Since: February 2020
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Technology, finance, healthcare, sales, and marketing have all been reported to have the highest levels of employee stress and mental health issues. Eager, driven executives of this industry work around the clock to close deals, finance equipment, and conjur fresh new ideas. While alternative finance can be deemed the industry that never sleeps, the people pushing it forward should remember not to push themselves too hard. Prioritizing one’s mental health can often be found at the bottom of one’s checklist but should be the first thing assessed before starting the day.
“It is critical that we start really focusing in on understanding that mental health is part of every everything we do, every part of who we are, how we see ourselves, how we interact with others, how willing we are to take risks, how willing we are to be ambitious, and how forgiving we are of ourselves when we make mistakes,” said Nancy Robles, President at Eastern Funding LLC.
Success is an adrenaline rush and can be addicting if not managed properly. Jessica Garcia, CEO at Simplified Funding Solutions, at one point struggled to find a balance between her work and home life, leaving her feeling burnt out more days than some. She believed the more hours put in working on a deal the faster results she’d attain in return. Finding ways to regroup and reassess, she created her own methods within the workplace to cater to her mental health.
“I started doing like a lot of self-care within the workplace,” said Garcia. “So what I mean by that, as opposed to sitting at my desk and being glued to a hard phone on a conference call for an hour, I would just put it on my cell phone through my air pods, walk around, grab a stress ball, sightseeing, have meditation music in the background at a very low volume to help stimulate. I would turn on some candles to help with the aromatherapy and I noticed once I started doing those things, I was able to pace myself more and I was also happier…”
Meanwhile, For Nancy Robles, she’s not just the president of a company but also a full-time mother of five. The pressure of performing as a woman of color in this industry while juggling motherhood are constantly clashing and finding themselves at odds with one another. But as of late, Robles has learned to emphasize mental health into her daily routine.
“Over the past several years, I’ve prioritized my mental health and as I have prioritized my mental health that comes with a lot of self-care, a lot of healing,” said Robles. “I’m a big advocate for therapy, everybody should go to therapy. I’ve been going to therapy for seven years.”
Unlike Robles and Garcia, finding a work/home life balance has its own unique twist for Sonia Alvelo whose fiancée is also her partner at work. And after 15 long years together they’ve managed to find stability between the two.
“Communication is big for us in everything that we do, in order to be better,” said Alvelo, CEO at Latin Financial. Administering daily mental health exercises in one’s routine can make all the difference but having the support of one’s employer can make an even bigger one.
Incorporating necessary steps and open communication in the workforce can help a team or staff to not feel as if they are being hammered by their 9 to 5. On this, Jessica Garcia has noticed companies moving in the right direction, implementing more group activities and break spaces for women especially as they are growing in number in the finance sector.
“We’re getting that softer, feminine touch, in regard to ‘it’s okay to take a day off if you’re over it, it’s okay to go home early if you’re just burnt out,’” said Garcia. “’It’s okay to ask for help if you’re overwhelmed and need assistance from the team to complete a task. It’s okay to be vulnerable, it’s okay to be human,’ we’re not robots, we’re not machines. And I think in the past two years, especially after the pandemic, we’re starting to see that synergy of being there for each other.”
Alvelo recognizes the significance mental health has within a company as a CEO. Weekly discussions with her team throughout the years has helped for a happy community life in her office.
“I have a responsibility as a CEO and I have a big one on top of that because I’m a Latina CEO. I have to bring things to the table that other companies may not talk about it or may not talk about enough.”
Success starts within oneself to achieve it anywhere else. In order to put your best foot forward in this industry take time, check in, and evaluate your mental health.
“One of the critical pillars of having any success in any type of career,” said Robles, “if you own your own company, if you want any successes, you want to have your relationships in your family, your relationship with yourself, which is the most important one, you really have to address mental health first.”
Now that small and medium sized businesses received crucial PPP and EIDL funding during the COVID-19 pandemic, they have become more familiar with other options to obtain capital.
“…they’re learning that they can borrow money based on their revenue, not based on their credit and assets,” stated Sean Feighan, Co-founder and President of Cash Buoy. Feighan explained that the exercise of obtaining capital during Covid to stay in business created or further developed an appetite for small businesses to borrow money in general.
As these businesses are still utilizing the remaining government aid, the real demand has not truly begun, according to Dylan J Howell, CEO of Liquidibee. “…we have yet to see the real big demand that’s about to kick in, in my opinion, over the next six to twelve months, I believe that a lot more demand will come in,” Howell said. “A lot of companies received a good injection of government stimulus. And they’ve enjoyed that over the last year, year and a half. And as that comes to an end, companies are always looking for additional capital, whether it be to grow or foster future growth of their company.”
“I think we’re beginning now to see a new phase within small business,” said Avi Wernick, VP of Partnerships at FinTap. Because of the money that’s still lingering from the stimulus efforts, he thinks that alternative finance companies will soon see more demand in the coming months. But at the same time, those finance companies will have to determine if they’re even a good fit for their products. “I think some businesses will be more adversely affected. I think it depends a lot on the nature of the business owners, you know there are better business owners out there that are able to manage [their] finances more responsibly, and there are others that are kind of just more reactive.”
Erez Stamler, CEO and Managing Director of Fresh Funding, echoed a similar sentiment. He said that increased risk factors of a business coming out of Covid can make it harder to get them approved. Besides, a business now predisposed to forgivable funding or ultra long terms at very low interest may not necessarily demand other products in the market.
“So you will see demand, but you might not see increased amount of views or volume of deals, because you can’t replace SBA loans with MCA,” Stamler said.
The Irish government has taken a serious liking to fintech. With a broad history of being active in financial services, the nation believes they can attract companies from around the world to reap the benefits of employing Irish citizens, while also tapping a major source of export revenue through an up-and-coming industry.
With access to capital for small businesses just as difficult here as it is in the US, a new fintech company looking for start-up cash may be able to turn to Dublin to get a major investment, rather than dealing with a retail investor or a venture capital firm here in the states. Enterprise Ireland, the organzation that runs these programs, is trying to tempt fintech companies looking for a fresh start or an international expansion to start that process in Ireland.
“Enterprise Ireland is the trade development and venture capital arm of the Irish Government,” said Claire Verville, Senior Vice President of Fintech and Financial Services at Enterprise Ireland. “We are a semi state agency and our mandate is to help support indigenous Irish enterprise to grow and expand in global markets.”
Just like in the United States, it is extremely difficult for an Irish business to walk into a big bank and get a loan. It’s in these situations where the Irish government has decided to make a direct investment themselves. Through Enterprise Ireland, according to Verville, the Irish government can provide capital to startups across a range of areas, in exchange for things like loan repayment or government equity in the company.
“In addition to the kind of more traditional trade development stuff that you would see from any government promoting their indigenous businesses abroad, we do invest directly in companies through equity and participate directly as a [limited partner] in funds to funds.”
Verville spoke about how the Irish government has been looking to extend funding to fintech startups for some time. “Our fintech portfolio is over 200 companies now, we have been one of the most active investors in Europe in a long time. We are one of the most active global investors across all sectors, and we’re really focused on early stage capital for fintech.”
When asked about the decision making process that goes into Irish investments, Verville portrayed it the same as if it was a private firm making the same move. “We will vet like any other investment, make sure we’re comfortable with it, make sure that the business is verifiable, and that we understand the track record of the team,” she said.
Through investing in fintech, Enterprise Ireland appears to believe they will give their small business owners better access to capital. If the industry can create a Euro-American hub in Ireland, the latest tech and funding innovations will develop there, giving access to that technology to Irish businesses first. If Irish small business lenders can use Irish technology to help an Irish merchant, everyone wins.
With financial innovation in Europe being leaps ahead of the US, Verville believes the Irish employees working in finance would be better suited to deal with some of these new innovations over Americans because of their familiarity with these systems that are already in place. She hinted at things like EMV cards being around in Ireland for years at the consumer level before they ever made it to the United States.
As far as incentive for profit, Enterprise Ireland isn’t concerned with the success of their investment from a financial perspective as other investment groups are. They instead focus on things like employment numbers and longterm sustainability for those jobs acquired through their efforts in investing in industries like fintech.
“Because we are attached to the government, we aren’t a money-making mission as far as venture capitalists go. We are focused on employment in Ireland, which is partly why it’s so important that the companies are founded in Ireland and that they are building their employee base in Ireland, and on export revenue.”
Verville spoke about how only when businesses in Ireland do well, Enterprise Ireland only does well, too. “We do make money off some of our investments, and that’s government money. We get our budget set by the government department every year, just like any other government agency.”
To be eligible for funding from Enterprise Ireland, a business needs to be based in Ireland, have an Irish LLC, and must have a significant amount of Irish employees. According to Verville, the Irish market is ripe for American small businesses, especially alternative finance.
At least two funding companies have told deBanked off the record that they plan on opening offices in the Miami area in the new year.
It seems that South Florida, particularly Miami, is where the small business finance industry may be moving for a fresh start, and with that potentially ditching the suit and tie for flip flops and shades in the process. The social, political, and economical elements of South Florida make it a well-suited landing spot for an industry that is looking to evolve with the shifting environment.
One catalyst to the potential industry-wide migration could be the S5470B regulations that go into effect in New York on January 1. The new law will require funding companies to navigate a complex system of disclosure to any interested small business finance prospect.
There are other benefits to Florida, of course.
Jordan Fein, CEO of Greenbox Capital, whose operated his business out of Miami since 2012, prides his choice of locale on all the factors that are seemingly pushing those in New York down south. “We do not have state and city tax, we are near water and have a better lifestyle than most companies in New York, or in other areas where it gets very cold in the winter,” he said.
Fein stressed the relaxing Miami lifestyle as the reason why he has only called South Florida home to his company. “The lifestyle here is second to none. Being near the ocean, it makes it much more enjoyable to be able to go to the beach or on a boat to relax and take a load off from the busy work week. New York and other large cities seem to add more stress from [New York’s] super-fast-paced style.”
Despite his love for Miami, Fein respects New York’s ability to churn out top tier employees in the industry. “The talent pool is still among the best,” Fein said, when asked if there were any reasons he or others would ever consider maintaining a connection with the area should an exodus occur.
Fein isn’t worried about the incoming competition should offices relocate to his area. “Location of a funding company has no bearing on competition,” he said. “We all do business over the internet and the competition of funding is dependent on new companies entering the space, not on their location.”
If it is true that the industry is moving to a fully digital competitive space, the idea of a warm weather city with great tax benefits, comparatively low costs of living, and a low-stress atmosphere may be a no-brainer when it comes to finding the funding industry a much needed new home. Not to mention, the mayor of Miami also really wants small business finance companies to relocate there.
In a taped episode of deBanked TV, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez told reporter Johny Fernandez that he really wants small business lenders and MCA companies to set up shop in his city.
Watch: Miami Mayor Francis Suarez talks with deBanked in March 2021“We definitely want to make sure that small business, merchants, and lenders are able to capitalize small businesses in our community,” he said. “Miami’s a very thriving small business community. One of the things that people have criticized us for is we don’t have those big massive companies. We’re actually really built on small businesses. So for us, having fluidity of capital, liquidity of capital, access to capital are enormous things in terms of scaling. And I think that’s one of the things that we’re seeing change now is because of technologies. We’re getting a tremendous amount of access to capital that we weren’t getting before.”
“We’re about people and platforms,” President of National Funding Joe Gaudio said. “PP: People and platforms, not PPP, that’s my little acronym.”
National Funding is back and looking to hire fresh talent, rebuilding their team after the pandemic rolled through the California market.
“Whether it was California or if we resided in another state, it impacted small business owners throughout the country,” Gaudio said. “Small businesses took a big impact. A significant number of customers requested temporary relief loan modifications. And that’s how the PPP program helped bridge that gap for a lot of small business owners, and get them through the pandemic.”
Gaudio said that National Funding was affected like every peer firm was by the pullback, explaining that their normal customer was looking for PPP funding, not a bridge loan. National rolled back their team by about 50%, and rolled back funding for several months. After the worst of it had passed by the end of the summer, National was back, strictly pulling the reigns but still going. Now they are hiring in every department, and Gaudio said nothing is stopping a gigantic 2022 rebound of demand. Benjamin Flowers as CTO and Luca Marseglia to the Data Science Division are just the beginning.
“We’re rescaling, we’re hiring quite a bit this year, and so these two hires are part of our rescaling: rebuilding not only the leadership team, but the rest of the organization,” Gaudio said. “We’re always looking for new high performers and contributors that that fit into our culture. Even pre-pandemic: if you’re an A-player, you’re a high performer, and you can add value, we will take a look at you, we will find room for you.”
National believes the coming year will unleash tremendous pent-up demand, Gaudio said. In the short term, the firm plans to offer intermediate financing to help SMBs handle the bumps on the way. Though there will be some supply chain, labor, and schooling/childcare problems next year, it will still be big, and National has been preparing, working at the office the whole way through.
“That’ll still continue to put somewhat of a cap on the recovery for small business owners, but we expect a big year in 2022,” Gaudio said. “We’ve embraced the hybrid model for certain functions, [but] sales and operations, underwriting: we’re 100% back in the office, and we’ve been like that since last July. It’s important to our culture to be together… I just continue to be very bullish about the future, and I think it’ll be exciting to see the continued evolution of our industry and the platforms.”
Small Business Group Advocates For Community Anchor Loan Program (CAP) In Wake Of PPP Wind Down and Possible RefreshApril 17, 2020
At last tally, more than 800,000 small business PPP applications have gone unfunded since the program reached its limit, many of which are genuine mom-and-pop shops that employ less than 25 people.
Congress is considering another round of additional PPP funding but Americans may be worrying that such funds will once again go into the hands of some of America’s largest chains. (44.5% of the $349B PPP funds went toward loans over $1 million)
Outspoken successful businessman Mark Cuban has proposed a solution, a lottery system next time around to improve the chances that smaller businesses get their share of the pie. While the public debates the merits of such an approach, one organization (the SBFA) is calling for something much more direct, a targeted fix via a Community Anchor Loan Program (CAP) that would appropriate $10 billion for businesses that were PPP-eligible for loans under $75,000 but did not receive funds.
Deployment of this capital under CAP can and should be administered by non-bank alternative lenders with proven success with this particular small business market, they say.
The proposal also calls for 25% of the funds to specifically be allocated for minority, women, and veteran-owned and agricultural businesses.
In a letter the SBFA submitted to Congress earlier this week, the organization said:
“Women and minority-owned businesses are historically smaller and employ fewer people and, in some communities, are under-banked without the established relationships required to secure a PPP loan. Small farms and agricultural businesses are important to communities and often have trouble qualifying for traditional financing.”
The Small Business Finance Association is a non-profit advocacy organization whose mission “is to take a leadership role in ensuring that small businesses have access to the capital they need to grow and thrive.”
This week proved mixed for many fintech and non-bank lenders who received approval from the SBA to issue Paycheck Protection Program funds, only for the $349 billion allotted to the program to run dry almost immediately afterwards.
On Wednesday evening Senator Marco Rubio tweeted that the funds would run short, leaving at least 700,000 small businesses who applied in purgatory without PPP financing. But more money may be made available, as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement on Wednesday that “We urge Congress to appropriate additional funds for the Paycheck Protection Program – a critical and overwhelmingly bipartisan program – at which point we will once again be able to process loan applications, issue loan numbers, and protect millions more paychecks.”
BlueVine, OnDeck, Funding Circle, PayPal, Intuit, and Square were among the group of non-bank lenders who were recently approved. While unfortunately late to the party, these businesses will be well-positioned to quickly roll out funding once further PPP money is allocated.
“Millions of small businesses need relief more than ever right now, and providing that relief quickly and diligently is our top priority,” BlueVine CEO Eyal Lifshitz told deBanked. “While most PPP lenders have limited their efforts to existing customers, our aim is to support and protect all small businesses. Using our data and engineering resources, we want to ensure both existing customers and other small businesses seeking relief, are aware of and have access to PPP loans. We will remain a trusted advisor to small businesses and work to get fast capital solutions to those in need.”
Lifshitz’s comment echoes concerns that have plagued the SBA since the announcement of these funds: that its systems, and the processes of the banks it works with to issue this money, are outdated and insufficient to face a financial crisis of this magnitude and speed. Now weeks into the program, businesses are reporting a lack of communication from both their bank and the SBA; and, most importantly for many, no PPP funds in their accounts.
A few years ago, a friend of mine was dropped by the funding brokerage he worked for and put on the waiver wire. He was promptly picked up by a competitor and today ranks among one of the top closers in the industry. It was one of the strangest moves of the season because his numbers had been really good month after month. It turned out that he was turned loose for earning too much money, something the firm wasn’t content with.
Even though he was compensated on a commission-only basis, he was apparently putting the company over their salary cap. That of course begged the question, why was there a compensation cap for a top performer, somebody who was directly leading to the firm’s growth? For what it’s worth, he was entitled to approximately 20% of the company’s gross commission revenue. So on every deal funded the company took home the other 80% of the commission. This worked for both parties until the closer started earning well into the six figures, at which point they told him he wasn’t allowed to earn more than a certain amount.
Although discouraged by the sudden limitation, he continued to work hard to prove why the cap should be removed. It wasn’t. Soon afterward he found himself on the waiver wire.
He was replaced by two rookies fresh out of college who were willing to do the same job for a lot less, but neither had any experience in the field.
As someone who has been active in this industry for nearly a decade, I’ve watched this scenario play out dozens of times.
- Firm needs top talent to grow
- Firm hires Talent
- Talent produces
- Firm grows
- Firm doesn’t like that Talent is making so much
- Firm fires Talent or Talent quits
As the firms gallop off to the next scouting combine to find somebody younger and more malleable, the pool of experienced talent is dispersed across a sea of competitors. A consequence of this is that each of those companies become more evenly matched and it becomes increasingly difficult to stand apart from the crowd.
At trade shows and happy hours, it’s not uncommon for top players to openly question what would happen if they all joined forces to create a funding dream team of sorts. And while such cohesion rarely actually happens, I can’t help but imagine if given the opportunity to build the best team to win, who I would pick.
Top talent is expensive. I know this because I recently spent 89% of my budget in a fantasy football auction draft to acquire just three players. And last year I spent a similar percentage on only four players and won the entire league. My thought process was to build a team that was centered around the best of the best. Previous years of conservative play led to mediocre results and I wanted to change that.
Today, there are hundreds of alternative business financing companies and thousands that can be considered brokers. There’s a lot of decent teams out there but few that are built around a group of all stars. And oddly, some companies seem to be dumping their best and brightest on purpose, just like I described previously. That might lead to improved margins for the firm, but probably won’t help them win in the long run.
Here’s something to think about while you’re watching Monday Night Football. If you had to build your company around a core group of talented people, who would you pick? Don’t worry about whether or not they’re available or if they fit into your budget. Those are obstacles that can be overcome.
Here’s a list of positions to help you imagine your fantasy funder:
- 1 Senior Manager
- 2 Underwriters
- 2 Closers
- 1 Flex Spot
- 1 Admin
- 1 Collector
- 1 Tech Person
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