Mike Rooney: A Little Help from My Friends

by Monitor Staff Vol. 48 No. 4 2021
Mike Rooney wouldn’t be where he is today without determination, hard work and the friends he’s made along the way. Being a good leader requires patience, a strong resolve and knowing when to take a risk, and Rooney has learned when to take a chance on a potential employee regardless of industry standards.

Mike Rooney,
Verdant Commercial Capital

Mike Rooney, CEO of Verdant Commercial Capital, started in the equipment leasing and finance industry with a job at Xerox selling hardware alongside Vince Rinaldi, Bob Rinaldi and Denny Hirt, folks who would eventually combine resources and minds to create their first equipment finance business, Information Leasing Corporation (ILC), a company built to help vendors sell their equipment easier and at higher margins. Back then, equipment leasing was focused on larger ticket assets like mainframe computers. Very little leasing was done for amounts below $500,000, so the ILC team zeroed in on that market and expanded from there. Eventually, the company added Chris Kelley and John Merritt, who would go on to co-found Verdant with Rooney and helped build ILC from a credit risk and sales standpoint.

As members of the executive team at ILC, Merritt, Kelley and Rooney helped manage the growth process as it transitioned into different companies through three bank mergers over 15 years. When Wells Fargo bought GE Capital’s vendor finance business, the three decided it was an opportune time to start another independent, well-capitalized vendor finance business: Verdant Commercial Capital.

After years in banking, the Verdant team knew high-quality, patient capital was a key to long-term success. This patience enabled them to make longterm strategic decisions on building a predictable and sustainable business by building robust systems and attracting top talent. This model has allowed Verdant to more closely resemble the order and routine of a bank with the flexibility that entrepreneurs are known for — an intentional decision its founders envisioned early on. Verdant attained the No. 6 position in Monitor’s 2021 Top Private Independents ranking after only three years in business.

As CEO of Verdant, Rooney’s greatest passion is letting his employees have a voice in decisions and giving people a chance to become their own leaders. James Cress, vice president and general manager of Stryker’s Flex Financial, now on the board of trustees for the Equipment Leasing and Finance Association, is one example. Cress worked with Rooney when both were at National City Commercial Capital and he now heads a large organization and leads his team with inclusion and innovation. Cress is one of several industry leaders Rooney has worked with previously.

“You look at two very successful [women] who are now senior VPs at PNC Equipment Finance: Dawn Hoferer and Dolly Garret. They joined ILC when they were very young with almost no experience,” Rooney says. “They kept doing the jobs we gave them better than anyone else and they moved up. We were smart enough to see their talent and passion, give them more responsibility, support them, then get out of their way. Seeing others’ successes that you had a very small part of is really the most gratifying thing. If your folks are successful, the company will be successful.”

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