It’s no understatement: BancorpSouth Equipment Finance has had a busy two years. Not only has the company changed its name from First Continental Leasing, which functioned for more than 30 years as an equipment finance company in the Mid-South, but it also expanded its territory by opening offices and adding managers in Atlanta, Charlotte and northern Florida, growth which bumped the company up in the Monitor 100 ranking from #72 to #71.
But as Elaine Temple, president explains, these factors aren’t the only reasons for the company’s 20% growth in 2006. “We knew 2006 would be a good year because the business cycle and because of our primary concentration in over-the-road tractors and trailers,” Temple says.
In 2006, many transportation companies upgraded their fleets prior to the 2007 engine emission changes, which meant more people buying — and leasing — equipment.
BancorpSouth Equipment Finance leases and finances many types of equipment for a wide variety of industries, including transportation, construction, petroleum, marine, manufacturing and municipal. Currently, the unit has offices in 12 states, including the corporate office in Hattiesburg, MS.
The Industry’s A-Changing
“In this industry, if you did not or don’t change, you’re not going to be here,” Temple says matter of factly. She adds the company changed its moniker from an equipment leasing company to an equipment finance company because it was already financing to its customers beyond the typical lease.
“The industry was making a turn… We made that turn because we saw … that customers wanted more options. Even though leasing is flexible … we just had to add another component,” to better service customers and keep up with the turning of the tide.
It’s this following of the industry and focus on customers that makes BancorpSouth successful. “Our business model follows the business cycle,” she says. Although Temple anticipates 2007 growth, she notes she doesn’t expect the same numbers as 2006. “It’s going to be a difficult year. We understand that when the economy is growing through capital acquisitions, we will have better years than when business spending is off. This year, business spending is going to be up, but not necessarily in our market segments.”
Temple believes the industry as a whole will see margin compression and all players are going to have to be nimble. She also feels competition from global markets is going to push the industry to find ways to make all aspects better than ever before. “You have to find more economies in your business, more technology and more ways to do more with less.” BancorpSouth Equipment finance is working toward those goals by automating almost everything it does. Not only does this result in faster turnaround but less people to do it.
For example, the company added four new territories but only one staff member. It was able to do this with its already established automated origination platform, but is now taking it a step farther by focusing on a newer sales management platform. “We’re just doing more with less,” Temple says. “Every industry is having to do more with less to be successful.”
The company’s focus for this year and into 2008 is to concentrate on the areas it knows well while following the natural business cycles of its customers’ industries. As a division of parent company, BancorpSouth, the Equipment Financing unit is given a lot of autonomy to do what is best for its focus and its customers. “We will continue to look for ways to cut costs… We are launching our news sales management program … and investing in technology to help us manage our customer data.”
The result is to serve customers better by having all transaction and service histories right at a territory manager’s fingertips. “To have that history of everything we’ve done with them, when we did it, why we did it and what the customers’ needs were on a historical basis, will help us help them go forward.”
She describes the sector as customer centric. Because Temple and her group understand its customers’ industries, it forms a relationship with them almost like family. “When we bring a customer into our family, we really anticipate doing a lot more with that customer.”
Eighty percent of the division’s business, Temple says, comes from existing customers. Although the company adds new customers every year, its main goal is to concentrate on retaining existing customers and expanding the relationship for all involved. The unit does this by being the equipment experts for its customers.
“We know the equipment, we have an equipment manager/certified appraiser on staff. We really know the products we’re financing or leasing — we know their lifecycles, we know if we get a used piece of equipment what the price should be.” Temple also notes the unit makes an effort to know what the equipment will be used for such as bridge construction or federal or local highway construction, which adds to the relationship. And she can’t say enough about BancorpSouth’s customers. “Our customers are what really make our company so strong.”
Being the Odd Woman In
Temple, as one of two women presidents in this year’s Monitor 100, has had — like many other executives — to pull a juggling act with her many jobs, both professionally and personally, but she takes it all in stride. “I think everyone faces the same challenges… The additional challenge as a woman is you try to have a private life… I think the balancing act of trying to have a family and trying to run a business is difficult. You have to make compromises… But I made the decision to have a family and quality of life is an important factor in that decision. I got the best of both.”
Her advice for others, especially women, trying to break into the industry — be flexible. “You have to be flexible and realize that your management style will change throughout your career…You have to change with the marketplace, with the industry cycles…” Most of all, she says, keep a really open mind and be open to opportunities. “This has been a very good business for me.”
Temple joined BancorpSouth in 1975 armed with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Southern Mississippi and a degree from the Louisiana State University Graduate School of Banking. She has held a variety of jobs within the company — including administrative, sales and credit — before being named president in 1997. Her duties include taking administrative responsibility for the Equipment Finance unit as well as making most credit decisions associated with the company. Under Temple’s watchful eye, the unit has grown from a local provider of small-ticket leasing to offering equipment finance products and services to major businesses throughout the Southeast and Midwest.