2023 Monitor Icon: Bill Carey – Evolving Equipment Finance with Enthusiasm and Hard Work

by Ian Koplin Sept/Oct 2023
Bill Carey, senior vice president and assistant general counsel at EverBank, a winner of one of Monitor’s 2023 Veteran Icon awards, credits numerous individuals, associations and experiences for shaping him into a successful attorney in the equipment finance industry who has created a lasting legacy.

Bill Carey,
SVP and Assistant General Counsel,

“You have to be enthusiastic about what you do. Even if you don’t think it’s that interesting when you first start a job, if you learn about it, it will become interesting. And with enthusiasm, you can become successful.”

The Veteran Industry Icon award recognizes individuals who have dedicated their life and career to the equipment finance industry. These folks have added their legacy to the history of the industry itself, often having seen the rise and fall of companies both big and small throughout countless economic upturns and downturns. Bill Carey, senior vice president and assistant general counsel at EverBank, has earned that honor this year.

Carey first entered the equipment finance industry by total happenstance after a clandestine call from a headhunter from AT&T Capital. At the time, Carey was working at a large New Jersey law firm and AT&T Corporation hadn’t yet divested its equipment business, with AT&T Capital serving as its captive finance arm. After a series of preliminary interviews, Carey sat down in front of Dan McCarthy, who was building a strong legal team at AT&T Capital to help diversify away from simply financing the telephone systems the parent company was manufacturing. McCarthy paired Carey, who would end up taking the front end of transactions, with another attorney who served as his manager while focusing on the back end, and “off I went to a career in equipment finance,” Carey says.

“My first manager was John Chobot. He was a very bright and professorial, ” Carey says. “And he was a noted expert on the Bankruptcy Code, particularly as it applied to the nuances of equipment leases.”

Fast forward to 2004, and Carey, who had been working for a British electronics publishing company for three years after leaving AT&T and then CIT, received a call from Jim McGrane, co-founder of US Express Leasing, who previously held leadership roles with US Leasing, AT&T Capital and Heller Financial and also created two successful management consulting practices. McGrane, who passed away in 2014, left a lasting impression on Carey, like so many others, for his leadership, strategy and drive to develop the next generation of leaders.

“I got a call from Jim McGrane. He asked me to come over to help them a little bit at USXL. One thing led to another and Jeff Hilzinger, who I worked closely with putting in place the first credit facility for the company, said, ‘Bill, we’d like you to work full-time, we certainly could use you.’ And again, an opportunity blossomed into something larger, and I’ve been with that same company, now EverBank, for 20 years,” Carey says.

“At his core, Bill is a relationship builder who also happens to be a legal scholar. In one of our more significant negotiations, Bill was the steady hand who helped calm tensions and the consummate voice of reason,” Ellen Comeaux, senior vice president and commercial division leader at EverBank, says. “I’ve never met someone who can so quickly dial in on the key points, even in the most complex of deal structures, while simultaneously recognizing the critical negotiation points for all parties. With over 30 years in the industry, Bill has weathered multiple economic cycles and has helped navigate the leadership through these cycles. Bill is well known for navigating a negotiation with the proper combination of intellect and finesse.”

Speaking on Decades of Success

When asked if one experience or deal has stuck out as his proudest accomplishment, Carey couldn’t name just one that took the cake. Carey says his career has been a continuous series of transactions, large to small deals, vendor agreements, syndications, portfolio sales and acquisitions, and engagements supporting clients’ leasing originations and representing on credit facilities as a lender and a borrower. But all along, either as a solo attorney or managing a team, he has treasured his fellow attorneys, professional staff and colleagues for providing him with inspiration and motivation. “I suppose that would be the secret to my long-term success in this business: being a good listener who is able to get along with people and have a common goal — let’s get there together,” Carey says. “Simple as that.”

“Above and beyond his role as general counsel, Bill is a trusted advisor that many of us on his fellow leadership team turn to for advice on issues that extend beyond the law and sometimes beyond even business. He is a great listener and is more than willing to share his wealth of experience and knowledge to help others,” Justin Tabone, senior vice president of originations for EverBank’s vendor equipment finance team, says. “He is a relationship-oriented leader who will reach out directly to his counterparts to resolve an issue. I can think of many instances over the years where we have been at an impasse, and after Bill speaks directly with the counterpart’s attorney, he clears a positive path to move forward.”

Being a good listener and getting along with colleagues has taken Carey a long way in the equipment finance industry, allowing him to endure several economic cycles only to emerge wiser and stronger in conviction. Fluctuating markets have taught Carey not to fret over that which cannot be controlled. “Don’t try and predict the future, even five years out,” Carey says. “It’s really, really difficult in a global economy to do that now, so be prepared. Have a diversified portfolio and manage your concentration risks. In other words, it’s the old saying, don’t put all your eggs into one basket. Don’t finance just one particular asset.”

Carey also says his decades of experience have taught him the importance of having a great team. Regarding the increase of electronic communication methods since the advent of the internet, Carey says he still reminisces about the almost ceremonial aspect of closing a big deal.

“Back when I started, a large deal was closed usually at a large law firm, at a big conference table with all attorneys and their clients present for long negotiations, and it would be ceremonial,” Carey says. “Now they’re quietly closed. Monies are wired to fund the deal and electronic signatures are exchanged. So, a more emotional aspect of my transactional business has changed a lot. But what hasn’t changed is before you get to that, you need a good team. Whether you are working remotely or not, there has to be cohesion. Build a team. Know the business.”

The Importance of Networking

Carey remembers working at the large law firm before the headhunter from AT&T Capital called with his life-changing offer. He remembers being able to consult with more experienced attorneys when he ran into a new problem or issue that he hadn’t seen before by simply walking down the hall or grabbing lunch with a colleague. Carey also has been in positions in which he was the only attorney or on a small enough team where no one immediately knew how to solve the issue at hand, which forced him to reach out to outside counsel. In this way, associations like the Equipment Leasing and Finance Association became integral to Carey’s success. “The ELFA, and in particular its legal committee, has been a really good source, not only of information for me, but I’ve built friendships, professional and personal friendships, over the last 25 years through that organization,” Carey says. “I’m a strong supporter of it.”

Riding the Waves of Change

From a technical standpoint, Carey says there’s been a slow and steady shift in financing hard equipment. As the U.S. has become more service-oriented, equipment finance companies have had to diversify to develop ways to finance software, services, ongoing products and more. In commercial equipment finance, an encroachment of consumer-type laws designed to protect small businesses has occurred, Carey says, pointing to recent disclosure laws in bellwether states like California and New York. But thankfully, the U.S. economy continues to grow, with the equipment industry following alongside it.

“The equipment industry grows with the economy, and we’re fortunate that America’s economy has continued to grow,” Carey says. “Through ups and downs it continues to be an upward trajectory, and the industry has been in lockstep with it.”

Speaking to leaders of tomorrow, Carey evokes former UCLA basketball coaching legend, John Wooden, and his famed Pyramid of Success, which dictates enthusiasm and industriousness are cornerstones of success. “You have to be enthusiastic about what you do. Even if you don’t think it’s that interesting when you first start a job, if you learn about it, it will become interesting. And with enthusiasm, you can become successful. And industrious, the other cornerstone of the pyramid, is simply hard work. There’s no substitute for that. Those traits can take you a long way.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ian Koplin is an editor of Monitor. Rita E. Garwood, editor in chief, interviewed Bill Carey for this article.

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