Best-in-Class: Hill Evolves Key Equipment Finance to Stay Ahead of Industry Trends
by Marielle Mondon September/October 2016
Before joining Key Equipment Finance as senior vice president of Commercial Manufacturer and Vendor Sales in July, Loren Hill accumulated 30 years of industry experience spanning different players in different cities, including 15 years at IBM Global Financing. His experience with a client-focused approach and ability to provide highly customized solutions has enabled him to make a smooth transition into his new role.
Over the summer, KeyCorp expanded its capabilities with the acquisition of First Niagara Financial Group, making way to merge First Niagara Bank into KeyBank during the final months of 2016.
For Loren Hill, Key Equipment Finance’s newest senior vice president of Commercial Manufacturer and Vendor Sales, the acquisition is a perfect example of why the timing felt right to transition to Key. He can lead a team within an organization that is big enough to support clients and maintain large-scale acquisitions while remaining nimble enough to meet the evolving needs of the equipment finance industry.
“Our recent acquisition of First Niagara just gives us more capabilities to better serve our clients,” Hill says.
With a New Role, a Colorado Homecoming
The new role comes with an added bonus for Hill: his return to Colorado, where he will be based in Key Equipment Finance’s headquarters near Denver. After attending graduate school in Denver, Hill worked in Colorado for 10 years before moving to other business hubs.
“During that time I had jobs in credit, credit management, finance, sales, sales management, syndication and securitization — all at a series of financial institutions,” Hill says of his career’s first 15 years. “Then in late 2000, I moved into a captive environment at IBM Global Financing, where I spent the next 15 years as a worldwide head of Capital Markets.”
While his move to Key feels like a natural progression, the departure from IBM wasn’t necessarily easy. “After 15 years, you develop a lot of professional and personal friendships,” he says. “My direct team at IBM was really close-knit, so my leaving generated a lot of emotion. But the transition to Key Equipment Finance has been really smooth. My boss, Adam Warner, and his executive team have bent over backwards to make me feel comfortable and to help me quickly get up to speed with the business. They have helped me integrate into both the equipment finance business and Key, so it has been pretty seamless.”
Warner has been a source of inspiration for Hill. “He’s a pillar of the industry,” Hill says, “and I’ve learned that he has a really outstanding leadership team.”
Vendor Financing Across Diverse Verticals
In his new role, Hill oversees several verticals, including energy, health care, industrial and technology.
“As a vendor finance organization, our mission is to support our vendor partners by providing financing solutions that meet specific needs,” Hill says of working across varied industries. Despite differences between those sectors, Hill says his role will be fairly consistent across each one.
“While there are some technical differences in product offerings across those verticals, the job’s really the same,” he says. “We’re trying to be responsive to our clients, we’re trying to provide best-in-class solutions and we’re trying to help our clients sell more, more profitably.”
Keeping up with rapidly changing technology trends is a priority for Hill’s group. “End-user clients increasingly want to pay for hardware and software as a service,” Hill says. “That trend is well established and gaining momentum in the technology space. But interestingly, here at Key, we have also seen this trend in other areas, such as health care and energy. This managed services approach puts pressure on both the manufacturer and the financial institution to adjust and adapt in terms of our products and offerings.”
That kind of challenge is an aspect of Hill’s job that keeps it interesting. “Reacting to change is part of the fun of working in the equipment finance industry,” he says. “And it is something that Key Equipment Finance has been very successful at over the years.”
Since assuming his role at Key, Hill has focused on acclimating to his new team and finding ways to continue innovating with them. “I inherited a fantastic platform,” Hill says. “We have really great people and excellent clients. My goal is to integrate into the team and continue to deliver for our vendor partners to help them grow.”
Looking at the bigger picture, Hill wants to continue helping the business evolve, ensuring that Key Equipment Finance stays ahead of industry trends.
“Our goal is to provide innovative solutions that are best in class in the vendor finance space,” Hill says.
Hill cites three ways Key Equipment Finance stands out from the competition.
“We are really top notch at providing customized solutions for our clients, whether they are vendors or direct end users,” Hill says. “When I was at IBM, I dealt with more than 50 banks globally. All of those banks — Key Equipment Finance included — could do plain vanilla deals. Only a handful, however, could deliver highly customized solutions, and Key Equipment Finance was at the very top of that small group.”
For example, earlier this year Key Equipment Finance provided a $3 million loan to solar developer Community Energy so it could build a solar installation for Elizabethtown College which provided energy savings, environmental benefits and educational opportunities. The loan was structured specifically to allow Community Energy to own the project so it could qualify for the solar investment tax credit. While the project was initially made possible by a Pennsylvania Energy Development Authority grant, additional financing helped push it toward completion.
In addition to customized solutions, Hill says Key Equipment Finance’s expertise in technology finance outshines competitors.
“Technology finance is a core competency here,” he says. “Key Equipment Finance is a pioneer in software financing. We’ve had a commitment to the industry for decades, and the level of experience and talent we’ve got in the technology vertical is amazing.”
This expertise is particularly helpful in understanding the nuances of technology software and software financing, he says, especially when creating customized structures and payment plans.
“We also have a best-in-class government finance group,” Hill says. “They provide financing for vendors and end-user clients in both the federal and municipal space. That’s a real differentiator for us.”
Key Government Finance works with federal, public sector and not-for-profit organizations, providing regulatory knowledge, simplified processing and tax-exempt expertise.
Imminent Cyclical Downturn
Hill can’t pinpoint a specific forecast but noted a few concerns and uncertainties as the industry heads into the final months of 2016.
“Year-to-date industry volumes are down compared to year-to-date volumes this time last year,” Hill says. “With uncertainties in the economy and the upcoming presidential election, my guess is that we’ll see more of the same in the near term. The industry will probably flatten out a little bit compared to last year, then rebound and keep going forward.”
Hill makes it a priority to monitor the trends so his team can respond accordingly. “As a sales leader, it’s my job to build a business,” he says. “But at the same time, we are past due — maybe way past due — for a cyclical downturn. It isn’t the right time in the cycle to be stretching to get business. Striking a balance between growth and risk management is vital. It will be a focus for me.”