Technology’s ability to simplify and consolidate products has always fascinated Charles Sheppard, chief product officer and chief operating officer at eCapital, and that fascination has fueled his desire to simplify processes to lower costs for customers and partners.
Charles Sheppard has more than 20 years of experience pushing back on the status quo, subscribing to the belief that if you work hard enough and look deep enough, you can always find a better solution. Such is the life of a disruptor.
Back in 2000, Sheppard was helping to run a mid-sized trucking company and was frustrated by the industry-wide challenge of maintaining sufficient cash flow. His refusal to accept the status quo led him to discover factoring, a lesser-known funding option at the time that provided rapid access to the funds typically buried in accounts receivable. His curiosity led him to conduct his own research and analysis, helping him to understand how factoring could someday become a mainstream funding option in one of North America’s largest industries: transportation.
“[I] could see the value in it right away, especially if you are in a capital-intensive business and you’re really trying to get traditional forms of financing and your working capital might be limited, [factoring] seemed like a natural fit,” Sheppard says.
In true disruptor fashion, Sheppard realized that there was far more business to be gained by introducing other trucking companies to this alternative solution then there was in moving freight from one coast to the other. And so, he and a business partner formed Accutrac Capital, an alternative financing company, in 2007. The company experienced rapid growth, not just because Sheppard found funding partners to back his opportunities, but because he was able to unlock to power of the internet to connect his product to the people who needed it most: small to medium-sized operators across North America.
Leading the Way
Sheppard’s uncanny ability to stand out from the crowd was further validated when Accutrac Capital was acquired by Global Merchant Fund in 2019, with both he and his partner retained to lead the company’s factoring division. Over the next two years, Sheppard spearheaded the consolidation of the entire portfolio group under what is now known as eCapital.
“It didn’t make sense to us to continue supporting multiple brands when we could consolidate under one brand, with one vision…to lead the way as an innovative provider of capital solutions to small and medium-sized businesses,” Sheppard says.
Based on the success of eCapital’s freight factoring operations, Sheppard was then asked to accept the position of chief operating officer for the entire group in 2020 and to create a business strategy that would leverage technology and innovation, streamlining operations and elevating the customer experience. Today, thanks to Sheppard’s efforts, more than 700 eCapital employees embrace technology and innovation as the way forward in meeting the needs of the company’s core audience.
“It is the joy of my life to be able to work with the team every single day of the week,” Sheppard says. “That’s definitely my biggest accomplishment.”
Innovation Keeps Coming
Over the past two years, Sheppard has been fine-tuning eCapital’s operating model, leading the creation of proprietary products and platforms that will pave the way for better, faster access to the working capital.
In addition, Sheppard says financial technology and embedded finance, as well as banking-as-a-service functionality, are all new tools available to alternative lenders to compete with traditional lenders, allowing companies to offer enhanced products. With a growing roster of funding methods paired with evolving technology, Sheppard sees the financial technology industry heading toward consolidation. Sheppard also believes companies will be looking for fat to cut in processes and technology packages, all while consolidating products to a single platform.
“We know that to survive and thrive, businesses need financial flexibility to quickly respond to challenges and take advantage of opportunities, all in real time,” Sheppard says. “Companies today need innovation guided by experience to unlock the potential of their assets to give better, faster access to the capital they require.”
And with all the progress that eCapital has made to date, it’s still just the beginning, as its updated corporate goals will lead it to push forward with even more disruption through innovation.
“Our innovative partnership with Visa last year was a first in our industry. Leveraging that relationship then helped us to develop a new InstaPay product that enables customers to instantly access their funding from anywhere, 24-7,” Sheppard says. “For me, it’s all about how to make the customer experience frictionless so that customers can literally perform a service and within hours get funding.”
On an industry level, Sheppard now sees the shifting adoption of technology beyond the offices of eCapital, which he believes will help alleviate friction points for all stakeholders, including customers and service providers.
“More seamless processes will allow for lower costs and an improvement in competitiveness mongst alternative and traditional lenders alike,” Sheppard says.