Johny Fernandez is a reporter for deBanked TV
Episode 12 - The Shakeup
What Makes a Great Funder?
deBanked reporter Johny Fernandez flew down to Miami in September to find out how the South Florida non-bank small business finance industry has been getting along since covid. The following are some excerpts of interviews:
Jordan Fein, CEO of Greenbox Capital
“I’d be lying to you if I told you that, well it was fine for us. It wasn’t fine for anybody. We got hit pretty hard. I’d say that anywhere between 20 – 24% of our Canadian and about 25 – 28% of our US market got wiped out. And we shut down funding from mid-March to the end of April and we started funding again in early May. We’ve just increasingly been bringing back people from furlough and getting our legs back under us and now I think we’re really cooking right now.”
Craig Hecker, CEO of Bitty Advance
“So I think [the covid crisis] taught us a lot. And I think that when you face challenges like this pandemic, it really pushes you to reinvent yourself or reinvent certain parts of your business that you never thought were possible. And one of those things that we’ve learned is that we have a lot of folks that prefer to work at home, they’re actually more efficient working from home, they’re not in any hurry to come back into the office setting. Of course, we have certain employees that their jobs require them to kind of be with other employees, etc. but I think it’s really forced us to adapt, and to just embrace the new normal.”
Larry Bassuk, President of Idea Financial
“I think that we’ve been consistent in our risk management approach from the beginning. When we first surveyed the alternative lending space to see where we thought the best opportunity was for Idea Financial, we decided to focus on the higher credit quality segment of the market. our credit standards reflect that, our risk management principles reflect that, and quite frankly, our product reflects that. So during the covid crisis, when it was very acute in March, April, May, we got to see in real time, how our risk mitigation principles were functioning. It was a real test of all the theory that crisis, we got to see things shake out, and we got to see things being proven. A lot of assumptions that we were very strict on, really helped us manage the crisis. Going forward, we see that we’re going to be doubling down on those risk management principles, doubling down on how we underwrite and keeping a very close watch on how the businesses perform pre-covid, during covid, and then hopefully post-covid.”
deBanked reporter Johny Fernandez visited the storefront office of Horizon Funding Group, a commercial finance brokerage located in Brooklyn. The company is owned by brothers James and John Celifarco.
On Thursday, NYC taxi drivers shut down the Brooklyn Bridge to formally protest the financing costs tied to their taxi medallions, the certificate that allows them to operate in the five boroughs. Tensions over “Medallion loans” have been bubbling over since last year when it was revealed that many borrowers had signed a Confession of Judgment to obtain their loan, which basically waived their right to settle any disputes with their lender in court should they be unable to make the payments. Since then, COVID has completely devastated an already suffering industry…
“Before it was good, we could make $100-$150 a day,” said Mohammad Ashref, a local Brooklyn taxi driver in a video interview with deBanked reporter Johny Fernandez. “Now it’s very hard to survive, we work very hard to make 60, 70, or $80 a day, but what can I do? I have to make a living. We have no other choice.”
Ashref technically drives a green cab, different from the yellow cabs that were protesting on the bridge in that they’re not permitted to accept street-hails throughout most of Manhattan. Green taxis also operate through a permit rather than a medallion, a still relatively new concept that was first rolled out in 2013 to facilitate ride-hailing in the outer boroughs where yellow cabs did not spend much time.
In the interview with Fernandez, Ashref pointed out that the success of the taxi business is intertwined with the restaurant industry. Many riders in the boroughs depend on cabs to take them to restaurants or night clubs, but with the complete ban on indoor dining still in effect within city limits, that need has mostly dried up.
According to the NYC Taxi & Limousine Commission, yellow and green cabs were making as little as $314 and $210 a week respectively during the peak period of the shutdowns. In a 40 hour week, these amount to a fraction of the $15/hour local minimum wage and that’s even before factoring in driver costs like a vehicle lease, loan payments, insurance, and more.
deBanked has been exploring several areas of the New York City economy over the last few months. For instance in July, reporter Johny Fernandez looked into how the pandemic was affecting a street performer in Times Square that was dressed as Batman.
“The business now is slow,” Batman said. “There’s so few people at this moment […] At this moment I see people scared, they don’t want pictures…”
Batman, like others in New York City, was hopeful that a return to normalcy was just around the corner.