It's been quite some time since we've published interviews with members of The Green Sheet Advisory Board. With this issue, we are resuming Meet the Expert, which showcases industry leaders who offer sound advice and answer periodic questions we pose to address issues of concern to the ever evolving payments industry.
First up is Andrew Altschuler, Vice President, Business Development at Capify. Formerly known as AmeriMerchant Holdings LLC, the company has been prominent in alternative lending since that sphere's early days. Altschuler has been with the company since its inception.
What drew you to Capify, and what is it about the company that keeps you there?
The opportunity to be on the ground floor with Capify and work with a successful entrepreneur and visionary like David Goldin was something I couldn't pass up. What keeps me here is the limitless opportunity we have for helping small business owners globally. Merchants will always need access to working capital, and we are constantly developing faster and more efficient ways to deliver responsible business funding to these people.
You and Capify have been on an incredible journey since Chief Executive Officer David Goldin hired you as his first employee in 2002. Now you have 250 employees based in four countries. What factors led to this success?
The driver of our success truly was executing well in our niche. Banks and traditional lenders just weren't lending to small to midsize businesses when we started. We were among the first to recognize this and knew we could fill a tremendous void in the market place. Once we were able to prove the concept successfully here in the States, we were able to bring that success to Canada in 2006 and both the U.K. and Australia in 2008. Having the presence in all four regions has been a tremendous advantage, as we are able to scale our business quickly.
Years ago, ISOs and merchant level salespeople began offering merchant cash advance as a value-added service. Now the niche has expanded to become alternative lending, which incorporates more than cash advance. Could you talk about this transition and what can be done for businesses now in terms of financing that wasn't possible a few short years ago?
In the beginning, "alternative lending" really was just merchant cash advance. But the economic downturn in 2008 led to banks restricting access to credit to manage their risk. As a result, companies like Capify have been able to incorporate technology to enhance underwriting capabilities, and we have been able to bring dynamic products like business loans and lines of credit to small businesses who have been underserved by traditional banks.
We fill the void and can provide more flexible repayment options for small businesses to help them grow. This really has been a game changer for the industry.
What's next for you and Capify? As we improve our technology, we will be able to deliver our merchants and our partners' merchants working capital even faster and with even less friction. We are also growing into additional markets throughout the globe and are excited to expand in 2016 and beyond.
What is one thing people in the industry typically don't know about alternative lending that you wish they did know?
I think, more than anything, it's that we have the opportunity to help people. Small businesses are the life blood of the global economy. At Capify, we make it our mission to partner with small business owners by offering them simple, quick and responsible access to capital so that they can succeed.
When we can do that, small business owners have greater opportunities to grow their businesses and keep employees gainfully employed ‒ who can, in turn, provide for their families. Then the merchants' suppliers will get more orders from our clients, which in turn helps keep their businesses healthy. So it's not just a matter of giving money to "one merchant" to help them; it truly helps all small business owners directly and indirectly.
What prepared you for your career at Capify?
Prior to joining Capify (we were still AmeriMerchant when I joined) I worked in both financial sales on Wall Street, as well as management in the hospitality space. When David Goldin approached me to join, I felt I had the perfect background. I knew how to sell financial products, how to manage large staffs, and knew the ins and outs of the restaurant/nightclub business and would be able to identify the challenges and pains these merchants had since I had worked side by side with them for years.
What do you love about your work, and what is most challenging?
I love that we can actually make a difference for the merchant. A partner reaches out to us to describe a problem or challenge their client has. We work with the partner to get the right amount of responsible capital they need to help fulfill the dream or meet the financial goal. In the process, we also enable the partner to serve one of their longtime clients: it is a win-win all around and very rewarding.
I think the biggest challenge we face is that it is such a fast moving, competitive industry. With the huge amount of interest in alternative lending, it puts daily pressure on us to get fundings done quicker and cheaper, while still making good financial and underwriting decisions for our clients and our own business. It's a tough balancing act.
What spurred your interest in joining The Green Sheet Advisory Board?
Being that I have been in the industry 15-plus years, sitting on the Advisory Board is a chance for me to give back to the industry that has given me a successful and rewarding career. Hopefully the Advisory Board's advice can help others who read The Green Sheet gain the same success I have had ‒ and it's a great way to network.
I see you are a Certified Payments Professional. What are the advantages to having this certification?
Having the CPP is a great way to get instant credibility with our partners. I am able to speak the language they speak. It also helps when working directly with merchants, so they know I have an expertise in a product and industry that is so vital to their financial success.
What hobbies and outside interests do you have?
Yoga, reading nonfiction, and Jeopardy!
Have you read any inspiring books lately?
I recently finished Truman by David McCullough. Truman's story is a true example of how, no matter what your journey is, hard work and persistence usually pay off. Most people don't realize that before becoming a politician, Harry Truman actually failed as a men's clothing store owner after serving in World War I.
After a stint as a farmer in his home state of Missouri, he got into local politics, which led him to becoming a senator and eventually to the White House. His persistence and courage at every step was truly inspiring. I was recently joking with someone that if Harry Truman had access to sources of working capital like Capify while he was a store owner, he might never have been President.
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