March/April 2014 – Issue 2

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Reiser agreed that young hires have been a key piece of his company’s human resource strategy, but he said he places little emphasis on the actual area of study of any particular student.

“We have hired English majors, accounting majors, liberal arts, whatever,” Reiser said. “I can’t tell you today that the guy with the business background is doing any better than liberal arts graduate because, in reality, neither has had any real experience when they walk in our door.”

Reiser said attitude and drive are better predictors of a new hire’s potential.

“Just as with any business — talent will get you in the door, but attitude will keep you there,” Reiser said. “You can be really smart but not fit in and not be successful. But you can also be smart with a great attitude and be hugely successful.”

One of the hidden benefits of hiring recent college graduates is that they don’t often come with as much “baggage,” Reiser said.

“If you take a smart kid out of college, then you can teach them your way,” Reiser said. “Then they don’t have bad habits, and you can groom them to become what you want them to be.”

Professional trap

Companies that opt for more experienced hires may also run into trouble. That’s because while it is tempting to lure away stars from other industries, many alternative lenders are finding that the skills required to excel in small business lending rarely translates directly from other industries.

“We have tried pulling in people with bank backgrounds, but our issue is that retraining people to understand our product is difficult and takes time,” Francis said.

Further compounding the problem is the increasing complexity of alternative business lending. Over the past few years, the industry has expanded beyond merely funding restaurants and small retail stores, and now requires sophisticated problem solving and analysis.

“We need people who understand the interrelationships of financial statements. We need people who can talk to people,” Reiser said.

Francis said often she will hire someone with a mortgage background only to find that they panic at seemingly routine deals.

“They are used to getting 760 credit scores and funding only those. They are used to requiring documents and proof for absolutely everything,” Francis said.

She said those mortgage veterans then panic when a deal comes up with a 520 credit score and minimal documentation. Their first instinct often is to not fund it, even when it would be a good, profitable deal, she said.

But given some education and training, those initial misunderstandings can be overcome.

“If an applicant has come from a system-driven or assembly line production-type job, like a mortgage underwriter, they probably have a lot of the base skills necessary to be successful in our industry,” D’Amico said.

D’Amico said GRP has successfully brought in applicants from the finance, legal and insurance industries, all with great success.

Reiser said Strategic Funding has also had great success drawing from the investment banking analysis fields.

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