Change the Channel! Casey on SLR Equipment Finance’s Vendor Channel Drive

by Ian Koplin May/June 2022
Spearheading SLR Equipment Finance’s new foray into the vendor channel, CEO Tom Casey uses a combination of servant leadership, a collaborative team effort and decades of experience to steer the company to new and exciting heights. Forecasting tripled growth in the coming years, Casey lays out his prior paths while giving insight on the roads ahead.

Tom Casey,
SLR Equipment Finance

“The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively.” – Bob Marley

When Tom Casey graduated from college, it seemed like all of the young professionals around him were starting insurance careers. Determined to fight the tide, Casey initially started working as a substitute teacher in his home state of Connecticut, where his knack for expediting agendas first blossomed.

As a substitute teacher, Casey could more easily manage his schedule to accept job interviews for something more permanent while accepting substitute teaching jobs as time permitted. Casey also employed one caveat to accepting a substitute teaching role, which sculpted his professional outlook in a way still seen in his current role as the newly appointed CEO of SLR Equipment Finance. What was the caveat? He wasn’t there to babysit the students. Casey required the teacher’s agenda and direction for the lesson prior to taking a substitute role so he could carry the baton until the teacher returned.

Before long, teachers who called out sick skipped their substitute teacher rosters for Casey because he kept the classes on track while they were gone. This experience of making a difference and being sought after for his professional drive, combined with an upbringing surrounded by a family of educators, nurtured Casey’s love of coaching and mentoring and, in turn, shaped how he has become a champion of servant leadership today.

From Teaching to Training

One of the teachers for whom Casey substituted had a daughter who worked for a bank, which had a management training program. The teacher believed Casey would be a good fit for this 16-month endeavor, which showed Casey every level, nook and cranny of the bank. After every session, the homework was to write a report about what he’d learned from the department, team or transactions he worked on.

This experience helped drill infrastructure, hierarchy and the scope of entire processes into Casey’s professional development strategy, as they cascaded through departments, delivering him to a focused interest in commercial lending at the end of the management training program. Starting at a local community bank after the program, Casey got his feet wet by launching a credit department from the ground up. Fast forward a few years and Casey climbed the ladder to loan officer, getting into underwriting and presenting deals, working with credit, selling the bank’s product offerings and dealing with soft workouts, delinquencies and more.

From Banking to Finance

Rounding out his experience in risk and business origination with the newly added perspective of the customer through his role as loan officer, Casey took an opportunity to step away from banking and step toward financing, a move that caused his career to take off. Now, after 25 years in vendor finance, Casey’s previous hard work at DLL transforming the vendor channel platform into a multi-billion-dollar origination machine earned him enough recognition to be approached in Q1/22 for the role of CEO of SLR Equipment Finance as it embarks on a newly launched partner-centric vendor channel platform.

In this new role, Casey hit the ground running, crediting his success to his background and leadership style. Already, he has plans to introduce products and services, develop company infrastructure and license software as well as expand the team roster with more members.

Five Years From Now

While keeping the direct channel in place, Casey insists that adding a vendor channel is a natural necessity that will give the SLR team an advantage. The vendor channel will complement the direct channel, slowly increasing in significance within the next five years. The direct channel will remain active as the company considers new sectors. Casey also says the asset classes SLR currently caters to will remain part of the company’s focus in one way or another.

“I’d like to see our portfolio triple, if not quadruple,” Casey says. “I also want to make sure, from a member perspective, that we are making sure that we’re setting the right platform for them to grow and develop and invest in them as well. I want to make sure we’re going to track the engagement level of our members and their support and recognition of the company. And we’re going to be doing that by starting to monitor NPS (net promoter scores) from our customers, but also employing net promoter scores as well as engagement scores so we can make sure that we’re conscientious of, yes, growing and building this platform, but also growing and building our members as well.”

Involve Yourself in Your Team and Industry

It’s Casey’s sense of servant leadership that made him an attractive candidate for the role of CEO. His focus on the team as a whole and its individual members as well as mentoring and watching them grow toward success is what Casey calls his greatest accomplishment. From the start of his career as a substitute teacher in his home town to CEO of SLR Equipment Finance, empowering others has always been central to Casey’s individual success.

“If I think about my proudest accomplishments in my career, it’s not things I’ve done,” Casey says. “It’s been actually seeing individuals that I’ve had the opportunity to work with and mentor and coach and to see them grow and develop. My first credit analyst today is now the chief risk officer for one of the Connecticut banks, and he was a bank teller. I brought him in, trained him, and to see where he is with his career — those are my proudest moments, not my personal achievements along the way.”

Also central to Casey’s success has been a continued involvement in industry-related associations, such as the Associated Equipment Dealers Foundation (AED), for which Casey has served as a board member. Casey says if you’re going to focus on specific asset classes and offer services and products, you need to both understand and get as close as you can to everything in that space. The best way to do that is to join an organization and become a part of that ever-evolving body of knowledge and experience. Speaking specifically of AED and its focus on scholarships, branding and political lobbying, Casey emphasizes the direct connection between involvement in the organization and an individual’s impact on the industry as a whole.

Onward and Upward

As the coming months unfold, SLR Equipment Finance’s new vendor channel will introduce a partner-centric platform that coincides with and leverages the existing direct platform. Casey has assembled a team of executives to lead the way and a planned company refresh will lead to an implementation of new policies and procedures, an expansion of team members and the continued success of both channels on one platform. One thing is for certain with this expanding agenda: Casey will not be babysitting anyone any time soon.

Ian Koplin is an editor of Monitor. Rita E. Garwood, editor in chief, interviewed Tom Casey for this article.

Leave a comment