Copple acknowledges that his client-centric approach is what keeps him in the equipment leasing and finance game after 22 years. “It comes down to the people and the relationships that I have developed. It is rewarding to provide capital to entrepreneurs that are literally helping to build our country, watch their businesses grow and be a part of their success. That’s the essence of why I love this industry so much,” he explains.
Triumph Adds Commercial Finance
Triumph Commercial Finance was formed in November 2011 by Triumph Savings Bank, which was founded in November 2010, when a group of investors led by Aaron P. Graft, now CEO of the bank, acquired and recapitalized financially troubled Equity Bank. Triumph Commercial Finance then acquired Advance Business Capital, a transportation factoring company, in January 2012. Joining Copple at Triumph Commercial Finance is Dan Karas, who runs the asset-based lending side of the house as executive vice president.
Upon announcing the addition of Copple and Karas, Graft described the expansion into commercial finance and asset-based lending as “a logical next step for Triumph.” Copple explains that equipment finance, ABL and non-transportation factoring complement the business lines that Triumph already offers. “Adding a commercial finance group, including equipment finance, helped us to diversify. Together we offer deep market expertise,” Copple says.
Success Through Specialization
As of now, the equipment finance unit, which began lending in November 2012, focuses on the transportation, construction and refuse industries. Copple and his group find these industries attractive because the collateral has a broad resale market, the assets include essential-use equipment for the economy and they produce income. “My team and I know these industries well, and we speak the language of our customers, which allows us to provide great solutions for these specialized markets,” he says.
The strength of Triumph’s equipment finance lies not only in industry expertise, but also in the team of professionals he has assembled. His team includes sales vice presidents Melissa Gallegos and John Hammer, who both joined Triumph from People’s United, Amy Walker, vice president of operations, and Tulani Ruffin, credit analyst, who both came from CitiCapital.
Copple adds, “The members of the group I’ve developed internally all have more than ten years of experience in the transportation, construction and waste industries. They know the businesses and the people who run those businesses.”
A veteran of commercial equipment finance, Copple jokes that he entered the field “by chance.” After earning a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Arkansas, he began to knock on doors to find employment and interviewed with Associates Commercial Corporation, one of the largest transportation finance companies in the U.S. at the time. The rapport was mutual, and he spent the first 12 years of his career with Associates and, through acquisition, CitiCapital Commercial. There he worked his way up the ranks, starting as a manager trainee, then serving in collections, credit, sales and ultimately running a branch.
Copple left CitiCapital in 2002 and joined Houston-based Financial Federal Credit, a publicly held commercial finance company. At Financial Federal, he launched a transportation branch and built it to $250 million in six years — a significant portfolio for the Southwest region. After achieving success on the transportation side, he was asked to lead the construction equipment financing branch of People’s United Bank, which acquired Financial Federal in 2010. “The construction branch was the largest branch at Financial Federal. It was an honor to work and run that branch,” he says.
The decision to continue to hone his expertise in transportation financing stems from his love of the industry and the colleagues he has worked with over the years. He explains, “Just about everything we use is delivered by a truck. The transportation finance industry, for as large as it is, is actually a pretty small group. You end up running into people that you worked with ten or fifteen years ago who are still in the industry.”
The equipment finance group’s target customers are small to medium-sized companies run by entrepreneurs, not publicly-held companies, with a deal size range of $250,000 to $5 million. “But, if we saw potential in a deal outside of that sweet spot, we would not dismiss the opportunity,” Copple adds.
The geographic footprint of the Dallas-based equipment finance operation encompasses Texas and the contiguous states. “We have people on the ground in these markets, but we aren’t limiting ourselves by geography. We will expand into different states when we find the right people with the appropriate experience and background,” Copple notes.
Regarding expansion into other industries, Copple explains that it would depend upon finding exceptional talent that understands and knows the prospective industry — and its contacts — thoroughly. “You can’t have one foot in and one foot out. We are committed to our specialized industries and ready to weather all business cycles,” he says.
Describing the genesis of Triumph’s equipment finance business, Copple explains that 2012 was a building year, busy with setting up its platform, developing policies and procedures and hiring staff. He adds, “2013 obviously will be a growth year because we are starting from scratch. Our target is to be at around $75 million by the end of this year. Longer term, say I’m going out three years, our goal is between $175 million and $200 million.”
To reach those goals, Triumph Commercial Finance is relying in part on the synergy among its groups. While there is no formal cross selling plan at present, discussions with clients often drive additional business. “There is cross selling in the sense that it occurs during an ordinary conversation with the customer. For example, when one of our factoring people is out with a trucking company talking about factoring, it is natural to ask if they finance equipment. That seems to be a big positive for Advance Business Capital, because clients like that can factor with ABC, but also have the ability to finance equipment with us when the need arises,” Copple says.
Another example that Copple gives is that as a Triumph customer grows, it has the option and convenience to move from a factoring relationship to an ABL relationship within the organization. Moreover, as that growth continues, the client can move into a traditional line of credit with Triumph Savings Bank.
As a whole, Copple sees the equipment finance industry entering 2013 with cautious optimism, not expecting to see huge growth in equipment purchasing, but hoping for improvements in the second half of the year.
He adds that about 80% of his equipment finance group’s deals in 2012 were driven by replacement demand, with the remaining 20% by capacity expansion. “In our areas of expertise, I expect to see customers making decisions based on what is happening today, rather than trying to predict the future,” he says.
Lisa M. Goetz is an editor of the Monitor.
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