Like a phoenix, Bill Tessar’s CV3 rises from the ashes of a gutted business.
As he watched the team he built get dismantled, William Tessar couldn’t just sit on the sidelines. He had to act.
“It was devastating for me to see so many capable human beings, that did nothing but what they were asked, end up unemployed,” he said.
Tessar joined private lender Civic Financial Group in 2017 as president, and the company was acquired by Pacific Western Bank in 2021. Civic reached a milestone $3 billion in loan production in 2022. But its success couldn’t offset investors’ uncertainty surrounding Pacific Western after the failures of other troubled regional banks, including Silicon Valley Bank.
At the end of 2022, Tessar said the bank approached him about spinning off Civic, which he was willing to do. However, as the bank’s situation changed over the first few weeks of 2023, the deal fell apart, Tessar said. His position was eliminated, and the bank said it would restructure. But after two rounds of layoffs and ceasing loan origination, it was clear that everything that had gone into making Civic a success was becoming completely undone.
“I’m a father of three, a grandfather of three, and a surrogate father of 500 that were at Civic. A lot of these relationships go back over two decades,” Tessar said. “I just felt like, you know, this story wasn’t done being written, and I care an awful lot about the folks that were underneath that banner.
“Once (Pacific Western) made it really known that they were out of the business and it was a shutdown and people were losing their jobs, it was really the kick in the pants for me to get going,” he said.
In August, Tessar announced the launch of a new private lender, CV3 Financial Services LLC, based in El Segundo, California. CV3 will provide business-purpose loans for non-owner-occupied properties to experienced real estate investors.
For the new venture, Tessar was able to onboard most of his executive team and about 150 employees from Civic, “among the best of the best,” he said. “There’s not one person with CV3 right now that I don’t know intimately, like intimately, and trust intimately,” he said. “And I think most people underneath our umbrella would say that about one another.”
Tessar said it’s been humbling that so many former employees were willing to come together to start something new, and to turn down other offers in the meantime.
“I think our power is our people,” he said. “For me, probably the greatest compliment I’ve ever gotten in this space is the patience of the people and the cooperation of standing something up together. It’s just been amazing, honestly.”
CV3 stands for “core group version three,” Tessar said. He considers the company a restart rather than a startup.
“It’s all the lessons learned, both positive and negative, applied to one new business,” he said. “I think that has also allowed us to hopscotch over what would be normal mistakes if somebody was doing a startup versus a restart.”
One practice CV3 retains is what Tessar called “Keep-Stop-Starts,” where the team regularly discusses what is working, what is not working, and new ideas to try.
“When we decided that we were going to move forward and create something special, we started our very first meeting with a Keep-Stop-Start,” he said. “You have to be ugly honest with each other about the things that didn’t work.”
That resulted in a big shift for CV3 from the previous venture. Before, Tessar said, he was adamant about developing proprietary technology from scratch.
“That was the stupidest thing I could have ever done,” he said. “I’m not doing that this time.”
Instead, he said, CV3 will rely on proven software in the mortgage lending sphere. Tessar said his past failures make him confident about going in a different direction this time.
As employees learn the ropes of the new systems, it’s been “heartwarming” to see the collaboration among longtime teammates, said CMO Elizabeth Hillestad. “Here we are, doing it over again. (There are) a lot of laughs, a lot of smiles, a lot of patting each other on the back and a lot of that camaraderie that comes from the good times and the bad. When you go through that as a group, it really does bring you closer. So, we’re very grateful that all of those individuals, whether they’re in ops or accounting or marketing or technology, everybody is working together.”
”Tremendous amount of opportunity”
Tessar is bullish on the opportunity for CV3 to make a big splash in private lending. In its first week of business, its pipeline was already filling up with a rush, thanks to relationships producers had maintained during their gap in employment, Hillestad said.
More importantly, Tessar said, the market is ripe for the real estate investors CV3 serves.
“My father told me at a very young age: ”There’s always a need for money,’ and I believe that to be true. I believe that’s true more now than ever,” he said. “Our space is about beautifying dinged-up real estate and providing financing for that. And I still think there’s a tremendous amount of opportunity in the marketplace, and we’re going to be one of those that fills that void for sure.”
Even with such financial opportunity, Tessar’s goals for CV3 aren’t numerical. He does want to be the No. 1 choice for business-purpose lending, but he also wants to make his company a great place to work—one that employees don’t want to leave and one that gives back to the community.
“We want to create an example of what an organization should be and needs to be from all corners of our space. And I think we’re going to do that sooner than folks might think we’re going to do it.”