CIVIC Financial Services, based in Redondo Beach, California, may be backed by Wall Street, but unlike other hard-money lenders that rely on finite resources, CIVIC’s private money is there when its customers need it. Funding more than $100 million a month – and growing – Originate Report sat down with Kendra Rommel, Director of Regional Sales, to discuss the ‘CIVIC Difference,’ the hard money space, and the Company’s recent acquisition by Pacific West Bank.
“CIVIC was recently acquired by Pacific West Bank (PWB), a publicly traded institution. What this did for the hard-money lender,” Rommel said, “is significantly lower our cost of capital, which enables CIVIC to extend more competitively priced products.” PWB had been a strategic partner of CIVIC long before the acquisition, therefore the new partnership was a “natural fit”.
“The acquisition eliminates the challenge of having to cater to multiple take-outs,” Rommel said. “We now have the ability to balance sheet most of our paper, which enables us to make quicker, more critical decisions on what we are willing and able to finance; I think it empowers us.”
“It is important to note,” Rommel added, “that the PWB relationship does not preclude us having additional credit partners. This flexibility is what makes CIVIC the ideal partner for so many borrowers and lenders.” Additionally, Rommel points out that this partnership does not ‘bankify’ CIVIC; instead, it serves as the culmination of a years’ long pre-existing strategic relationship.
Turning to how CIVIC rapidly adapted during the coronavirus pandemic – Rommel said that she has been grateful for the competitive edge that institutional backing provided. The most essential element for any successful lender, she said, is their access to and management of capital.
“We were never put in the position of having repo or warehouse lines getting maxed out because we have great capital partners that honored the commitments we had in place pre-pandemic,” explained Rommel. Fortunately, we were also in a position to keep loans on our balance sheet, and not sell at a loss. That stability encouraged additional capital partners to look at us, what we’ve been doing, and how we underwrite deals. This gave us the time and opportunity to determine who would make the best partner for CIVIC long term.”
From an organizational perspective, Rommel said, she could not be happier with the team that is in place at CIVIC. As the Company continues to grow, she added that President Bill Tessar’s leadership sets the course.
“Bill is a strategist and visionary that isn’t afraid to roll up his sleeves. He runs the organization in a way where that hands-on attitude sets the example. It is the expectation,” she said. “He’s extremely transparent, loyal, and trusting. When…things initially started with COVID-19, he immediately called a virtual meeting with the whole organization and told us to stick to our core values, stay focused and engaged and take care of each other and our customers. He maintained composure, empathy, and consistent communication regarding the health of our people, our capital and continued business. Clear leadership for an organization makes all the difference.”
Paired with this leadership, Rommel said, are CIVIC’s core values: act with honor, be a great partner, communicate clearly, create smiles, and simplify. Adhering to these standards, she said, allows all CIVIC team members to share common goals, create an outstanding customer experience, and work towards growing the Company’s sphere of influence in private money.
“I feel like two of the most overstated but under-delivered words right now are authenticity and gratitude,” she said. “They’re traveling around social media right now and speaking from a place of truth for us, here at CIVIC. Our culture is built by a team of people who are truly authentic and embody our core values. We do have a large team, but we do not simply hire people to fill seats. What helps to set us apart is the fact that it’s not just about getting things done; it’s about getting things done RIGHT. And to do that requires tremendous attention to detail by people who truly care.”
To have such a team in place like the one at CIVIC, she said, is a rarity. Rommel added that the Company is showing no plans of slowing down. In fact, looking forward CIVIC is continuing to grow and expand into new markets and offer new products, while maintaining its top-tier service to clients. CIVIC lends in 20 states plus the District of Columbia. Its 300+ employees are located in 14 states including several offices in California, plus Phoenix, Las Vegas, Portland, Nashville, Dallas, Charlotte, Atlanta and more.