2019 Inductee, Wells Fargo Capital Finance
Peter Schwab was the chairman and CEO of Wells Fargo Capital Finance. Peter also served on the Management Committee of Wells Fargo Bank.
A 39-year veteran of the asset-based lending industry, he joined Foothill Capital Corporation in 1983, becoming its president and chief operating officer in 1986. Norwest Corporation then purchased the company in 1995. In 2000, he was named chairman and chief executive officer of Wells Fargo Foothill and, in 2006, he took the position of group head of the Asset-Based Lending Group, now known as Wells Fargo Capital Finance.\
Prior to joining Foothill Capital Corporation, Peter was vice president of Business Development with BarclaysAmerican Business Credit. He started his career as a business development officer at the National Acceptance Company of California.
Peter serves as an emeritus member of the Board of Advisors for the Entrepreneurial Studies Center at the University of California, Los Angeles Anderson School of Business, a board member of Stonegate Capital, a board member of Tennenbaum Capital Partners (NYSE), a board member of Rexford Industrial Reality, Inc. (NYSE).
What advice would you offer to someone just starting out in the industry?
The first thing I learned, day one, when I joined the industry, and it’s something I continued to do until the day I retired, I was always willing to ask questions. My advice is: if you don’t know something, or don’t understand something, it’s important to be sure that your ego doesn’t get in the way and ask a lot of questions – even about the littlest things. As a rookie in the business, I carried a notepad with me, and anytime I was in a meeting and I didn’t understand something, I jotted down the question. Then, at the appropriate time, I was sure to go back to the right person and get an answer. This is extremely important advice for someone who is just starting in ABL or factoring.
How did you get your start in the industry?
Let me start by saying that I have do not have a degree in finance or accounting. I do have a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in education which, of course, has nothing to do with the asset-based lending business. I got my start in this industry by meeting Barry Grossman, whose father was the head of the National Acceptance Company of California. He thought I could be a good salesman and asked me to join their firm, which I did in 1971. Both he and Irwin Teich who is being honored here tonight, spent two years teaching me the business from top to bottom and the rest is history. Although I left education, I’ve never looked back as this business was always a challenge and a really lot of fun.
What are some of your most memorable moments during your career?
I could tell you about many memorable things during my career. An example was financing the Los Angeles Lakers or financing the Houston Astros. Great seats, going to parties with players and owners and going to the NBA finals. But all the memories were interesting, but some not so much “fun”— an example is during the early days of my career we foreclosed on a trucking company and I had to drive all around the state of Nevada and Arizona to find the trucks that the drivers had hidden so they could use them as leverage in order to get paid. Or I can remember when I joined Foothill and was staring at my first big loss and had to go to the founder of the company, John Nickoll (also an inductee into the Hall of Fame) and had to tell him that we were about to write off a large sum of money. Knees shaking, I told him the story and his response was: “Peter, it’s a loss; take it and let’s get on to the next thing”. It was memorable and taught me a lot about how to approach this business, which is really riask management and you realize that not everything is going to go smoothly.
What effect did SFNet have on your career?
This probably sounds like mom and apple pie given the fact that I’m receiving this honor from the SFNet. Without my experience in our trade association I would have never been able to achieve the things I accomplished in our industry. I will repeat what I said as part of my retiring chairman’s speech at our convention: This is a business about relationships and the relationships that I cobbled out by being a member of the SFNet played a big part in shaping my career in our industry. Even though we were all competitors, we had a lot in common and were able to all work together for the betterment of each of our companies. Many of my closest business relationships were established through SFNet. Today I still consider many of the colleagues that I met at through SFNet as friends.