As a principal at Ares Commercial Finance, Daniel Reilly has had the chance to work with and be mentored by asset-based lending industry veterans like Ryan Cascade, a partner and head of the team, along with partner John Nooney and managing directors Sridharan Kannan and Oleh Szczupak and fellow principal Joseph Ciciola. But Reilly’s first and most important mentor, both in life and in his career, has been his father.
“He was my first boss,” Reilly says. “He really taught me the business. I’m still running thoughts and ideas by him today.”
The Family Business
Reilly grew up seeing how the asset-based lending industry worked first-hand while his father worked in Citibank’s ABL group and then launched his own firm, Keltic Financial Services. Reilly interned at Keltic during his undergraduate years at the University of Colorado and then got his first job at the firm as a junior credit officer and analyst for the underwriting team.
“I grew up in the industry,” Reilly says. “My father spoke a lot about work and a lot about the different companies he worked with, so I think his passion for the industry is what got me attracted to ABL.”
In 2014, Ares Management acquired Keltic, altering Reilly’s career trajectory. Fortunately, Reilly was intimately involved in the transition, contributing to the team that put together the review forms for the acquisition while helping Ares Commercial Finance get comfortable with the business and its underwriting, operations and portfolio processes.
As evidenced by his integral role in cementing the acquisition, Reilly had already gained plenty of experience and learned important lessons about ABL by the time he got to Ares Commercial Finance. But some of the most important lessons were presented to him on his first day of work. As Reilly recalls, sitting on his desk when he began his first shift at Keltic was a plaque with several pieces of sage advice: remember Murphy’s Law; be prepared, not surprised; think of it as your money; bad loans are generally made in good times; problem loans are inevitable, loan losses are not; and manage emotions as well as credit. And who placed those lessons on his desk? You guessed it, his father.
“That tombstone still sits on my desk and I read it constantly,” Reilly says. “When I was 20-years-old, those words really didn’t mean a lot to me, but now, after being in the industry for 10 years, I’ve realized that those bullet points have really influenced my business decisions greatly.”
At Ares Commercial Finance, Reilly uses those lessons and the many others he’s learned during his decade in the business to manage portfolio loans, underwrite transactions and focus on certain business development opportunities. He has also been involved in the hiring and recruitment of interns and analysts. Reilly has relished these disparate tasks, as they speak to how he has been empowered to define his own role.
Reilly’s work at Ares Commercial Finance has also allowed him to continue ascending the deal size ladder. At Keltic, he primarily worked on smaller deals in the $1 million to $10 million range, but at Ares Commercial Finance, Reilly branched into the $15 million to $50 million range, eventually progressing to doing deals of up to $250 million.
“It was just a nice transition for me to go from small-ticket ABL to larger middle market transactions,” Reilly says.
In addition to giving him a greater breadth of experience in terms of deal size, this progression has also allowed Reilly the chance to work with different types of borrowers while sharpening his skills across disciplines.
“I believe I’m well rounded. I was able to learn the business from the bottom by starting in an operations role, then moving into portfolio then into underwriting,” Reilly says. “I’ve learned how to work with the owner operator who’s very new to ABL as well as the sophisticated sponsor who’s negotiated hundreds of credit agreements.”
Even for Reilly, who finds food product industry deals particularly interesting, having a variety of clients is important and has really kept him focused on building his career.
“I’ve had a chance to look at hundreds of different businesses in all kinds of industries. I would say my favorite part of the ABL process is constantly learning about new businesses and industries,” Reilly says. “I think if I picked a career path in finance in which I specialized in one industry, I would’ve gotten bored by now.”
Part of the Job
In addition to his role in helping Ares Commercial Finance close and fund deals, Reilly also has taken on mentoring responsibilities within the company, helping to guide junior team members as they start their own ABL journeys. Although he is still in the early part of his own career relatively speaking, Reilly knows that providing support is something anyone can and should do, even if its not officially part of their job description.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for people going out of their way to mentor me,” Reilly says. “I want to make sure that our junior members have that same support. I believe that mentoring up-and-coming talent is equally as important as any other aspect of my job.”
Reilly has made it a priority to go through transactions with junior staff members before they present to Ares Commercial Finance’s investment committee. In doing so, he helps them outline strengths and weaknesses of each deal while strategizing on recommendations for credit. After a deal is considered, Reilly then helps compare those pre-meeting recommendations with the actual decisions of the committee as background work for future deals. In addition to these types of hands-on initiatives, Reilly also urges junior people in the industry to ask questions frequently and to reach out to as many people and resources as possible to find answers.
“At any firm, you’re going to be surrounded by a wealth of knowledge. If you’re not constantly trying to tap into that knowledge, you’re not going to develop nearly as quickly,” Reilly says. “Don’t just ask questions of the same few people, get different perspectives. That’s helped me tremendously in my career to really get to learn from and grow with the people that I’m sitting next to in the office every day.”
Reilly isn’t just focused on improving things for junior staff members at Ares Commercial Finance; he’s also dedicated to improving the ABL industry overall. He is involved with the Secured Finance Network, Turnaround Management Association and the Association for Corporate Growth, and although he’s seen greater representation of different backgrounds at industry events in the last few years, he knows there’s more to do.