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Why I Became a CLP
Russ Wilder-"The ATEL Credit Man"

This is the twelth article in a series about the Certified Lease Professional program, explaining why individuals decided to become a CLP, the process, and their reaction to the knowledge and other benefits gained.

"The ATEL Credit Man"

Russ Wilder talks about his background in his story of how and why he became a Certified Lease Professional. Kit Menkin has known

him since his days at Fireside Thrift, where American Leasing discounted leases, and may have been one of the first to do so, having been a personal friend of the founder of Fireside Thrift, Sid Stern, who sold they company, started a thrift in Nevada and also kept partnership in Key Leasing, Redwood City (that is another story.) Russ had a unique way of looking at leases in the beginning, the old school, figuring out the consumer debt and cash flow, then analyzing the financial statements, and also always considering the "collateral" and "Dealer." He was neither "easy" nor "conservative," but very thorough. One thing is he always wanted his "yield," that's what I remember the most as they had no "rate card" in the beginning. Russ has been successful because he takes his attitude about life, in my opinion, to his job.

Kit Menkin, editor

At the time I took the CLP exam it was 1990 and the CLP designation was pretty new. I had been an active attendee to many WAEL (Western Association of Equipment Lessors -now known as the United Association of Equipment Leasing) events from 1985-1989 when I ran a small ticket leasing operation for Fireside Thrift Co., which was and still is, primarily a consumer lending outfit.

About the middle of 1989 Fireside's ownership structure was changed. What was formerly a subsidiary of Teledyne, Inc. became a subsidiary of a new holding company spun off from Teledyne that had a bunch of finance and insurance firms Teledyne had acquired over the years. Shortly thereafter the senior honchos at the new holding company parent visited Fireside's headquarters where my office was located and discovered that the largest branch (in terms of loans on the books) of Fireside Thrift was in fact a business equipment financing operation. As there were some recent changes in our regulatory environment from the state, as part of some refocusing of Fireside's operations it was decided to shut down my operation as my operation was like a square peg trying to fit into a pegboard with round holes.

After my severance from Fireside Thrift at the end of 1989 and spending a couple of months trying to find a new job I started laying the groundwork to become a lease broker. As Fireside Thrift had exited the business they let me take the entire contact list of every lessee we had ever dealt with in the nearly five years I was there so I thought I would have a good start on the marketing side. At the time I thought having the CLP designation would give me more credibility in developing potential funding sources at least, if not my customer base. I signed up to take the CLP exam.

Back then the CLP Handbook had not been developed yet but WAEL did run a one or two day cram course for the exam and I flew down to southern California to take it. This was a useful course, especially on the use of the HP 12C. While I had by then been in the equipment financing and leasing industry twelve years on the credit, documentation, collection and other operations end I had never been on the sales side and really had very little experience doing lease pricing as I had mostly just been "PVing" rental streams on leases discounted to Fireside Thrift or my prior employers.

The exam itself was like taking three blue book finals in college all in the same day. My writing hand was very fatigued by the end of the exams.

After getting the CLP designation I tried brokering leases and learning the sales side. I believe having the CLP designation was useful in lining up potential funding sources when I was getting the brokering operation set up as I did not have much trouble getting approved by any.

I was not successful as a broker though. Primarily this was because I had no training in sales. Also my timing of entry was poor as Gulf War I had broken out in August 1990 and the economy went into a mild recession. Firms I contacted were not acquiring new equipment unless they absolutely had to.

While brokering deals I was still trying to get full time employment with an equipment financing or leasing firm or a bank. By the early 1990s many of the firms that had branches in the Bay Area that competed with my former employers in the equipment financing industry (Westinghouse Credit Corporation, Wells Fargo Leasing Corporation) had either closed down their offices in the Bay Area entirely or vastly reduced the headcounts here to just sales offices so there was much less opportunity in the area than when I had started in 1978.

I think I was able to get maybe two or three interviews with equipment leasing or financing firms in two years. To any of them that were WAEL members at the time, I think having the CLP designation was a plus. In reality, I did not get any job offers as nearly all the firms I spoke with ended up closing their offices in the Bay Area in the next year or two.

I suspect the senior management of those offices became aware of the likelihood of their closing down in the near future while I was in the interview process.

I also applied to banks as I figured my credit and collections experience would be transferable skills and experience to a bank's commercial or corporate lending groups, especially since I had undergone one formal training program while at Wells Fargo Leasing Corporation that was designed for the bank's commercial and corporate lending groups.

What I found though was that banks by and large did not want to talk to me. My perception was that bankers did not understand leasing and did not see how anyone with a leasing background had experience applicable to their needs. My having the CLP designation meant nothing to any banks I was able to interview with. To say the least, I was getting pretty discouraged, and was barely making a living as a lease broker. Trying to move from credit into sales was not working for me, and maybe those who I was interviewing with thought that was what I really wanted to do. It wasn't.

Ultimately, after a few months of "off and on" conversations with ATEL founder AJ Batt, who was quite a unique man, I joined ATEL in the fall of 1992.

I'm not sure if having the CLP designation meant anything to AJ, he was clearly focused on my credit and operations experience, especially my start up experiences for Fireside Thrift Co.'s fledgling leasing operation. Partly due to the fact that ATEL was not an overly active member of WAEL/UAEL and with Dean Cash having bought out AJ five years ago now, the CLP has never carried any weight within ATEL.

The CLP designation has always meant something to me as I have renewed it now two or three times. When ATEL was actively in the small ticket market the packages I received from brokers that had the CLP got a bit more consideration from me as they were clearly more complete, organized and otherwise more professionally packaged than most submissions via brokers. I think more leasing professionals having the CLP would definitely improve the overall caliber of professionalism within the industry and any serious broker should seek the designation.

Senior Vice President, Chief Credit Officer

ATEL Capital Group, Inc. and Affiliates
600 California Street, 6th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94108 USA
Ph: 415-616-3457 Direct
Ph: 415-989-8800 Main
Ph: 650-678-8566 Mobile
FAX: 415-989-3796

For more information:

   Cindy Spurdle - Executive Director

   610-687-0213 direct
   610-687-4111 fax
   CLP Foundation
   Attn: Cindy Spurdle
   PO Box 302
   Wayne, PA 19087