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Marc Glazer co-founded BFS Capital in the early 2000s and has remained at the helm all this time – until now. Glazer
has passed the torch over to Michael Marrache, effective last week. He isn’t going too far, as the former chief executive will remain chairman of the board working alongside Marrache on the next chapter for the MCA and small business lending company. Meanwhile the executive pair points to a future not only where there is sustainability but where there is growth.
“We’ve obviously grown the company year after year over the last 15 years, and as with every other type of business and industry there were ebbs and flows. Over the last couple of years with a significant amount of challenges going on, we as a company decided we want to continue to grow but we want to grow in a way that benefits the company from a profitability standpoint as well as serves our customers,” said Glazer.
In April 2017, BFS Capital surpassed $1.5 billion in financings since inception. The company expects to fund more than $300 million in new financings in this calendar year.
“We’ll increase our reliance on algorithmic solutions, transparency in the ISO and customer experience and we will increase the number of financing solutions. Culture is significant for us and we will continue to build on the legacy Marc created,” said Marrache.
Marrache takes the reigns at a time when the industry is at a crossroads that will leave some alt lenders in the dust while other rise to the occasion.
“The stories that were challenging in 2016 look good in 2017,” said Marrache, pointing to OnDeck’s forthcoming profitability, Kabbage’s lofty valuation, CAN Capital’s return to funding, PayPal’s acquisition of Swift Financial and Prosper looking good.
“We think alternative and non-bank lending are in a good place. And yes, some of the folks that are no longer operating in this space were overextended or may have exhibited irrational behavior for pricing or customer acquisition costs. We think what we’re witnessing is the normal lifecycle of the industry. There were lots of participants earlier. Now to participate the industry must show a bit more control and sophistication. If you execute well, the tomorrows will be better than 2016,” said Marrache.
And according to Glazer, because of the changes in the business environment over the last couple of years, it’s going to require a different skillset to take BFS Capital to the next level.
“There are clear differences between starting a company, growing a company and becoming a billion-dollar small business financing platform. We’ve needed to evolve at each stage and now again with Michael’s leadership,” he said.
For Glazer, Marrache was almost always the succession plan.
“To be fair, hiring Michael four years ago, maybe succession planning was in the back of my mind somewhat. But as our relationship developed and as he was COO for three-plus years and then president, it became apparent that Michael’s skill set, passion, desire and how he looked at culture were all similar to myself. Let’s grow, but let’s watch our numbers. Make sure we treat people fairly. And for the businesses we are financing — provide thoughtful capital to help them versus creating problems for them,” said Glazer.
BFS Capital’s business model is comprised both of MCAs and small business loans. Alternative funding company CAN Capital does both MCAs and loans and had to pause lending until recently. For BFS, however, it’s all systems go. And that means unequivocally continuing to fund small businesses.
“Absolutely, yes. And there’s no quizzicality in mind. I would say we are going to continue funding small businesses and fund more of them this year than we did last year. And we will fund even more the year after. So absolutely,” Marrache said.
BFS Capital sells through both ISOs and directly to merchants, the former of which is where most originations derive. “There are a number of solutions we are putting together to benefit that network,” said Marrache, adding he doesn’t believe algorithmic solutions will replace underwriters.
“We have a strong legacy of customer underwriting. We believe lower level transactions can be significantly more automated. Above a certain level and certain amounts of origination, we think algorithms and data solutions at that point are a facilitator, not a replacement of our underwriting,” Marrache said.
There was a time when BFS Capital’s growth plans included debuting in the public markets. Those plans have since been sidelined amid a chilly investor reception for alternative lender stocks.
“We spent a lot of effort in our filing,” said Glazer. “But at the end of the day, the market for the space had softened. Going forward I think it’s really going to be a question of what the markets look like and what makes sense for our company. We will evaluate that as the situation warrants.”
IPO or not, it appears Glazer’s legacy is still being written.
“I co-founded the company 15-plus years ago. Before finance and accounting, at heart, I’m an entrepreneur. That’s what I do, what I enjoy. I love starting companies, having the vision and creating things,” he said.
As chairman of the board and a major stakeholder, Glazer will continue to be active in BFS Capital.