|05/13/2021||Video: deBanked went to ROK Financial|
Sidebar Chat With James Webster - ROK Financial
On The Scene At ROK Financial
Great River, NY: ROK Financial, a leader in the alternative and commercial lending space is excited to announce their newest partnership with BNB Bank’s Cannabis division. This new partnership allows for ROK Financial to offer direct checking and savings to Cannabis businesses through BNB Bank.
“This new partnership is truly filling a void within the Cannabis industry” says James Webster, CEO of ROK Financial “Federal regulations make it near to impossible for Cannabis related businesses to utilize traditional banking methods. We’re proud to partner with a financial institution that sees the value and need within the industry.”
BNB Bank, headquartered in Bridgehampton, NY has 39 locations from Manhattan to Montauk. BNB Bank provides the resources of a strong financial institution, exceptional customer service, and access to a suite of leading-edge money management tools. They are publicly traded on Nasdaq (BDGE) and have a 5-star rating (Bauer Financial). Peter Su, Vice President – Private Banking BNB says: “This new relationship with ROK Financial allows us to service a wider variety of clientele. We’re excited to work with ROK Financials existing Cannabis clients as well as attracting new relationships through this partnership.”
A large majority of traditional institutions tend to shy away to offering traditional banking to the industry as a whole due to the lack of regulations and financial risk they may face. Banks also risk losing their master account with the Federal Reserve due to the ‘risk’ of the industry. “BNB Bank has a board approved Cannabis Banking Policy that we strictly abide to, and have established a compliance monitoring program providing seed to sale regulatory support to ensure we all are in compliance” says Su “We are happy to help provide needed resources to these thriving businesses.”
About ROK Financial
ROK Financial’s team committed to establishing ROK solid relationships with our clients, lenders, and partners. By providing the best financing solutions available to business owners while creating a positive association with business financing. Through our streamlined process, revolutionary technology and educated team of experts, we support business owner’s ability to create new opportunities. ROK Financial is proud to empower the heartbeat of our country, our small businesses.
Over the past several months the state of the economy has been by no doubt uncertain. With unemployment hitting record highs and Coronavirus cases still on the rise, business owners all across the country have been faced with many difficult decisions regarding their livelihood.
Finding business financing options during these uncertain times can be challenging and risky to not only business owners, but the banks and lenders they choose to work with.
ROK Financial truly understands the uncertainty a business owner feels during these current times. Having derived themselves from a company split back in August, the team is helping other business owners just like them navigate these unchartered waters.
“We have been working tirelessly with our lenders and partners over the past several months discussing different ways we can continue to better service our clients.” Says CRO, Patrick Manning of ROK Financial “The relationships we have built over the years allows us to become quite versatile with our product offering, in turn allowing us to better serve our business owners. That is why we are extremely excited to announce our exclusive partnership with Doug Hood, SBA Loan Consultant LLC. This unique partnership opens up direct SBA access to clients for SBA products $350,000 and above.”
Doug Hood has been facilitating SBA Loans for more than 35 years, resulting in more than $20 million in SBA Loans distributed to business owners annually. Hood said he connected with ROK via LinkedIn, “I’m on Linkedin way more than I should be, we connected at 10 or 11 o’clock at night, and we hit it off.” Says Hood. Excited at the fact that ROK offers short term financing that Doug himself would now be able to leverage in addition to his SBA Loan offerings for his clients was a win-win.
Doug now sits as the official SBA Loan Consultant under the ROK Financial umbrella for deals $350,000 and above. This unique relationship provides greater opportunities for business owners from purchasing existing businesses, refinancing existing debt, starting a business and much more.
“The worlds of Fintech and SBA have collided for the greater good” says Manning, “streamlining and modernizing a once antiquated process, which eliminates the frustration that comes along with long-term lending.”
Early bird pricing to Broker Fair 2022, taking place this October 24th at the New York Marriott Marquis in Times Square, ends soon. This large annual commercial finance expo has already sold out the top level sponsorships. Among the premier names are National Funding, Lendini, and Rapid Finance as Platinum Sponsors and Balboa Capital, Fintap, ROK Financial, and Ocrolus as Gold Sponsors.
This event brings together brokers, lenders, funders, vendors, and more from around the small business finance industry. Attendees can expect education, inspiration, networking opportunities, and more.
Just a few miles outside of Hartford, cars exited the highway and advanced towards a quieter part of Connecticut. The aptly named “Beaver Road” is home to Wethersfield’s US Postal Service building on one side and the Connecticut Farm Bureau building on the other. Drivers veered towards the latter and pulled into a parking lot situated behind a literal babbling brook. There are other tenants besides the Farm Bureau in the expansive brown-bricked commercial-use building as indicated by a sign outside, but the business that people had come to celebrate hadn’t even been added to it yet.
Nevertheless, the blue and white balloons waving in the wind outside the back entrance were a clue that this was the right place. Inside, on the first floor, a line of people found the large plated logo of Latin Financial, a small business that helps other small businesses obtain working capital.
Already personally acquainted with the firm led by Sonia Alvelo, she led myself and others on a tour of the company’s new space. Latin Financial employees were easily identifiable by their blue company shirts, but others wore green to signal that they were part of a sister company named Sharpe Capital. Sharpe is spearheaded by Brendan P. Lynch.
Both brands previously operated in nearby Newington but outgrew what they had. When the ceremony officially kicked off with some impromptu speeches, the prominence of those assembled became evident. It included, among others, the Better Business Bureau, the local Chamber of Commerce, and the Connecticut Children’s Hospital.
Wethersfield’s mayor, Michael Rell, was also there. Rell welcomed Latin Financial to the neighborhood, echoing the note sang by other government officials.
Connecticut State Senator Matthew Lesser shared his appreciation for Alvelo and her company’s mission to provide capital to underserved small businesses both in the state and across the nation. Lesser explained that the state legislature had recently decided to delay a proposed commercial financing bill (Senate Bill 272) so that it could further assess the input from companies like Latin Financial and the potential impact it would have before moving forward. A version of the bill will be reintroduced next year.
Meanwhile, Joseph Rodriguez, Deputy State Director for US Senator Richard Blumenthal’s office, said that he was impressed by the company’s accomplishiments and contributions to the community. He presented Alvelo with a Certificate of Special Recognition signed by Blumenthal in honor of her new office and for her service to Connecticut Small Businesses.
Werner Oyanadel, Latino and Puerto Rican Policy Director at the Connecticut General Assembly’s Commission on Women, Children, Seniors, Equity & Opportunity, said that Alvelo had “been a good partner of [their] work at the Capitol” and that “Latin Financial is filling a big void assisting new businesses and Latino entrepreneurs’ access to needed reources.”
Employees of both Latin Financial and Sharpe appeared excited by all the fanfare while friends and family members were proud to share in the moment. Alvelo ceremoniously cut a blue ribbon for the cameras and in conversations that followed it became known that they were hiring.
Alvelo has previously spoken at Broker Fair in New York and deBanked CONNECT Miami. She has been a primary source of information for deBanked since 2016 on matters regarding small business financing in Puerto Rico.
For Mike Brooks, CEO of Best Connect Capital, the deal making never stops. A former boxing trainer turned funder said that there are no days off. “I’m always funding, I am always, always funding,” he said.
Recently, Brooks has taken an interest in text message marketing. “I’ve had trouble finding somebody in text marketing,” he said. I was going on the internet and using word of mouth, and I wasn’t really able to connect with anybody. I hooked up with this company [in Miami], and it worked out really well. I already funded a couple of deals.”
Around the industry, brokers and funders have found their footing after Covid. A recent mass gathering in Miami definitely helped push things along. “The second I got off the plane in Miami this year, I saw an old friend, a business associate,” said Brooks. “That was a great connect right there.”
Nicholas Saccone, Senior Funding Advisor at Proto Financial had a similar experience. “Having the opportunity to meet up with some of our partners face-to-face [is] a really cool experience,” said Saccone. “Sometimes it is hard to find time to build relationships with all of our schedules. [Through networking] I’m able to get different perspectives on where the industry is headed and where we are now.”
“Small business lending is on the up and up,” said Frankie DiAntonio, CEO of Lexington Capital, who also ventured down to Miami with his team from Long Island. “With inflation going up, we’re finding that small businesses are outsourcing their need of funding outside the government, and there are companies like us that can come in and take care of them.”
DiAntonio spoke about how important it is to sell legitimacy to both his lenders and staff. “We’re the new kids on the block, we’re a newer company,” he said. Despite the head start his competitors may have, DiAntonio said that old school sales mentalities combined with modern marketing strategies have recently helped his company consistently fund deals and build a book of business.
“We bring in a lot of Google click ads which brings us a lot of leads, but obviously our guys just make phone calls throughout the day, as much as humanly possible,” DiAntonio said. “My guys know what they’re doing, they know the industry, they’re really good on the phones, and they know how to take care of customers.”
“In the end, we all press zero to talk to someone.”
The conversation about what characteristics will make up tomorrow’s loan brokers is surrounded with ideas latched in fintech, social media, and more. Brokers from around North America have been showcasing these new strategies on social media or in chats with deBanked, which sparked the question — what do the funders think of all of this?
Efraim Kandinov, CEO of FundFi Merchant Funding, has a lot of ideas about how brokers should function in a constantly changing financial landscape. According to him, it’s not the style of funding or modernization of business logistics that will make tomorrow’s broker, but it’s leveraging ethics with both merchants and funders to preserve future business down the line.
“I believe more and more merchants look for the digital aspect and remove the broker because of the dishonesty that we usually uncover and want something clean without interpretation. Many issues with merchants in my opinion [stem] from being misled by the broker, promising something after to just take this deal or promising to get payments lowered and take an overleveraged position.”
Other funders think much differently, identifying a sense of community being brought about by tech, having a ‘we’re in this together’ type of mantra to hold the legacy industry up.
“There’s a sense of familiarity when dealing with my brokers,” said Amanda Schuster, CEO and President of Fundhouse LLC. “We’re your friends, we get you, we get your business.”
Schuster believes that relationships between funders, brokers and merchants alike will help them weather the storm of tech’s emergence into their industry.” We are your business and it’s just as important to us that you succeed,” she said. “I have business owners that I still speak to this day, that I funded over five years ago.”
Schuster dismissed companies like PayPal, Square, and Shopify’s takeover of small business lending, circling back to the interpersonal value that a broker provides as a face to a financial product.
“At the end of the day, business is always about the people,” she said. It’s about creating a need and filling it. You can’t do that on a website.”
When asked about the value of this happy-go-lucky community of brokers, funders and merchants, Kandinov brought up how some brokers have found ways around the ‘repeat business’ model of funding deals, thus making relationships between brokers and merchants pointless.
“I think brokers are less caring of repeat business because they have discovered a short term model of stack, stack, stack, and then put in a reverse. This front loads commission. I believe a broker has a huge advantage in creating the relationship. [This] unfortunately is starting to take a back seat to a new way to score big commissions.”
Kandinov spoke about brokers who will say anything to make a sale carelessly shooting themselves in the foot when it comes to forming a book of business. By saying whatever they need to get paid now, merchants are either going straight to the funders to big tech for their next source of funding.
“Jaded merchants then look to only speak to the funding house in the future and stay or just prefer the direct to consumer model of fintech,” said Kandinov.
Despite these feelings, Kandinov does believe that there’s a bright outlook on the future of the broker/funder relationship if some change occurs.
“[Brokers] deserve their high commissions as they do a lot of work. I think funding houses have much less overhead with the broker model, but lately with the broker behavior it is almost pushing themselves out if it continues. I do not believe fintech alone is advantageous, just in speed and clarity. It’s a byproduct of poor behavior.”
In an inaugural move for small business financing this week, Latin Financial launched the first ‘Spanglish’ podcast for funders, lenders, merchants, and brokers titled the Latin Financial Podcast. Hosted by the company’s CEO Sonia Alvelo and co-hosted by Underwriter Ruth Alustiza, Latin Financial hopes to create an open forum of discussion and education about how Latino-owned businesses can get access to different types of financial products; all in two different languages.
“It was so much fun, but so scary,” said Alvelo, when asked about her experience recording on her first episode. “[I’m doing this] to make sure the merchants and clients have and will have the right information, I know I’m breaking barriers of languages, it’s the right thing to do.”
While still in its infancy, Alvelo is expecting the show to take off. Her target audience among merchants is a growing group of Latino-owned small businesses who have been historically underbanked. Offering episodes in both English and Spanish, the podcast hopes to not only educate the show’s listeners on how small business lending works, but also hopes to serve as a crash course in either Spanish or English for those who are already members of the non-bank finance world.
The show will have funders, lenders, merchants, and staff of Latin Financial on as guests, according to Alvelo. The show has begun a stream of content that will be released on a regular basis that is being uploaded on platforms like Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and Spotify.
“We are doing one episode per week, said Alvelo. “We’re going to add guests, they are already asking me to attend, and lenders. I’ll be doing back and forth, Spanish and English for sure.”
Alvelo seems confident that the show can separate itself from the countless other finance podcasts that exist. With a dynamic of two languages, two cultures, complex financial products, and revolving guests, it seems as if Latin Financial has discovered a niche in the business media space. “The audience can listen in Spanglish about what we do to help business owners in the United States and Puerto Rico. It’s a new way to stay informed, get educated on updated programs in the financing Industry, all in two languages,” Alvelo said. “It’s Spanish and English, equals Spanglish!”
A weblink to the show can be found here.
“I don’t think the industry would really be the same if we didn’t have brokers anymore.”
Dave Stewart, who was recently promoted to Sales and Partnerships Manager at Idea Financial, spoke to deBanked about the role brokers will play in the future of business financing. With so many different kinds of innovation being offered in the financial world through technology, Stewart shared his thoughts on how brokers, funders, and merchants can get the most out of a technology-infused lending environment.
“We think about the whole fintech thing, everything getting technology based, and that there’s a missed opportunity for the human touch,” said Stewart, when asked how technology will influence the way merchants apply for capital. “There’s a lot of clients out there that can go online and fill out an application, but they don’t understand the in’s and out’s.”
“When [the merchant] doesn’t understand how everything actually works, they usually fall back and seek a broker at some point in time.”
Stewart highlighted how from the lender’s perspective, the value of brokers is in being the face to the experience of purchasing a financial product. He described it as someone who can guide the merchant to the right type of financing and then through that specific funding approval process.
“I think there is value in the experience,” said Stewart. “I don’t go to a restaurant to cook my own meal. I go to a restaurant because the service is going to be great, the food is going to be great, and hopefully I have a great experience, and I think that’s a great example of what the broker does.”
Despite believing that the broker’s role in financing is invincible to fintech’s innovation in lending, Stewart didn’t dismiss the value of understanding and leveraging different types of technology in order to be competitive.
“There’s an art to being a good broker,” said Stewart. “There are a lot of people who are not tech savvy and are just monster brokers or monster sales people, but they definitely need or rely on somebody else to explain the technical aspects.”
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