Education for the People

by Grace A. Garwood Monitor 100 2020
For 18 years, Mary Smith has challenged the Highland Capital team to reach new heights. Her passion to mentor, educate and innovate has yielded significant company growth and a spot in the Monitor 100.

Mary Smith ,
Highland Capital

Mary Smith entered the equipment finance space at GE Capital in the early 1980s. “What started as a job turned into a career when I realized that no day is the same and this industry provides an opportunity to learn and grow.” Smith held sales and leadership positions at GE, Copelco and CitiCapital. After taking some time away from work to focus on family, she joined Highland Capital in 2002. “Looking back, there would be no other career choice for me because I have certainly learned a lot and grown personally and professionally,” Smith says.

As a leader, Smith has a passion for people. She mentors Highland team members at all levels, challenging them to optimize job performance, question routine processes and offer innovative solutions. “I believe that the key to our success is educating to the point that decisions can be pushed down to the closest point of customer contact to ensure that no matter how large we become, we will always remain nimble,” Smith says.

Smith’s short-term goal for Highland Capital is to continue growth in a controlled way while adapting to the post-pandemic “new normal.” In the long term, she identifies a need to increase the use of technology to meet the changing needs of customers and vendors and to “continue to diversify and expand business to other industry sets where we can leverage our infrastructure and technology.”

Post-pandemic, Smith sees contraction in new activity as business owners assess their own future. “While equipment financing is a reasonably consistent industry, it is normal to expect higher delinquency and losses than what has been historically known.” She also expects to see an increase in small business bankruptcy filings and failures, although this is highly dependent on the sub-industry served. “This situation will take some time to normalize. How long will depend on the resurgence impact and how fast the mid-size to large businesses return to the point prior to the pandemic,” Smith says.

Although providers will always come and go, Smith believes a key goal for equipment finance is to remain consistent during this challenging time. “Our industry plays an important role in the overall economy. While I would never subscribe to not adapting, what is important is that we consistently deliver the capital to businesses so that they can thrive and recover,” Smith says.

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