1. Why did you choose Private Lending?
I have been in the lending and financial services sector for most of my career. Prior to joining Churchill in 2019, I spent ten years at Wachovia (now Wells Fargo) focusing on the highly regulated and competitive consumer mortgage space.
The opportunities in the private lending space are enormous, and Churchill is a leader in providing flexible capital to the U.S. residential real estate sector. As a private non-bank lender, Churchill is in a unique position to drive innovation within an asset class that has historically been fragmented and under-institutionalized. Given banks are not as active in private lending due in part to complexities surrounding construction, loan management, and other issues, we see an attractive opportunity in private lending today to create new investment classes within residential real estate and deploy institutional capital into a space that has not yet reached full maturity.
2. What is your current role and what do you do day-to-day?
I am a Principal at Churchill responsible for business development, risk management, and portfolio management.
3. What excites you about your role today?
I am excited to keep identifying and building opportunities for Churchill’s long-term growth. Churchill originated a total of $5.4 billion in 2022 and emerged as the only non-bank real estate finance company with the ability to originate, finance, and manage residential and multifamily real estate assets nationwide across strategies and products. I am proud of our ability to serve as a leading provider of flexible capital solutions to our borrowers across the U.S. residential real estate sector.
4. 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?
I started my career in the mortgage business right before the Global Financial Crisis. I observed the entire mortgage industry meltdown, the collapse of businesses that no one would have ever expected could fail, and, most importantly, witnessed what it was like for so many people to lose their jobs. Managing the start of my career through a tumultuous cycle taught me how to manage risk above all else.
5. Is there anything that you wish you could go back and tell yourself at the beginning of your career?
Luckily, looking back on my career so far, I have no major regrets. I have been fortunate enough to be surrounded by great people and mentors throughout my career who have made a significant difference in my career development and trajectory. While I definitely have made some mistakes and learned important lessons from them, they collectively made me the person and professional that I am today, and I wouldn’t wish to change that.
6. Who is someone that has had a significant effect on your career and why?
There are multiple people across different phases of my career who have made a substantial positive impact on me. A good friend of mine, Fred Barros, gave me the opportunity to work at KPMG consulting right out of grad school. That role exposed me to many types of businesses and taught me how to work with different kinds of people across a large organization. Later, Serkan Erikci brought me to Wachovia, which eventually became the Wells Fargo Mortgage Finance team. Serkan taught me how to maintain the fine balance between risk and return and how to manage the competing needs of our internal risk management team and our borrower clients. There, I met my current partners, Derrick Land and Travis Masters, who respectively taught me how to best structure a deal from a business perspective and how to leverage analytics to be a strong programmer. Their guidance, leadership, and experience-driven approach to calculated risk-taking inspired me to join them at Churchill.
7. What has been your favorite aspect of being in private lending over the years?
My favorite aspect of working in private lending is that the sector is not as heavily regulated as consumer business, which allows me to be far more creative in finding flexible capital solutions for our borrowers.
8. What would you consider to be the highlight of your career thus far?
The highlight of my career so far has undoubtedly been the opportunity to help drive the successful growth of Churchill over the last few years. Looking forward, the firm is well-positioned to pioneer new investment opportunities and provide access to investment classes for its investors that other asset managers simply cannot provide, which is an exciting prospect.
9. What do you enjoy most about your job? Least?
What I enjoy the most about my job at Churchill is the freedom it grants me to think outside of the box and implement creative solutions for our clients in a collaborative environment.
10. Is time or money more valuable and why?
It’s hard to say whether one is more valuable than the other, but my approach to maximizing both is to take the long-term view. Some of my current relationships, which can’t be purchased, took many years to cultivate. Similarly, in this business, you have to make financial investments without expecting an immediate return, while having confidence it will pay off in the end.
11. How do you make sure your company stays ahead in this industry?
Churchill’s edge within the highly competitive market in which we operate is its wealth of proprietary data and comprehensive technology platform, which underpins the entire business and drives scale. The firm’s multiple lines of business also differentiate us from most banks and lenders in that they allow us to finance both small balance and large balance residential housing programs, providing opportunities for investors that other managers cannot provide.
12. What tools do you use to aid you in your role to be most efficient, organized, and focused?
Technology is integrated into the physical spaces of Churchill’s offices, enabling real-time reporting, real-time performance monitoring, and real-time risk management. Each vertical across the firm shares key information and data, enabling Churchill managers to be better-armed investors, fiduciaries, and asset managers. We leverage proprietary data platforms to synthesize data and report performance in real time for all parties which gives us proactive and institutional risk management capabilities. Our programs allow for streamlined decision making throughout all aspects of a loan lifecycle by facilitating relationships, reducing complexity, and accelerating approval times while incorporating real-time risk management.
13. Has your role changed significantly to address the current environment?
While market conditions are always changing in real estate, one of the core skills of my role will always remain the same: the ability to analyze data to understand the current state of the market, make an educated guess as to where it’s heading, and proactively manage the portfolio to maintain integrity for our borrowers, investors, employees, and counterparties.
14. What advice would you give to someone who has just started out in private lending?
Always be transparent and tell the story as it is rather than offering a spun-up sales pitch. Maintaining a high level of integrity for investors, employees, counterparties, and clients by providing honest feedback, especially in challenging situations, goes a long way toward building trust, which is paramount in this industry.
15. How will private lending change to adapt to the current market trends?
Change is all about risk versus return. Investors deploying billions into the space want to be able to hit their hurdles, so the assets will need to generate attractive returns. To do so, private lenders have made adjustments for not only underlying note rates, which have increased from 6% to 11% over the past year, but also to tighten up the credit box, focus on more experienced borrowers, and decrease their leverage. We are also seeing rating agencies showing interest in rating short-term residential transitional loans (RTL), which will be a big milestone for the asset class and help attract more investors into the space.