When Marty McFly flew through time in Doc Brown’s DeLorean time machine, he arrived in a future — October 21, 2015, to be precise — that was incredibly familiar despite its modern advances. Now that 2015 is coming to a close, Barry Kastner feels like he has come back to the future in his new role as executive vice president of Bibby Financial Services. “It feels like the company I started in,” he says. “This is a perfect fit for me.”
When Kastner’s former Congress Financial colleague, Leigh Lones — now CEO of Bibby Financial Services Americas — contacted him about an opportunity, he says something just felt right. “It was a question of being at the right place at the right time, for both me and for Bibby,” Kastner explains. “Bibby was a growing factoring business that wanted to get more into the ABL product, and they were looking for somebody who could help them make that transformation.”
Kastner, who has extensive ABL and corporate finance experience, was a logical choice for Bibby. Most recently, Kastner held senior management positions with Siena Lending Group, Keltic Financial and TD Bank’s Asset Finance Group, and he spent the bulk of his career — more than 30 years — in senior management at Wachovia Capital Finance, the successor to Congress Financial.
“My background was very heavy into ABL,” Kastner says. “As a matter of fact, when I started in the business, it was for a factoring business that was also making the transformation into asset-based lending.”
After only four months with Bibby, Kastner was promoted to head of the company’s large business unit. Kastner says this rapid ascent was a natural progression since he feels at home with Bibby’s team. “Because of the compatibility in cultures, in philosophy, and because Leigh and I shared the same vision and concern about people, I just fit in quickly,” he says. “I got the staff excited about moving into the next level and about doing more of the ABL business.”
Kastner provides Bibby with an ABL leadership role and a pathway into the asset-based lending world, which he says has proven to be successful. In his new role, Kastner is implementing a program to cross-train staff in providing both ABL and factoring products. “Asset-based lending evolved from factoring,” he explains. “They’re both obviously methods of supporting businesses that need cash flow.”
Creative, Flexible & Global
Family-owned Bibby Financial Services, the largest independent provider of cash flow financial services in the UK, operates businesses in 15 countries with more than $1 billion in assets. Bibby recently expanded its focus to include small and mid-market companies across the U.S. and Canada.
In addition to offering both factoring and ABL products, Kastner says Bibby offers hybrid products that feel more like factoring but have elements of ABL. “We can cater to the borrower’s needs, and we’ve had some pretty good reception to that aspect of our business.”
Private ownership also gives Bibby a competitive advantage. “True asset-based lending, or what I would call traditional asset-based lending, is a fairly high-risk product that really lends itself more to an unregulated environment,” Kastner explains, citing the regulatory atmosphere as a hindrance to banks. “Unfortunately, the banks wind up having to pass on transactions that their ABL specialists may want to do. Less regulation and more independence gives us the flexibility to be true asset-based lenders. Our role in the industry is to lend where some of the banks can’t or won’t lend, and that’s an opportunity for Bibby.”
Another advantage Bibby has over many in the ABL industry is its global presence. “Being a global business is really a differentiator for us,” Kastner says. “It separates us from many of the other good lending businesses that don’t have the capability or the appetite to lend on a more global basis.”
However, Kastner says Bibby’s global presence is more of a differentiator than a driver. “What drives us is the creativity in the way we lend, the flexibility in our structure, being independent and being family owned,” he says. “Being the size we are gives us the ability to be flexible and to be fast. Our basic lending from proposal to funding has been an average of 42 days, which is really very fast for our industry.”
Another key differentiator for Bibby is its track record of delivering on proposals. “We don’t walk away from deals because we run into speed bumps,” Kastner says. “We don’t say no. We say, ‘How?’ We’ve been very good at overcoming difficulties that we find with our borrowers. We’re in a high-risk business. Some of our clients do have challenges, but we overcome those issues. We find ways around them, and we close. We have a really good track record in the short time we’ve been doing ABL.”
Beyond being a global and family-owned business, Kastner says people have always been the heart and soul of Bibby. “It’s about people,” he says, explaining that people are the framework of Bibby’s business and culture. “It’s a big company with a small company feel.”
Kastner says this people-centric focus and small company feel is the reason why Bibby has been named one of the 100 Best Companies to Work For (in the UK) by the Sunday Times for the past five years.
“We really focus on the concerns of our employees, our borrowers and our clients,” he says. “The way we treat our clients really comes through to our employees. We work in a high pressure business but it’s an environment where our people feel comfortable raising issues, making suggestions and keeping lines of communication open. We’re constantly keeping our people appraised of all the aspects of our business — both the good and the challenges. We solicit their input, reward them when appropriate and give our people a feel for what our long-range plans are. We know that jumping into the ABL business doesn’t make us successful overnight; it’s a path that we’re on.”
This transparency creates an ideal working environment, according to Kastner. “We’ve exceeded our expectations and people feel good about working with a successful business and successful people,” he says. “People also feel good about working with a business that gives back to the community, and giving back is an essential part of the Bibby philosophy. All of that adds up to making Bibby a good and fun place to work.”
Bibby has given almost $220 million around the world, which demonstrates the values of the company and its culture. “People believe in our global vision and mission of being tied to our communities and helping the people around us both personally and professionally,” Kastner adds.
Growing into the Future
Looking ahead, Kastner says Bibby will continue to grow its factoring business and excel with the ABL platform. He says mentoring will play a role in his cross training plans. When he was new to the industry, Kastner was often told to “take someone with gray hair along.” In his leadership role with Bibby, Kastner plans to recruit a few more gray-haired veterans. “We supplemented a young professional staff with more seasoned folks throughout our different offices and that has proven to work well, and put us in the right direction,” he says.
Kastner expects Bibby to make more key hires in the future. “We’re going to sprinkle some young, smart talent with some seasoned veterans,” he explains. “Since Leigh and I have Congress heritage, we have been contacted by many of the folks we’ve worked with before. As a matter of fact, we now have five former Congress employees working for us, so that adds to the excitement.”
By all measures, Kastner expects 2016 to be exciting for Bibby. “It’ll be a fun year,” he says. “We’re not exactly getting the band back together, but we’re bringing in some key folks to help us grow and manage the business, people who think the way we do, lend the way we do and want to share in our success.
“We’re going to shine because of the mix of people that we have across the business,” Kaster continues, adding that big names in the industry are attracted to Bibby. “They’re coming to us because they see this as the place that’s going to be exciting for their careers. I like to think that part of it is because I am here, and they sense my excitement and they want to be part of this success.
“Having worked at some big banks for a while and in some entrepreneurial businesses, this just feels right and back to the future, because this is where I started,” Kastner says. “I don’t take responsibility for Congress’ phenomenal success, but because I was part of it, I can help Bibby move in that direction. That’s what makes this so exciting.”