Are You an Underwriter Thinking About Going into Sales?

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call centerMy days of working on deals are long gone but once upon a time I was the head of one of the most well-known MCA underwriting departments (Merchant Cash and Capital). The problem was that I was a restless 24 year-old with a front row seat to watching ISOs my age and younger make up to 4x as much as my salary all while spending their days giving me a hard time. I don’t have to recall what it was like because I wrote it down when it was happening.

“ISOs debate constantly about declines and make excuses for required paperwork that merchants can’t produce,” I wrote.

I had little appreciation for how hard sales was and I relished being a hardliner on guidelines. While this approach ultimately paid off majorly for the company (it was in the run-up to 2008!), it did not prepare me for what I did next. I quit my position and became a sales rep for an affiliated ISO, you know because I thought I would automatically become rich off commissions.

After learning that sales meant I would get only 3 leads per day, it dawned on me that 95% of my time would be spent cold calling UCCs. And so that’s what I did, blasting away UCCs on a manual hand dial basis because there was no auto-dialer. Getting any app in at all was a huge achievement and I begged and pleaded with underwriters to pre-approve incomplete files that in a former life I would have enjoyed striking down.

It was a very humbling experience, which was made all the more humble when about a month later almost every MCA company in the industry stopped funding as credit lines got pulled and the financial system came to a standstill to kick off the Great Recession. I really could not believe my luck. My position had no base pay in those days so I had really shot myself in the foot. Just as before, I documented my experience.

“My streak was extended to 25 declined deals and a merchant I had been pitching for literally 4 months was finally giving me a shot. The sweat, the stress, and the dwindling commission paychecks led to the addition of a 2% closing cost on the deal. The merchant ok’d it and signed my form.”

I wasn’t the closing fee type but after the terrible streak and virtually no pay for a whole month, it happened. Unfortunately, the funder I did it with was not happy about it at all.

“The funder got wind of the closing cost and called our office,” I wrote. “Something was said about greed and overburdening their merchant. A warning was issued and they were going to watch my submissions more closely. 25 straight submissions with auto-decline notices, 4 months of sweat in closing a deal, and only a quarter of that 2% closing cost actually going into my pocket. That’s pre-tax by the way. Now I’m on their watch list.”

Somehow, somewhere at a funding company there was an underwriter out there talking about me being an annoying ISO. Fortunately, I appreciated the irony at the time and it was no hard feelings. I felt thankful for having had the experience on the other side of the table.

If you’re wondering if I went back to underwriting or gave up sales, I didn’t. I continued on as a sales rep and manually dialed hundreds of people a day for another three years. I really enjoyed the challenge and the motivation it sparked inside me. I ended up getting a lot of deals funded, though probably not enough to say that I was ever great at it. I launched deBanked while doing this believe it or not. Smile and dial during the day, type on the site at night. Oh those were the days.

The moral of my experience is that the grass is always greener on the other side and sometimes it takes walking a mile in another person’s shoes to really appreciate what they do. If you’re ever annoyed by someone you have to deal with or envious of whatever they’re getting, just know there’s probably more to the story. I hope this helps.

Last modified: September 26, 2023
Sean Murray

Category: merchant cash advance

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