country, and the more we uncover new ways to bring our data, technology, and capital prowess to the financing process, the more we can help them take action on opportunities with confidence and grow their businesses’ impact. We’re still early in our journey but are excited about our future!
4. Can you explain a time where you faced adversity or had struggles early in your career? Where did it all begin? How did these experiences mold and shape you into the leader you are today?
I joined the mortgage banking space right as we were entering into the Great Financial Crisis. A lot of firms, including mine, were going through significant layoffs during that period. I moved to the United States in 2001 for college. At the time, I was working on a H1-B work visa. That meant I’d have to find a job in a tough market or leave the country if I was laid off! I decided then to focus only on what I could control. I put my head down and did my job to the best of my abilities and tried not to worry about things that were ultimately out of my control.
In retrospect, this challenging period ended up being a catalyst for my career as the markets recovered. In fact, it’s likely the reason I’m in my role at Kiavi today. What I took away from that experience, and still apply today as I lead Kiavi, is about understanding your strengths, risks, and opportunities – yet focusing on what you can control to give yourself the best chance to succeed. And, as you make progress, continue iterating on this equation to control your own destiny. If you look at Kiavi through the pandemic, as well as the market turmoil over the past year, applying these principles has put us ahead of the competition and enabled the company to thrive despite a challenging market.
5. Is there anything that you wish you could go back and tell yourself at the beginning of your career?
“Respect what you don’t know.” It’s easy to think that you have all the answers, but I believe everyone can benefit from being humble and open-minded and respecting the expertise of those around them – especially those early in their careers.
6. Who is someone that has had a significant effect on your career and why?
My wife. We have two young kids now, both of whom were born after joining Kiavi. She has always been so supportive of my career, and even made some sacrifices in her own career trajectory so I could pursue my career goals while she helped with the kids. Additionally, she’s in the health-tech space and works with a lot of start-ups, so she is a great sounding board for me. It’s because of her that I’ve been able to make the impact I have at Kiavi.
7. What has been your favorite aspect of being in private lending over the years?
It’s been really rewarding to be an innovator in the private lending space. If you look at the residential mortgage lending industry as a whole, there are very few opportunities to do the unique and innovative things we’re doing right now at Kiavi by leveraging modern technology: AI/machine-learning models and data. Being on the forefront of changing the landscape is incredibly exciting.
8. What would you consider to be the highlight of your career thus far?
Becoming CEO of Kiavi is definitely the highlight of my career! This role offers me the opportunity to keep learning, sharing what I know with others, improving wherever we can, and evolving to scale and improve the business. It’s going to be hard to top this one!
9. What do you enjoy most about your job? And the least?
I love addressing new challenges and helping our team, company, and customers grow, which is a huge part of my job. I’m a real believer in understanding second- or third-degree impacts of decisions that help us inform where and how the organization can innovate rapidly. The part I enjoy the least about the job? Probably all the meetings.
10. Is time or money more valuable and why?
For me, it’s time – and, in particular, time with my kids. Money might help you (maybe) retire early, but you’ll never get the time back with your kids after they grow up. I see my kids grow a little bit more every day, so I try to maximize and savor all my time with them while I can.
11. How do you make sure your company stays ahead in this industry?
It’s critical to be constantly innovating and learning. It’s about understanding our strengths, staying focused as a company, recognizing the rapidly evolving market, and ensuring that we remain at the forefront of that evolution with both our customers and capital partners.
12. What tools do you use to aid you in your role to be most efficient, organized, and focused?
When there are a lot of things to do, I find The Eisenhower Matrix helpful as a prioritization framework. It’s a matrix consisting of four boxes: important/urgent, important/not urgent, not important/urgent, and not important/not urgent. If something is not important and urgent, you should really be delegating that work to someone else to shift your focus to the most important and urgent action items that need to be delivered. If it’s not important and not urgent, then you should be asking why it’s on your list of to-do’s!
13. Has your role changed significantly to address the current environment?
After spending a decade in the capital markets world, I had a chance in my previous role to build strong relationships with capital partners and bring more innate knowledge of the macroeconomic capital impact to Kiavi, which is absolutely critical to a business like ours. Ultimately, we are funded by capital markets participants to continue to lend to our borrowers. Having that community of capital partners – while continuing to grow that community and build trust with them – plus understanding how current trends impact the future all help ensure Kiavi continues to thrive despite the challenging macroeconomic environment.
14. What advice would you give to someone who has just started out in private lending?
If I were starting out in private lending today, I would think about what type of business I want to build. Am I building a big business that I want to scale or am I building a nest egg portfolio where I can really be focused on one community and establish my brand there? I think those are two very different approaches and the investments and decisions you make starting out could look very different.
15. How will private lending change to adapt to the current market trends?
A lot of private lenders tend to be thinly capitalized and borrow money to lend money. As we think about the next 24 months, it’s important for private lenders to have an idea of where they want to be as a business. That includes considering what market factors would influence their goals and developing a risk mitigation strategy to ensure that they’re prioritizing growth and/or earnings. And one of those things is access to capital. Having a strong capital foundation allows us to have that visibility, which I believe is one of the most important factors for those in the private lending space today.
Arvind Mohan serves as the Chief Executive Officer of Kiavi, one of the nation’s largest private lenders to residential real estate investors (REIs) with over $15.5 billion in funded loans. By harnessing the power of data & technology, Kiavi offers REIs a simpler, more reliable, and faster way to access the capital they need to scale their businesses.