President, Invigorate Finance
Why did you choose to enter into this industry?
I actually didn’t choose this industry, it chose me. Candidly, it was an accident! While I was in college and planning to become an M&A lawyer, I worked for a retail lender as a mortgage loan processor and underwriter. After graduation, I was offered an opportunity to work for a law firm as a paralegal and ended up managing the group of real estate, foreclosure, bankruptcy and litigation paralegals, then went on to help build and run a special servicer. This, coupled with my origination experience, was the foundation for my career. Although I was accepted, I never did make it to law school. Over 25 years later, I’ve been blessed to have had roles in the full life cycle of the business (lenders, investment banks, hedge funds, REITs, etc.)
What is your current role and what do you do day to day?
I am the President of Invigorate Finance, a business purpose and residential mortgage loan aggregator. We enter into contractual relationships with eligible lenders to originate loans to our specifications and then we buy the loans. We have both delegated and non-delegated channels in our business, which allows for us to partner with a vast array of lenders. As the executive head of the business, I am responsible for all aspects of it. We are changing the way that loans are aggregated and we are making it easier for lenders to bring products to market and that all starts with a great deal of collaboration and hands-on involvement with our clients. Probably the biggest differentiator for us is that we have an internal credit team and I am there every step of the way. This includes working with my credit team to get loans done that others may not have been able to do before. We help our partners grow their business, making it a “win-win” for both of us.
What excites you about your role today?
I have been in the business over 25 years and I can honestly say that I still am excited about what I am doing. As an entrepreneurial executive, among other accomplishments, I’ve brought to the mortgage industry both lending products and securities structures that had never been done before, as well as enhanced asset management strategies and investments to drive optimized outcomes. I have sat in the seat of the lender, investor, asset manager etc. I believe this full lifecycle experience provides Invigorate Finance with a competitive advantage. It is also what excites me about what I do on a day-to-day basis. Keep a close eye on some near-term Invigorate product announcements!
Can you explain a time where you faced adversity or had struggles early on in your career? Where did it all begin? How did these experiences mold and shape you into the leader you are today?
The largest obstacle I’ve had is that I am a woman in a male-dominated field. This quote is how I think about it: “Diversity is the engine of invention. It generates creativity that enriches the world.” As the percentages of women and minorities have increased, so too have the returns of a vast array of businesses and initiatives. Today, unlike when I began my career, you see more female and minority CEOs and investors—and this is just the beginning.
Personally, I have been very lucky. Although I am regularly one of the only women in a meeting or around a table, I have generally been treated as an equal. But I will tell you that you need to earn it. I got my first “shot” because a trader was told the model he wanted could not be built by five senior analysts. I volunteered to build it in a meeting with the five analysts, because I knew it could be done.
That was a calculated risk that paid off. I spent three days working 20 hours a day building the model. The trader used it successfully, and it became part of our trading business at the bank where I was working at the time. I became a valued and consistent resource to the trading desk and the story continues from there. The moral of this story – nothing comes to you, you have to go after what you want to achieve and own who you want to be.
Is there anything that you wish you could go back and tell yourself at the beginning of your career?
I would tell my younger self to remember that I am human and not a machine. When you “grow up” on a Wall Street trading desk, you are not taught work-life balance of any kind. You are also taught that work is the only focus, so you and the people around you, do not take the time to ask each other how the weekend was or to generally get to know your co-workers as people. There is a lot of competition and you keep going. When I first began managing people, I was really bad at this. As I evolved and matured into my roles, I realized that a simple “how was your weekend?” or “how’s your day going?” goes a very long way. People are more comfortable coming to you to ask questions, it makes it easier to collaborate with team members, and also creates a support system for your team and for you. This generally allows for things to be achieved more quickly and efficiently and creates a culture that affords all members a voice.
Who is someone that has had a significant effect on your career and why?
While some may say a mentor or employer – I would have to say my son, Alex. He is the ABSOLUTE best thing I have ever accomplished and his positive outlook and unrestricted enthusiasm has kept me motivated to keep moving forward in my career. In addition, Alex has taught me a lot about my personality and how I convey to others. Based on this, I have actually adjusted how I approach certain discussions or situations. I recall a time when he was approximately 4 years old and he refused to listen to an idea that I was trying to convey, he was “stuck” on his idea and he had no intention of listening to me. I was more than frustrated – then I had an “aha” moment and realized that this must be what it feels like when I refuse to listen to others and the way they believe something should be done. It was a big eye opener for me, seeing myself reflected in my son. It led me to make changes that pretty immediately opened the door for greater collaborations and partnerships, and I have not looked back since. I am still working to get certain aspects of my personality out of Alex, who is now 11, but he has taught me more than he will ever know, and I am a better person and leader because of him.
What has been your favorite aspect of being in private lending over the years?
Private lending as it is known today is really, in my opinion, a combination of the evolution of the hard money lending business and the creation of the single family rental asset class. As the inaugural Head of Single Asset Lending for Colony American Finance n/k/a CoreVest, I was given the opportunity to design the debt service coverage ratio products of today. Back then, it was just an idea, a hybrid of a residential and a commercial mortgage on residential rental properties but now it is its own asset class. These are the types of opportunities that really excite me about coming to work each and every day. I have been lucky enough away from this, to also bring a vast array of products, structures, asset management strategies, etc. to market that have either never been done before or have been refined to add significant additional value or optimize outcomes.
What would you consider to be the highlight of your career thus far?
People might expect me to say it’s an award or a recognition I have received but it’s not. I believe the highlight of my career will be Invigorate Finance. When I started Mortgage Venture Partners which is now Invigorate Finance, I did it wanting to build a platform that could add efficiency in the mortgage industry but also get rid of the “outsource problem” in the aggregation space. We have a combination of products, processes, tools, customer service, collaboration, and aggregation capabilities that truly go unmatched in the marketplace. Everything from an in-house credit team with an average of 25 years of experience, to a diversified product suite, I truly believe Invigorate will be the one I remember most fondly.
What do you enjoy most about your job? Least?
I would have to say the ability to be truly creative. It may sound strange to say “creative” when talking about private lending, but that is what it is. I’ve had the opportunity to design new products, develop partnerships with different people over the years, bring new things to market, and do things that haven’t been done before. That is really what I like about what I do. I also love watching our partner lenders realize their full potential, as they scale their business and work with our credit team to get there.
Least enjoyable is probably the fact that a lot of what we have to contend with marketwise is outside of our control. I tell people regularly, “If you can find me the analyst that could have predicted COVID, I will hire them and pay them anything they want.” You just never know what obstacles might be around the corner, but that is why it is so important to have a “game plan” and a platform nimble enough to service your customer base through the good and the bad times.
How do you make sure your company stays ahead in this industry?
First, I make sure to bring on the right people. Our team has a depth and breadth of knowledge from working in every area of the business, so we are not easily surprised. The majority of the team has lived through multiple housing market downturns and now also a global pandemic. We leverage this experience by adopting the necessary technologies for optimizing operations and business models in this complex and highly regulated space.
Aside from investing in the people and the technology, we are also looking for ways to provide enhanced returns to our partners. We are continuously developing new products that work in the market – and we all know the market can change quickly. That may mean some products eventually get retired, and that’s ok. We have the people and tools in place to correctly evaluate and move products through the life cycle. We are proactive; not reactive. That’s how you win.
What tools do you use to aid you in your role to be most efficient, organized, and focused?
To me, it’s not the tools, it’s the people behind them. As a team, we look for efficiencies wherever we can and when we find a new way to do something, we share it to the benefit of our business and our clients.
My team knows where we are headed strategically and they are all professionals who know how to stay focused on achieving our goals. We communicate constantly – amongst ourselves and with our clients and partners – and I have complete confidence in our ability to get things done.
Has your role changed significantly to address the current environment?
No, it is just a matter of different market-driven metrics. I’ve lived through multiple housing crises, market changes, and now even a global pandemic in my career. When you have a team with the breadth of experience we have at Invigorate, you understand how to build a foundation that won’t crack with the first hard wind. You have to be nimble. We have built out a platform for a sustainable business model in which products might have life cycles, but the business overall is durable because you can shift or pivot as necessary and introduce new products that may better fit a specific scenario that suddenly emerges. The current environment is just another one of these adjustment periods.
What advice would you give to someone who has just started out in private lending?
Prove your worth and value to an organization and you will thrive. There are no excuses for not being successful. Just believe that you can, surround yourself with intelligent people, and you will succeed. When people try to push you back, do not take a step back. Walk toward them; never falter.
What do you believe to be the best type of real estate investment opportunity available today and why? Do you feel that there will be any changes to the marketplace in 2022 in terms of investment opportunities?
The market is in flux, so it’s hard to choose one investment opportunity over another. But there are some clear trends. We are seeing interest rates go up for the first time in a meaningful way in quite some time.
On the residential side, that means the “refinance boom” may truly end this time. At the same time, housing stock is low, as housing starts fell 4.1% month-over-month and much of what is driving this seems to be pandemic related labor shortages and high material costs.
On a positive note, there continues to be an increase in demand for single-family rental homes and this sector does not show any signs of slowing down. There is a rise in ground-up construction financing in this sector as well, as it pertains to building neighborhoods for rent.
For investors like us, some of our products act as a natural hedge for others which affords us enhanced opportunity at times. I do believe you will see some adjustments to product profiles etc. as things continue to “shake out.”
In times like this, a diversified portfolio is key and that is what we strive for at Invigorate.