Joe Nachbin’s four decades in equipment finance were characterized by integrity, kindness and the ability to read financial statements and static loss pools like poetry. With the help of several people who knew him well, Monitor pays tribute to Nachbin in a special posthumous profile.
Joe Nachbin, Director, The Alta Group
Joe Nachbin’s passion for equipment finance was so strong, he remained dedicated to his work until two hours before he passed away in July 2022, according to his wife, Ruby Nachbin. Attorney and investment banker, Paul Bent, senior managing director of The Alta Group, says Nachbin was “on the game” and “sharp as ever” right up until the end. Nachbin had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer only two months before succumbing to the disease.
Nachbin devoted four decades of his career to equipment finance. According to The Alta Group, Nachbin began his career as an auditor for a bank before becoming a vendor and large-ticket specialist with Continental Illinois Bank, structuring and managing transactions with Heller Financial and Flagship Credit, providing senior management experience with Copelco Financial Services and serving for the past 20 years as a highly valued consultant and leasing expert with The Alta Group.
John Deane, member of board of directors, The Alta Group, says Nachbin was a member of an unofficial ad hoc committee that represented bank leasing companies that would become the Association of Equipment Lessors, a predecessor of Equipment Leasing and Finance Association (ELFA). Nachbin went on to serve as a director of the ELFA and a chairman of its Accounting and Compensation Committees.
Behind the Businessman
Ruby and Joe Nachbin were married for 31 years. According to Ruby Nachbin, her husband was an avid reader, a Chicago Cubs fan and he loved his mother-in-law’s sweet potato pie. Nachbin loved spending time with his family and reading to his grandchildren. He was religious and attended most holiday services at his synagogue.
“He was a great listener, he was interested in other people and he was always quick to laugh, which, to me, is an important thing about people,” Bent says. “That was Joe. I think he was very comfortable in his own skin.
“I’ve hardly ever met someone, particularly in a work environment who never had a bad thing to say about anybody. Your mother taught you, ‘If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.’ Joe lived by that,” Bent says. “I can’t recall in all the years I knew him that he participated in the chatter that everybody engages in from time to time. He never did that. He was truly an honorable, gracious person. And I think it was real. I think that’s who he really was.”
“He was helpful with people when they’d come to him with their problems or issues, and it didn’t necessarily have to be anything regarding an account, but just in general,” Ruby Nachbin says. “He didn’t mind talking to anybody pretty much about anything … and he was like a vacuum cleaner for knowledge.”
Leading by Example & Experience
Deane says Nachbin’s leadership was derived from his knowledge: “Joe was older when still doing work for Alta, and the first impression of some clients was ‘This guy is too old. What’s he doing here? What’s his knowledge? How is that relevant to what I’m doing today?’ And it was always kind of fun to work on something like that with him and watch that happen at first. And then have him absolutely blow them away with why he was there, what he knew and the value he brought to the engagement because of his background and knowledge developed over more than 50 years of being in the business.”
Bent says people respected Nachbin so much that he was a leader by action: “Joe didn’t have to say, ‘Come follow me,’ he just gave his opinion and views on issues, and people would follow his direction. In that sense, he had an innate leadership quality — a leader by example and experience.”
Deane notes that although Nachbin was quiet, he wasn’t afraid to bring something up that wasn’t very popular at the time or something that people weren’t focusing on correctly. “When he did talk, people paid attention to him,” Deane says.
“Joe was super ethical and professional. He had a kindness,” Bill Verhelle, CEO of QuickFi, says. “He just epitomized everything that’s positive about people that you respect in business.”
Nachbin worked closely with Verhelle during his time with First American Equipment Finance, where he conducted a deep dive into the business with Tom Wajnert (now chairman of Alta’s board) and attended company meetings and brainstorming sessions. And even after the company was acquired by City National and its need for financial advisors wound down, Nachbin kept in touch with the people he had worked with at First American.
“The business relationship had ended, but Joe would always send me an email around Christmas time and just send his well wishes,” Mike Ziegelman, who now serves as chief financial officer at QuickFi, says. “He was just a genuine guy.”
A Sixth Sense for Deals
Verhelle kept Nachbin on as a consultant after launching QuickFi. “It was almost like an insurance policy having Joe involved,” Verhelle says. “The things that get you in trouble in business are the things where you don’t think you need any help and you actually are off the rails. You don’t know what you don’t know, and that’s where the problems come in. I just knew if there was something like that, Joe would find it.”
“He had a wonderful nose for sniffing out something that wasn’t right,” Deane says. “Sometimes that was fraud in a company’s portfolio. Sometimes it was somebody in due diligence trying to explain how they did something that didn’t make any sense. So, he knew that the answer was not necessarily fraudulent, but not complete or not correct.”
Bent says Nachbin was a rare person who could read the notes of a financial statement or a static loss pool like poetry, immediately identifying issues. “I think he really was a deal whisperer,” Bent says. “He had the magic touch.”
Deane recalls an instance in which The Alta Group declined an engagement because Nachbin urged the team to avoid affiliating with a particular organization, even as a consultant. “Which turned out to be very prophetic, because it was one of the bigger regulatory and legal and fraud stories of the industry history,” Deane says.
In other situations, Nachbin would encourage an Alta client to avoid a deal if it wasn’t a good fit for them, even if it meant that The Alta Group missed a revenue opportunity.
“When you’re in a business and you get paid by the hour, you want business rolling in the front door,” Deane says. “I considered that a mark of high character. It’s kind of easy to bend your principles when you want to pay for the heat and the electricity. And to stand firm and not do that, I think was a real hallmark of Joe.”
Deane says Nachbin was “one of the more remarkably straightforward and honest” people he has ever met who was “always concerned about doing the right things.” Deane notes that working on projects with Nachbin “was a joy” because there was no shortcutting. “He really wanted to make sure that he understood what was going on with an engagement.”
Nachbin wasn’t motivated by his personal position in a deal or opportunities to make more money or to look like a big shot. “That was as far from Joe as it could be,” Bent says. “He truly believed in just doing what he knew how to do best: understanding the deal and working it.
“He will definitely be missed,” Bent says. “He was a tremendous asset to our firm and to the industry. I read recently that everyone actually dies twice, once when they physically are gone and next, the last time anyone says their name. And I really took that to heart. I think someone like Joe needs to be remembered and needs to be spoken about because he was a tremendous contributor to the business, to his colleagues and to the world at large. I think we ought to have more people like Joe.”
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Wingspire Equipment Finance
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