CHG – MERIDIAN U.S. Finance
Dirk Matura, EVP Sales and Marketing, CHG — Meridian U.S. Finance
John Sandoval, EVP Finance/ Administration, CHG — Meridian U.S. Finance
CHG-MERIDIAN is a German-based independent equipment leasing company that specializes in information, communications and healthcare technology. Since its launch in 1979, the company has expanded into 18 countries. In 2009, CHG enlisted Dirk Matura, EVP Sales & Marketing, to establish the U.S. operation after the acquisition of the former El Camino Resources International Inc., which opened the company’s territorial doors into the American market as well as that in Canada and Mexico.
Matura notes that the expansion into North America, and especially the U.S., was an important one as many of the company’s international clients were eager for it. “We are driven by our customers, who were asking more and more about the United States,” he says, and adds that CHG soon found out that “this market is really a very strong market. [The U.S. operation] is already ranked #3 in the entire organization after [only operating] three years. It means a lot to us internally, but it goes to show how rich and strong the U.S. market is.”
That market has proven well for CHG. The year 2011 was one of the most successful for the company overall, as announced on CHG’s website, adding that it was able to gain success mainly through new investments and contribution margins. In the U.S., the company posted $194.9 million in assets and new business volume of $159.9 million, according to its Monitor 100 survey.
In the past three years, CHG has opened offices in New York, Dallas, Atlanta and Connecticut, a service division in Chicago along with the headquarters in Los Angeles. There are also representatives in the Northeast, Washington D.C. area, and throughout the West Coast. In terms of growth, CHG U.S. had $63 million in originations in 2010, the next year closing $160 million in fundings. “So from our perspective, it was over our expectations, and we still see a lot of room to grow here because the market is very pro-leasing and portfolio management, and [the U.S has] outstanding companies,” Matura says.
John Sandoval, EVP Finance/Administration, agrees. From his perspective, “we continue to grow the offices here to support the production and origination and to continue to meet the service levels that enterprise-level type customers demand.”
And Matura and Sandoval know the market both in the U.S. and internationally. Matura, born and raised in Bavaria, Germany, started his professional career joining the German Air Force. After his tenure there, he joined the Siemens Academy, and then worked at Siemens Finance for nine years, spending one year in China to build a joint venture. He then was hired by a U.S. leasing company, in Germany, and came to CHG-MERIDIAN in 2002.
Most recently before Matura came to the U.S. he led the territories in southern Germany and Switzerland, and during that time generated more than $200 million in originations. Once he joined the U.S. operation in 2010, he “started with a core team and was happy when John came on board because you really saw the development from month to month. We hired the right salespeople, we are seeing business growing, so it was a tremendous growth in our last two and a half years.”
Sandoval has experience working for Monitor 100 companies in both the bank equipment leasing environment as well as in IT leasing and for independent companies. He graduated from the University of Colorado with a degree in Finance and Economics. He then joined Colorado National Bank, which is now a part of U.S. Bank, learning credit and underwriting. In the equipment finance heavy market of Colorado at the time, he also helped provide financing for equipment leasing companies, looking at different facets of the business.
He then went to work for an independent IT leasing company, Capital Associates, which then was a Monitor 100 participant, as assistant treasurer. Next, he moved back to helping bank equipment leasing companies at Key Equipment Finance. Sandoval was then hired to help launch a group for Sanwa Bank, which later became the middle-market equipment leasing group of Bank of the West. There he helped the bank move from being a small-ticket lessor to a full-service equipment leasing company. During this time, he earned his M.B.A. in entrepreneurship from USC, and followed that with a position at City National Bank, a current Monitor 100 participant, growing its bank equipment leasing company in California.
Sandoval joined CHG’s U.S. operations in 2010, a natural step with his background and his desire to build organizations. “I was taught that when you have the opportunity to build a new organization under an established brand and an established organization, which is going to provide the support and the interest in growing in a marketplace, that provides a tremendous opportunity in one’s career and in life … that was my biggest interest.”
According to Matura, from the company’s inception, its philosophy has been specialization and customer focus. While always an IT lessor and provider of IT financing, it evolved to provide additional solutions for its customers beyond straight leases. “This made us, over the years, an intelligent lessor, which we call today, a technology portfolio manager. We are performing assessments with customers; we are running cost optimization projects and trying to help them manage their assets more efficiently… As an independent company … we are really a trusted advisor and partner of the customer to help him put everything together.”
Sandoval adds, “We’re not focused on just financing. We’re focused on providing total solutions to customers, and I think that being an independent allows for us to be able to provide more whole solutions and do some things differently from other organizations… It’s extremely helpful to be independent and private in today’s competitive environment.”
The company’s management style offers a team management concept. As Matura notes, CHG has a strong CFO and an equally strong sales and business development manager that act as a team with full responsibility. “Because the balance of a dynamic sales force and a controlled financing administration environment is part of the success, John very much represents that, and we make decisions together considering both angles… This concept has proven that it is a good one.” The U.S. operation is continuing its hiring, and the company’s fast growth Matura says, makes it both a “challenge but also an opportunity. We combined experienced players with new talent so we have a good mix here in this company … together that gives us a good start…”
All these factors, from the company’s approach to its team of professionals, allow it to move forward with the same goal worldwide to support its customers globally. “It’s not only about covering the globe, it is more about really having international communication and sharing an international experience,” Matura explains. Customers benefit from “having one place to coordinate all kinds of transactions internationally. Global account management within an international management board [framework] makes it [possible to] serve a customer from one place efficiently to centralize certain solutions over the organization.”
Sandoval agrees, “CHG has followed our clients into the marketplace and into the major countries in which they operate… And I think that’s important… for most organizations, it is increasingly important that you either become more global or you become more local.”
Being a U.S. company of a foreign parent has its advantages, Matura says, most notably that it’s not an experiment but instead in a long-term investment for the parent company. “We are ambitious … we have a long-term view. We want to set a solid foundation for future business.” As far as the culture, the U.S. operations’ relationship to its parent German company has worked well, Matura notes. “We are a U.S. company embedded in an international organization. The German and U.S. mentality are a good fit.”
Sandoval remarks that he enjoys the balance that comes from working for CHG as a foreign-owned parent. “I like the balance. They understand that things are different in local competitive environments. I think it’s a good balance of being active and involved but also allows us to manage the business locally to where they allow us to carry out the local business plan and execute.”
Being an IT lessor in a country that is consistently updating and expanding its IT in the business world is a large part of CHG’s U.S. success. “It’s obvious and proven that the U.S., in terms of technology investments is the biggest market in the world. So the playground for business is amazing,” Matura explains. “In the special field of IT leasing, we have done our homework to meet customers’ requirements but there is still room for improvement… I think it’s an ongoing process to understand that financing is the fundamental necessity but the customers are looking for a solution around the assets… I think we have found our role in the market.”
As a new IT lessor in the marketplace, Sandoval says the reception has gone well. “Clients, in my mind, need more solutions today because everyone becomes increasingly busier… I think the neat thing about the equipment leasing industry as a whole, is that there’s room for many niches and many equipment types and many industries for many types of customers. Because we’re serving a very specific client type and a very specific marketplace, we’ve been well received. I think it’s necessary that you remain focused in today’s marketplace and especially in the U.S. environment. We’re starting to build the CHG brand here in the U.S. and we’ve been fortunate to be able to do this with key clients and we continue to grow… those plans will continue through 2012 and beyond.”