Some would call Aureus CEO & Founder Trixy Castro “crazy” for wanting to create another powerhouse firm after all her previous success. Castro was the Creator & Founder of Genesis Capital, an extremely successful private lending firm, and Genesis Auctions (later Hudson & Marshall), one of the country’s top real estate auction companies. Why would someone want to start all over and build another team and firm from scratch? To that, she will tell you: “…passion. It is a strong and deep-rooted passion of mine to help people build their businesses – businesses that help provide housing and housing options nationwide.” It is safe to say, one person’s crazy is another person’s passion.
When Castro created Aureus Finance Group in early 2021 with a few members of her executive team, the goal in their minds was simple – to bring back the old-world standards of concierge service to a modern and robust new lending space. The name of the firm was chosen because Aureus is a Latin word meaning “gold or high value gold coin.” Setting a gold standard requires a team and focus worthy of its name. Their goal was built on the same foundation that all of Castro’s previous ventures made fundamental: though the market may be unpredictable and unsteady, we will be the partner and rock our clients can lean on for help.
Aureus Finance Group is a private lender focusing on lending products for residential real estate investors and developers. Their loan programs are built specifically with borrowers’ needs in mind. Offered products span from bridge lending to ground up construction for resell and hold models, as well as 30-year rental loans for single assets, portfolios, and multifamily properties. Aureus’ impressive suite of DSCR Rental Loan products is robust with programs designed to meet the various needs of real estate investor clients.
Standing Out from the Competition
As the real estate landscape continues to evolve in the post-pandemic world, Aureus Finance Group has emerged as a leader in the residential investment space, driving sustainable growth and accruing a consistent track record of satisfied clients. Originate Report had the distinct pleasure of speaking with several members of the Aureus team to get a behind-the-scenes look at what makes this trend-setting newcomer to the private lending scene a truly special organization.
When discussing the creation of Aureus, Castro stated, “Aureus is the long-dreamt culmination of seasoned talent from all verticals and aspects of finance, lending, real estate, technology, public relations, and business development. We wanted to combine all of that with a true concierge-style approach.” Aureus is stitching together a fragmented industry through a broad product suite offering while always putting people at the forefront.
The people are truly what make Aureus an industry leader.
A Gold Standard Team
While the company may be newer, the team certainly is not. This hand-selected group consists of seasoned veterans in the finance and real estate world, combined with skilled talent from other verticals, including tech and development, marketing, human resources, and loan operations. Aureus’ executive team have all known each other for years, as most of them worked together at Castro’s other successful firms. “It’s really more like coming back together with family members you have not seen for a few years…like coming home in a sense,” said Chief Compliance Officer Brittany Starkey. Starkey has known and worked with Castro for more than fifteen years, and they have been side by side for multiple successful ventures. Starkey was a founding member of the Genesis group of companies. She led the creation and expansion of a securitized note offering for Genesis Capital that then became an institutional loan securitization product.
In addition to the CCO, Chief Investment Officer & GC Derrick Grüner, Esq., is also a former Genesis original team member where he served as Chief Legal Officer. Grüner possesses almost three decades of real estate and finance industry experience. Prior to his executive leadership roles, he was a partner at a large AV-rated East Coast law firm where he represented private equity, investors, lenders, borrowers, owners, developers, operators, and contractors. Grüner was more than excited to be back with the family that was built at a previous venture. “There is no replacement for the colleagues and friends that you have been in the trenches with while building something substantial and successful. I look forward to doing it again and making Aureus our most expansive and impressive firm yet,” he emphasized.
President CJ Russell also brings a uniquely relevant background, especially to the current market. Russell ran operations and client management for ServiceLink Auction, where he was responsible for increasing sales and inventory volume and execution. Before joining ServiceLink Auction, Russell developed a proprietary tech and consulting company that became the framework for Auction.com’s workflow. While at Auction.com, he developed and launched the HUD CWCOT Auction program, growing it to 4,000 assets monthly nationwide and consistently hitting record revenue targets. With Russell leading the charge at Aureus is certainly a winning differentiator as the country stares down the possibility of a more unsteady market. With years of experience crossing downturns and the distressed auction space, Russell’s unique experience provides Aureus Finance Group a wealth of knowledge for their borrowers as things become more volatile.
Vice President of Lending Operations Megan Castleton was recruited early on in Aureus’ team building, not only for her two decades of experience in the mortgage lending space but for her development and use of automated underwriting systems, analyzing and establishing operations procedures, and underwriting guidelines for unique product offering in the market. Castleton’s talent and abilities in building and scaling lending platforms in the Commercial and Consumer lending space are second to none. She has large plans for Aureus’ future and how proprietary process and automation will blend with unparalleled service and a humanistic approach. “Often times, when we see more and more firms automating a specific process, so much of the necessary customer interaction and white glove service falls victim to technology…our goal is to offer the most valuable balance of both, so the borrower always receives the most positive outcome,” Castleton commented.
Apart from the executive leadership, Aureus has recruited some of the most outstanding talent not only in the financial and real estate verticals but across multiple areas of focus, including technology and development, marketing, human resources, and lending operations. Castro’s team have curated talent across different areas to offer distinct and proprietary options for the borrowers and broker partners as they move forward and expand. With an incredible team, Aureus Finance Group is not going anywhere, even amidst the volatile market that may be on the horizon. Aureus is here, with heels dug in to help their borrowers weather the storm and come out ahead.
A Partner to Weather the Storm
With a downturn being immanent to most, it is hard to envision a private lender that traditionally supported a strong flipper’s market steaming full force ahead when so many in the space have suffered losses and even shut their doors permanently. When asked for his thoughts on the future of not just flipping but the state of the housing market itself, Russell voiced that “it is possible there may be some distress or default volume. However, we expect it to be less significant than the last downturn…certain dynamics and market-specific nuances may increase investor appetite in certain DMAs to rehab housing stock, and there may be more beneficial markets that still support healthy fix-and-flip margins, while we will most likely see much more fix-to-rent strategies emerging from all areas.”
Whatever the goal is, as the world heads farther into the ‘wait-and-see’ era brought on by COVID and global changes, the team at Aureus Finance Group has been nose down, at the grindstone, prepping for the market that is to come. Having formed her first and widely successful venture right after the 2008 crash, Castro is no stranger to cyclical trends and market roller-coaster changes. Aureus’ goal was to assemble a team that knows how to partner with investors to grow even in a volatile market and then be poised waiting for the wave, as this is their sweet spot and truly where their differentiation resides. With a forward-thinking CEO at the helm of a diversely talented team, it will be exciting to see how Aureus sets the bar even higher for service and reliability with an everchanging landscape of lending.
Aureus Finance Group is not simply wanting to be “another lending option.” They are here to partner with their clients and facilitate business needs. Their goals have been laid out over the last year, waiting for the right moment that the market would shift, and their unique blend of experience and “know-how” would be unequivocally unmatched. That moment has arrived. They have not come to the table to only bring back the gold standard. As their motto claims, Aureus is here to be the gold standard.