Thursday, Apr 17th

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While the largest banks were asking for bailouts, one young startup was forging ahead to take its place as a premier commercial lender. Crestmark Financial Corporation and Crestmark Bank opened in 1996 with a performance of just under $10 million in financing; this year, they anticipate over $3 billion.

Founder and president David Tull attributes their success to having developed a highly-defined specialty niche. "We primarily finance companies that can't get working capital from traditional banks," Tull said. "Although we are a bank ourselves, we don't do all the things that most banks do. For example, we don't do consumer loans or offer checking accounts. All we do is finance business-to-business transactions."

Within the commercial sector, Crestmark provides working capital to a wide variety of businesses. Tull told The Suit, "We finance all kinds of companies, from auto suppliers to perfume manufactures to furniture distributors. We are very big into financing truckers, the transportation world, and staffing companies. And we even have one client that manufactures gourmet dog treats."

Crestmark currently employs over 160 people in five locations. "We've accumulated one of the best teams in the industry, and I wanted to make sure we keep them," Tull said. "As a company, we've strived to maintain the best benefits and bonus programs we can. We recently instituted a stock ownership plan, so now all of our employees have a vested interest in how the company does because they are not just employees; they are also owners."

Growth during a recession is not easy to accomplish, but Tull explained how Crestmark benefited under such extreme circumstances. "We get most of our business as referrals from other financial institutions. As they pulled back out of the market, they had a lot of clients that they wanted to exit. We've been the beneficiary of that."

Those benefits didn't come without challenges. Tull acknowledged that finding financing solutions for clients undergoing financial difficulties was not always easy. "One of our risks is that we are either buying or financing our clients' account receivables and inventory. Another potential negative is that the people who are buying from our clients may not be as strong as they once were, so the risks may be a little greater from the possibility of default standpoint."

Tull described his strategy for Crestmark as having four categories: control, profitability, growth, and a culture of positivity. Since the first two goals have been achieved, growth is now his primary focus.

"We're achieving growth organically through our sales force and through acquisitions," Tull said. "As the CEO, most of my time is dedicated thinking ahead, from six months to three years or more, as to where we want to be and how we are going to get there."

For more information please visit: www.crestmark.com
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