Eric Zehr: Staying Focused Through Downturns

by Monitor Staff Vol. 48 No. 5 2021
Eric Zehr, president of Bell Bank Equipment Finance, knows his company’s place in the market. Prudence and reservation pay off when the going gets tough and Bell Bank was positioned to see the light at the end of the tunnel sooner than most companies in 2020.

Eric Zehr,
Bell Bank Equipment Finance

After 25 years in working in various capacities within the equipment finance industry, Eric Zehr sunk his roots into Bell Bank Equipment Finance in 2018, citing an attraction to the bank’s reputation, its management team and the fact that the bank operated as a privately-held entity.

Bell Bank is a bank-owned equipment finance company focusing on three main channels (vendor/dealer channels, direct originations and indirect originations).

For direct originations, a handful of representatives cover the channel, with the team working with small businesses all the way up to investment-grade companies. Zehr says his team has the capability to underwrite smaller transactions while having the pricing and sophistication to look at larger credits as well.

For indirect originations, Bell Bank purchases loans and leases from other banks and equipment finance companies. This channel also allows Bell Bank’s employees to support one another with an internal referral system. Bell Bank Equipment Finance also supports its vast correspondent bank channel, contacting smaller banks throughout the U.S. and supporting them with an equipment leasing product.

Zehr calls Bell Bank an “equipment generalist,” but since some of the firm’s early success came from supporting the construction, manufacturing and transportation industries, it will seek to remain focused on those industries moving forward. Zehr also expects Bell Bank will invest more in the direction of the manufacturing and specialty vehicle segments while filling the void left in particular markets as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

When asked what advice he has for managing liquidity in the event of an economic crisis, Zehr says, “I think equipment finance companies and banks face a wide range of liquidity pressures when you go through something like this. We were fortunate here at Bell Bank where it was maybe not as much of a concern as it would have been in other places. But at the same time, as you start into an interruption like we faced, you have to be more diligent with the money that you’re putting out there.”

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