Broker Fair has logged a significant achievement, record-setting ticket sales for its 2021 conference. Registrations for the December 6th event have surpassed every single deBanked event since inception. Only pre-show tickets for the night before can still be purchased on the website. No tickets will be available at the event itself.
“It’s 2021, so naturally we had tempered some of our expectations internally about registrations for this event,” said Broker Fair founder Sean Murray. “Somehow, we ended up breaking the record for most tickets sold ever. People really want to connect in person. The industry has spoken and we’re eager to see the turnout now.”
The event is being held at Convene at Brookfield Place in lower Manhattan. The agenda is online and attendees can take advantage of the newly launched Certified Small Business Finance Professional course available on site for the first time ever. It’s also possible to connect with fellow attendees ahead of time using the mobile app.
“We’ve got so many great sponsors this year,” said Murray. “I expect a lot of dealmaking to happen in the showcase room.”
Broker Fair 2021 ticket registration will shut off days before the December 6th event. The broker-centric conference is now officially counting down to its kickoff at Convene in New York City.
“This pretty much happens every time we put on a show,” said Broker Fair founder Sean Murray. “Even though this event is post-covid, we’re looking at the number of registrations so far and are very pleasantly surprised.”
Hundreds of small business finance brokers are registered to attend Broker Fair. The annual event first launched in 2018.
“I don’t know what day we’re going to disable registration yet, but based on the pace I’d say there’s no way we make it until Friday,” Murray said.
I sat down with Joe Camberato (@GrowByJoe), CEO of National Business Capital in Bohemia, NY. He shared tips about how to run a successful business and gave me a personal tour of his company’s office.
It’s a concept that’s been thrown around the industry for years- swapped like business cards at meetups, conventions, and chatrooms. Shouldn’t there be a broker certification, database, or even blacklist for known bad actors?
As deBanked petitioned the question, the industry responded with its naturally diverse responses. The problem: bad actors can keep getting away with shenanigans. The solution? Well, no one size fits all approach could work in the alternative finance industry, but a certification source may do the trick.
CEO of FundFi, Efraim “Brian” G. Kandinov, recently brought up the idea of a “Datamerch for Brokers.” Like a DNC list, Kandinov said there has got to be a way to sort out the known bad actors, scam artists, and even the brokers that play the funding houses by training merchants.
“I think opposed to a blacklist: a list that notes bait and switches, where the merchant was coached by the broker,” Kandinov said. “This way can go around a lawsuit or any fear of that, and the funder is free to choose once reading others’ notes.”
Kandinov said that most of his “problem files” show signs of brokers coaching merchants to start protesting deals after the clawback period ends. Get paid, pass the smell test during a 30-60 day waiting period, and then tell the merchant to jump ship on the deal or argue to lower the payments.
“If they were not [suddenly going out of business], they were calling in like a schedule to lower their payments. No way it can be that uniform unless they were being coached. The broker comes off as the good guy that he played the funding houses,” Kandinov said. “I think harsh means are necessary to expel these guys from the industry.”
Other funding side members of the industry have voiced their support for some type of broker record database. Kristen Ferrara, Director of Underwriting at The LCF Group based in New York, said that LCF pays a high expense to select ISOs. A vetting platform could be a great resource.
“I think it would be a good resource for funders,” Ferrara said. “We turn down about 50% of the ISOs who try to sign up with us. This resource could save funders millions of dollars in deals going bad from ISOs over-promising or committing fraud.”
On the other side of the country in San Diego, CEO David Leibowitz from Mulligan Funding said he is all for a way to help funders vet brokers. Mulligan is lucky to work with a trusted brokers network and drops a client like a broken elevator at the first sign of fraud or unethical behavior, he said.
“We are extremely careful about which brokers we do business with. If we see any kind of practice that we think is unethical, we’ll cut a broker loose in a heartbeat,” Leibowitz said. “Is there value in the sort of thing you’re talking about? I think there probably is because I think it makes vetting brokers for [funders] a lot easier, and it also allows brokers to differentiate themselves against their competition by their ethics.”
Leibowitz is a proponent of ethics as an indicator of value and said a certification could help members of the public tell the difference between good and bad funders and let funders spot good ISOs and bad ISOs.
A worry for some is that whatever company, organization, or site that hosts a broker ledger could face lawsuits for liability, could accept payments to make bad reviews go away, list competitors to hurt them, or be outright ignored by an industry always hungry for deals.
But industry lawyers seem to agree that a broker certification or blacklist would ultimately benefit the industry if provided from the right source. Patrick Siegfried, the Deputy General Counsel at Rapid Finance, said that whatever agency would be rating brokers would need its own trusted reputation.
“To have a legitimate background or rating system, it needs to be done by an independent third-party that has its own credentials,” Siegfried said. “I think that’s a big reason you don’t see many third-party or private rating systems.”
Siegfried said one option that ensures a true third-party point of view is a government agency taking care of a broker tracking system. Another option would be an industry coalition, but then it’s a question of cost- Who is paying to staff and maintain a complaint system?
“At the end of the day, having a good industry regulator is a benefit for the industry,” Siegfried said. “It will allow a third-party, government entity to vet brokers in terms of licensing and then maintenance, looking into valid complaints.”
As conversations across the country point toward a licensing regime, Siegfried said it’s a sign the industry is maturing and that one day there will be a government agency to lodge complaints with and to actually vet brokers in the space.
Steve Denis from the Small Business Finance Association (SBFA) proposed a solution to the issue. He said that in the works right now is an SBFA-sponsored certification program.
“We started just looking at brokers and thinking about how to certify them,” Denis said. “We think that it’s the time, from the feedback we’ve gotten from regulators, that we launch a true industry-wide certification.”
In the coming months, brokers may be able to apply for certification when the program rolls out. Instead of a ‘blacklist,’ Denis said brokers could set themselves apart as trusted providers by going through a basic background test or industry knowledge checks.
“If you’re a broker and you can’t get certified, then there’s probably some issues,” He said. “So our hope is if you carry a certification, that’s sort of a message that you are a good broker.”
When it comes to government regulation, Denis said he is still cautious. While he 100% expects certification programs to crop up for state licenses, he thinks no government agency can achieve what an industry coalition can do.
“When the Pandemic first started, a lot of the classes we worked with just canceled, everything went downhill,” Loida Velasquez, an LA-based real estate broker, said. “But starting in June until now— everything turned around. Inventory is so low, and there are so many buyers, most houses are selling in 24 hours. I’ve never seen a market like this before.”
It’s a seller’s market like you can’t believe right now, said Velasquez, and that’s what she specializes in: running a cold-calling, door-knocking real estate firm that jumps on expired listings, revamps properties, and sells them on the open market.
After five years of rapid success, Velasquez has taken her charisma to social media, creating a series of Youtube videos to help other brokers find the success she has in the real estate world.
“When I started my real estate career, I remember trying to find videos of people sharing their experience, but most of them were men: I didn’t find many women,” Velasquez said. “So I told myself, ‘you know what, I’m going to start creating videos to put out my journey so people can see what it’s like not only as a real estate agent but as a younger woman in this business.’ And that’s how my channel started.”
Velasquez has also begun teaching online courses for brokers who need help developing their skills. She offers an all-encompassing approach, including cold calling and knocking on doors, that she said many modern brokers don’t use anymore, even though they never became any less viable.
“I knew that the old school approach of cold calling and door knocking was something that a lot of agents don’t like to do,” she said. “So if I became very good at it, I knew that I was going to become successful a little faster than someone who doesn’t incorporate that type of prospecting.”
It has set her apart, and part of why she launched online classes: her videos on real estate were so successful other agencies were telling their trainees to watch her work. Many agencies don’t offer adequate training, Velasquez said, some give out unethical advice. When newly licensed brokers find Velasquez, she said she stands out as an agent with standards and knowledge of the industry.
That knowledge comes in the form of hard-earned experience, one that includes making slip-ups along the way, something she said ocassionally still happens. It’s all part of the game, she explains. Many of her leads come in from her online networking now, but her techniques are still honed to reach out to sellers looking for a knowledgeable agent who knows the market.
“A lot of my business comes from social media, whether it’s from agents that watch me and send me referrals, or just consumers that are trying to learn what it takes to buy or sell a house,” Velasquez said. “But aside from that, I still cold call a lot of ‘for sale by owners’ and expired. Many of them still want to sell, but they had to pull their home off the market. Many of them didn’t have a good relationship with the last agent and want to find someone else who can do a better job.”
And that relationship comes in the form of Velasquez calling out of the blue, flipping the house successfully in a matter of weeks, sometimes two or three sales every month.
Things were not this easy for what outwardly looks like a charismatic, polished agent; Velasquez attests that she was quiet and anxious even to present a school project before she found her love of sales.
“I was the shyest person ever, and I was terrified of talking in group projects,” Velasquez said. “If people from my past saw me, they would never guess I would be doing public speaking events and would have never known this is what I would become.”
Velasquez was a sociology major before getting a side job as a brand ambassador, traveling to conventions and selling face to face to customers. Everything changed.
“Telling people about the product, getting paid to talk to people, helped me get myself out of my shell and comfort zone,” She said. “I don’t know why I was scared of talking to strangers, but it helped me get out there, and I switched my major to marketing.”
After she went back to get an MBA in 2015, she started making Youtube videos and found her passion. She said that with determination, anyone could get over hurdles and find success. Selling real estate is not what it looks like on TV, but Velasquez noted the hard work is worth it for the payoff.
“After the turning point, I started to see people responding ‘because of this video, I got my first listing.’ I said, if I need to get myself out of my comfort zone to help people, this is something I know I need to do,” Velasquez said. “If you stay focused and surround yourself with the right people, you’ll make it. There will be many times you will doubt yourself, and it is not like what you see on TV.”
United Capital Source has partnered with Brex on a deal that will see UCS customers receive bonuses upon sign-up for a Brex Corporate Card. Such rewards include 100,000 points in statement credit and waived card fees for life.
“We really wanted to start to offer business credit cards to our clientele. We believe that as we’re helping people solve their lending or funding issues, it’s also helpful to solve any problems that they face when running their day-to-day business,” UCS Founder and CEO Jared Weitz told deBanked in a call. “The key point that we really love about Brex which we’re offering to our clients is a 60-day, no-interest float on expenses. And that’s really helpful for folks when you’re making weekly and bi-weekly payrolls, when you’re purchasing inventory, and when you have folks that pay you every 30 or 45 days.”
The news comes as companies from various backgrounds are beginning to offer debit, credit, and charge cards. Apple, BlueVine, and challenger banks such as N26 and Varo are now all offering cards of some kind to their customers.
In Weitz’s view, this is the next step for the industry. With tech becoming more and more ingrained in finance, the convergence between the two fields is inevitable and ultimately beneficial for brokers.
“They’re already doing it on the personal side. And I think that once these tech-enabled companies start to get business data on their clients’ trends in their business account, they’ll be able to offer other products to them as well. For me, as a broker, if someone says, ‘Hey, does that make you nervous?,’ honestly, I don’t believe so. Because I think it opens up the sources for me to send deals to … I’m not a lender, so I’m not competing against them. I’m someone that would send them business. So when I look at them, I say this is just a new potential partner for me, a new opportunity.”
Ready for deBanked’s biggest event of the year? Broker Fair returns to New York City on May 18th
United Capital Source, a commercial finance brokerage based in New York, placed 3,883 deals in 2019 for a grand funding total of $199.3 million. Company CEO Jared Weitz said on LinkedIn of the milestone, “Our employees all saw growth (again) this year both professionally and personally. As we come into 2020 we are going into our 10th year of business!!!!! I cannot wait to see what these next year(s) hold for us. I’m so thankful for our Funding Partners and most of all our wonderful staff.”
Weitz is scheduled to speak at deBanked CONNECT MIAMI on January 16th at the Loews Hotel on a panel discussion about how to make money in 2020.