2023 Monitor Icon: Don Campbell – At the Forefront of the Deal

by Ian Koplin Sept/Oct 2023
Don Campbell, chief risk officer at Auxilior Capital Partners, is one of this year’s winners of Monitor’s 2023 Veteran Icon award. Campbell details his rise to success and the long journey to his current role while remembering pivotal mentors and doling out wisdom to aspiring leaders.

Don Campbell,
Chief Risk Officer,
Auxilior Capital Partners

Don is a true leader who impacts so many of our lives and careers in a positive way every day. Always insightful, inspiring and courageous. He has set the bar high — a true hall of famer.” Steve Grosso, CEO & Vice Chairman, Auxilior Capital Partners

Don Campbell, chief risk officer at Auxilior Capital Partners, has a lengthy career of success, transformation and growth to look back upon as one of Monitor’s 2023 Veteran Icons. Starting his career at GE Capital as a collector, Campbell worked his way into the credit division before moving into sales. Because of Campbell’s well-rounded view of the business, the move into sales was natural for him. Out of GE Capital, Campbell was then recruited to ITT Industrial Credit to roll out and manage the Philadelphia office, which would grow to be the third largest volume producer of ITT’s 27 locations. Campbell was then promoted to general manager of the Southeast, with offices reporting directly to him. From there, Campbell further elevated his career at ITT when he moved on to working with large-ticket transactions ranging from $5 million to $50 million, as well as syndication.

It was at this point Campbell was approached by Philadelphia’s Fidelity Bank with an offer to start a leasing company. “By then it was clear to me that this was a good business where my entrepreneurial spirit of starting and growing businesses could thrive,” Campbell says. “And many companies who financed through us were growing, so the work made a positive impact as well. This was also successful, as we started it and grew the business to $1 billion in assets.”

Campbell then joined Tokai Financial Services as president and chief operating officer and became CEO the following year. Campbell helped grow Tokai Financial Services to approximately $2.4 billion in assets under management. Campbell was then integral in the sale of the company to Rabobank, “which was extremely successful — realizing 19-times earnings, which was the highest in the industry at the time,” Campbell says.

“I have been blessed with many highlights in my career, but selling Tokai Financial Services to the Rabobank at a premium and, [just] as important, keeping every employee of Tokai employed in the new company, called DLL [was one highlight],” Campbell says of the momentous sale. “This was very important to me, as many of the bidders would have dismantled much of the company if they were successful.”

After the Tokai sale, Campbell went to Commerce Bank, located just outside of Philadelphia, where he started the bank’s leasing company. After two years at Commerce Bank, Campbell and long-time colleague and business partner Steve Grosso, now CEO and vice chairman of Auxilior Capital Partners, started Partners Equity Capital Company. Raising $35 million of equity to make Partners a possibility, the duo sold the business to Marubeni and rebranded as CoActiv Capital Partners. CoActiv prospered for approximately six years before being sold by Marubeni to Element Financial, located in Toronto, to free up bank lines to buy businesses and become the largest grain exporter in the world. “We had a very successful sale of Coactiv to Element Financial in Toronto,” Campbell says. “I served as CEO of Element US, and we grew the business to $1.8 billion in assets. Steve Hudson, the North American CEO [of Element Financial], elected to sell the business and we had another very successful sale to PNC Bank.”

The rest is history, and Campbell now hangs his hat at Auxilior Capital Partners as chief risk officer. Campbell says he is thrilled to be a part of Auxilior because it is an independent sales catalyst company and an extremely fast-growing organization. “At Auxilior Capital now, close to 40 of our associates are people that I’ve worked with throughout my career,” Campbell says with pride. “And I’m so thankful to them, for without them, we would not have had the success that we had.”

Looking Back at Mentors

Campbell says he has been blessed to have had the opportunity to work with so many professionals throughout his career. Of the bunch, Campbell says two mentors stand out the most in honing his professional edge and contributing to his success today. Steve Davis, who was president and CEO of ITT Industrial Credit, is the first. “I worked for Steve at GE and then at ITT. He pushed me very hard at GE to have a complete credit package and full knowledge of the balance sheet and income statement when I presented transactions to him,” Campbell says. “I am glad he set the bar high — I hold myself and everyone I work with to this high standard; it lifts people up. Then at ITT he taught me that ‘net profit, not sales value’ was the key to a successful business no matter for whom you work.”

Hal Pote, who was president and CEO of Fidelity Bank, is another mentor that stands out to Campbell as integral to getting him to the level of his career he enjoys today. Pote hired Campbell to start a leasing company for Fidelity. “I remember when he challenged me to triple the size of our portfolio, as he loved the yields and tax benefits of our business,” Campbell says. “He insisted on organic growth, meaning we were not to purchase transactions from other banks or lessors. With his direction and support, we were fortunate to build $1 billion in assets.”

Setting the Next Generation Up for Success

Monitor asked Campbell what advice he could spare for those looking to follow in his footsteps. He shared these three pieces of wisdom:

1. Give clear direction on your expectations and hold people accountable while measuring everything that is important to getting to those goals.

2. Overcommunicate as to where a company is going and why. Share the goals and the performance, both good and bad, to create ownership and buy-in to the relationship between compensation and performance.

3. Teach people how to make money in this business. Understand the full picture and the components of profitability. Anyone in the equipment finance industry can do a deal, but building a profitable and successful business takes hard work. “Don is a compassionate leader who understands emotional elements in the room and of his employees. He knows how to be firm and direct to guide people to accomplish their goals,” David Verlizzo, chief legal officer and executive vice president at Auxilior Capital Partners, says. “I have watched Don mentor a young associate that went to his high school alma mater. This associate is consistently a high performer and has been promoted within the organization.”

“Don treats every member of the team as family. That sounds cliché, but it is real,” René Paradis, president and chief operating officer at Auxilior Capital Partners, says. “His strong leadership is exemplified anytime the organization [hits] a ‘bump.’ He is always the first to stand in front of a client and take responsibility. He never looks for anyone else to blame — he is a true gentleman.”

“Don is a true leader who impacts so many of our lives and careers in a positive way every day,” Steve Grosso, CEO and vice chairman of Auxilior Capital Partners says. “Always insightful, inspiring and courageous. He has set the bar high — a true hall of famer.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ian Koplin is editor of Monitor.

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