Chief Empowerment Officer
Beth O’Brien and her unconventional path surges growth at CoreVest.
This article originally appeared in ThinkRealty.
CoreVest CEO Beth O’Brien maintains a belief that likely isn’t popular among other chief executives.
“You actually want to encourage dissent,” she said. “You don’t want to encourage people to not do something if they’re supposed to do it. But you certainly want to empower people to challenge you.”
Such conviction is part of O’Brien’s broader philosophy to elevate each team member of CoreVest, a rapidly growing finance company for residential real estate investors based in Irvine, Calif. From stimulating productive defiance and embracing failures to emboldening employees to find and use their voice, O’Brien’s approach may be unconventional, but the results speak for themselves.
Founded in 2014 by O’Brien, CoreVest is a leading private lender for residential real estate investors throughout the U.S., offering portfolio and single-property loans for rental properties as well as short-term credit lines and bridge financing. Recently, the company of 100 employees surpassed a significant milestone in closing over $6 billion in loans and financing over 40,000 investment units.
What’s helped CoreVest hit such meaningful achievements is its breadth of experience, O’Brien said. For example, among CoreVest’s three C-suite executives, there’s more than a collective 80 years of industry experience in real estate and finance.
“One of the things that sets CoreVest apart from some of its competitors is our deep understanding of the market,” O’Brien said. “Because we understand the market so well and have so many people who work in our company who were equity investors and have been in this particular market for many years, our ability to customize what the investor needs, our ability to close in a reasonable period of time, and our customer service sets us apart from others. We understand their business well enough to work with them on the business pieces alone.”
O’Brien herself has 30 years of experience in nearly every aspect of the mortgage industry, as both a principal and an advisor and has managed more than $15 billion in transactions. O’Brien previously was executive vice president at Auction.com, where she ran residential capital markets, and previously was the president of AuctionFinance.com, where she ran the financing strategy for the platform.
Such a diverse background provided O’Brien not only a well-rounded perspective on the finance and real estate industry but also cultivated compassion and understanding for a business’s needs.
“Having a really diverse background and a non-linear career has been super helpful in having the empathy necessary for all the different departments but also an acumen and ability to multitask on a lot of different topics,” she said. “Being CEO is actually making a lot of decisions all day long that aren’t always that sophisticated. Sometimes it’s the heavy strategic stuff, but sometimes, it’s working with other departments.”
CoreVest has also grown thanks in part to its significant expansion of loan offerings over the last year, helping to serve a diverse and growing client base that employs varied real estate strategies. In spring 2019, CoreVest introduced its Build-to-Rent Complete, which provides a comprehensive financing solution for investors that build and hold portfolios of new rental properties. The company also rolled out additional bridge loan products for multifamily properties and a new 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgage loan to provide alternatives to finance individual rental properties.
CoreVest also worked diligently to simplify the loan process via the internet or over the phone. After submitting an application, the CoreVest team works with customers to determine the size and prices of a loan, guiding them through each step. Once approved, a loan can close as fast as a few days, helping customers accelerate plans based on their specific timelines.
Such offerings are examples of how CoreVest enthusiastically tries new things to serve the market and grow its customer base. O’Brien and her team have prioritized an adaptable approach that listens and responds to customers. Iterative design has allowed the company to evolve with the market and continue to address fluctuations as they come.
“One of the things that’s really been key to our success is our ability to make decisions, be willing to try new things, and then adjust the decision if it doesn’t work out,” O’Brien said. “We have a culture of constant improvement. Sometimes it’s just small improvements, like a process or small change. Anything that continues to reduce the friction to the client or increase our efficiency or work in a way that’s a little bit smarter. Sometimes it means evolving the product to fit the client a little bit better. … You can’t just build it and they will come.”
According to O’Brien, CoreVest also incorporates a mentality of growth into its company culture, which means that it’s OK to make mistakes along the way.
“I don’t want anyone to ever be afraid of a negative outcome,” she said. “You’re allowed to challenge, and you’re allowed to make mistakes. And that’s what I think you need to do if you’re trying to build a culture of constant improvement.”
At times, O’Brien is still shocked that the company has largely emerged from its startup roots. While it’s exciting and gratifying to drive such growth, O’Brien said that she hopes CoreVest never loses its scrappy, startup attitude.
“I think it’s part of what makes us successful,” O’Brien said. “I hope to never fully shed that startup skin, but I recognize that scalability is the quintessential goal of every startup. … I have teenagers, so it’s not lost on me that getting teenagers to adulthood is pretty similar to what’s going on here. Your basic teenager or 20-something is incredibly capable, incredibly smart, and really not 100 percent ready yet.”
As CoreVest has expanded over the last five years, O’Brien said adapting to that growth has been among its biggest challenges. After reading Blitzscaling by entrepreneurs Chris Yeh and Reid Hoffman, O’Brien realized that her company’s challenges were normal. It started out like a small family and grew to become a village, then a town, and then a city.
“It made me feel better — that you’re supposed to break a little at each step,” she said. “You’re supposed to be going along believing tribal knowledge is fine until all of a sudden you need village rules. It was really helpful to think about it that way — that you’re supposed to have challenges each step of the way because you’re a different company at 25 people than you are at 50 and 75 and 100 people.”
Looking back at the growth over the last five years, O’Brien said she’s thrilled by for CoreVest’s growth and is thankful for its hand in enhancing customers’ lives.
“It’s gone by in a flash,” she said. “It feels great and sometimes it’s really humbling. … I’ve been able to watch some of our clients grow from pretty small investors to pretty legit large players in the market. It’s been incredibly satisfying to be part of those stories. It’s really meaningful to me that we’ve been able to grow and at the same time our clients have been able to grow.”
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