As part of the expanded Monitor 100 this year, Monitor profiled five executives representing a vast range of companies on the list, each offering their own unique perspective on the industry and the growth of the business.
Jody Green (CBI Equipment Finance): Customizing Every Deal
In an interview with Nadine Bonner, Monitor’s senior editor, Jody Green confesses that he’s been president of Commerce Bank Equipment Finance for “about a minute,” before this interview! Which is almost true. Green was promoted to the top spot in January 2019 following the retirement of 25-year veteran Roger May.
But that doesn’t tell the whole story. Green spent three years at Commerce, a publicly traded bank based in Kansas City, MO, before moving on to GE Capital for a nine-year stint. He returned to Commerce in 2017 as National Relationship Manager. Which means despite his brief time as president, he has a strong sense of the company and the challenges of the industry.
From a short-term standpoint, Green says that the company is keeping a “keen eye” on the tax laws, especially in regard to understanding the changes in the 2017 laws. And, like everyone in the industry, the impact of new accounting regulation is on his radar.
“These are some historic changes for the equipment world, and we’re really focused on understanding those internally so that we can go out and serve our clients,” Green says.
Serving clients remains the focus for Green, who notes that despite the changes in the industry, Commerce is on a steady course. “Strategy-wise, we want to keep doing what we’ve been doing,” he says. “We’re certainly agile and innovative but it always starts with the customer and with our employees. We’re going to continue to focus on bringing a high level of service and offer really customized tailored solutions to meet their needs.”
At the same time, Commerce is expanding its originations team as part of the bank’s overall expansion strategy. Green’s team has staff on the origination side from Cleveland to Denver to Chicago to Houston and “all points in between. That’s really kind of what we would call our footprint area,” he says.
In the last six months, he has filled originations positions in St. Louis and Houston. He added that the company’s entry to Texas “started off with a bang,” and it now has staff in Houston and Dallas.
What is the secret sauce that differentiates Commerce from its many competitors?
Green stresses that all of the deals are very customized to meet each client’s unique needs.
“We take a very consultative approach with our customers and prospects to really understand their business, their goals and objectives. Then we tailor a solution to meet that, and Commerce gives us the opportunity to really get creative,” he says, adding, “We don’t do a lot of cookie cutter processing here.”
This culture of creativity and customer care is what drove Green back to Commerce.
“I look at every transition as an opportunity to grow and expand personally. In my career path, I took what I learned at Commerce, and I made the transition to GE. But everything I learned originally from Commerce didn’t leave. It just helped me augment my knowledge base. It helped me grow and expand while I was there.”
In the end, he returned to Commerce because he valued the culture and the people who created it.
“It’s the people and it’s the innovation that drives those people in the culture. It’s not uncommon to see folks that have been at the bank for a decade or two decades or several decades, and the same thing is true on our customer side. That’s a testament to Commerce. The culture is, start with your customers and what you’re trying to do for them, and then treat the people that are getting you there the right way,” Green says.
Michael Maiorino (People’s United Bank): Complementary Brands, United in Mission
People’s United Bank has been expanding its reach in the equipment finance area. To learn about the strategy behind the bank’s recent acquisitions and its future goals, Monitor editorial board member and chief marketing officer at Leaf Commercial Capital, Michelle Speranza, interviewed Michael Maiorino.
Over the last few years, People’s United has acquired LEAF Commercial Capital, Vend Lease Company and, most recently, VAR Technology Finance. How have these acquisitions contributed to your overall strategy in the equipment finance market?
Our acquisitions of LEAF, Vend Lease, and VAR were chosen to allow us to bring a more comprehensive, specialized solutions offering to the marketplace, as well as diversify our lending portfolio. We look specifically at industries or segments of industries that are significantly different than or complementary to what we’re currently doing. But our acquisition strategy isn’t just about breadth. It’s about depth, bringing the best offering to every market we serve, so we’re careful to select acquisitions that not only expand our market opportunities but also bring additional strengths, industry exposure and capabilities to our organization. As far as future growth is concerned, we’re always looking for opportunities to augment our organic growth strategy with acquisitions that add reach and strength to our portfolio.
People’s United Equipment Brands achieved a 19.7% year-over-year increase in new business volume from 2017 to 2018. What factors led to this result?
Strong organic expansion has played a major role in our year-over-year growth, as has the strategic acquisition of fantastic companies that are leaders in markets complementary to our own. We acquire organizations and people who understand their client’s unique needs and the markets they operate in, supporting the unique value they bring to the markets they serve and provide the resources that allow them to become even greater. In turn, their strengths become available to leverage throughout the organization, driving accelerated growth across business lines. In addition, we have a common culture that values independent thinking, creativity, relationships, and the drive to always push beyond good to great. Growth is generated by your people, and ours are some of the brightest and hardest working in the industry.
In the past, People’s United Equipment Finance, People’s Capital Leasing and LEAF Commercial Capital reported their Monitor 100 results separately, but this year they have been combined under your leadership of Specialized Businesses. What can we expect from your leadership?
Specialized Businesses at People’s United are viewed as a complementary integrated brand that’s unified in its mission and strategy. Each is comprised of a variety of distinct, best-in-class market leaders with individual strengths and a specialized skill and knowledge-set unique to their industry focus. Every brand within Specialized Businesses maintains its own qualities and approaches to client service, while simultaneously leveraging the combined strength of People’s United to deliver solutions that are as tailored and distinct as our clients are. If one has a more optimal process for handling a particular business function, for example, it’s shared throughout the organization.
We’re careful to preserve the unique qualities of each company, and each has its own function, scope, and importance. We believe by working together we can drive value that’s even greater than the sum of the parts.
That’s our vision for Specialized Businesses: a specialized network of distinct brands working separately and together to offer additional value to customers through relationships, specialized in-market expertise and solutions that matter, to further strengthen the overall People’s United brand and customer offering. • (Part One)
Barry Shafran, President and CEO , Chesswood Group Limited
Barry Shafran shares the story behind Chesswood Group’s journey from a Canadian new car dealership business with automotive lease receivables of just $80 million in 1999, to a North American public equipment finance business with a portfolio of $1.0 billion in 2019. He says the one constant and key ingredient in Chesswood’s journey is its amazing team of tenured and committed people.