Interview with Incoming SFNet President John DePledge
By Michele Ocejo
John DePledge currently serves as the head of Asset Based Lending of Bank Leumi USA. With over 35 years of ABL experience, John has built portfolios in numerous new markets and has held senior leadership roles in originations, portfolio management, underwriting, asset recovery and field examination. Here, he outlines SFNet’s 2020 goals after its recent transformation.
Tell us a bit about how you got into the industry and your career path.
I completed an undergraduate degree with a B.S. in accounting. During my initial job search, I became more interested in finance than public accounting, so I joined a private factoring company, Associates Factors. I worked there as an account exec assistant and performed well so they expanded my duties to be the AR verification manager.
My next stop was as a field examiner for a bank in New England (Citytrust) which had a small-ticket ABL portfolio and was growing in the CT/ NY area. I was also able to receive formal credit training during my time at this bank.
From there, I became an account exec for another bank in New England (People’s Bank). During my time there, the economy experienced a recession and that’s where I started getting workout/asset recovery experience. In addition, I went to graduate school in the evenings and weekends and completed an MBA finance.
Next stop was a relocation to Philadelphia to join a regional bank (Mellon) where I was a senior account exec. The ABL portfolio of that firm was purchased by LaSalle Business Credit. During my tenure there, I had a variety of roles including senior account exec, portfolio team leader, regional underwriting manager, and was heavily involved in geographic expansion, workout/ asset recovery as well as managing team members in multiple offices.
I was introduced to an opportunity to start a MidAtlantic office for TD Bank when it was still a New England-based bank, (pre-Commerce Bank acquisition). The appeal was the expansion plans this firm had for the Eastern seaboard. Like previous positions, my roleand responsibilities changed as the business grew. My last position at TD was the national sales manager for its ABL practice.
Next, I was recruited out of TD to restart an ABL practice for Citibank’s commercial banking business. My initial role was to become the national sales manager with the intent of becoming the business head as the portfolio grew, which it did.
I recently joined Bank Leumi USA, where I’ve been tasked with leading its ABL practice and expanding the business within the principal markets it serves, in particular the U.S. middle market. I am very excited about the opportunity to build another successful ABL business.
In summary, my career has ranged from small, regional and large, international firms. My responsibilities have grounded my view to be a leader who has a balanced approach to risk/reward.
How did you become involved in SFNet and what motivated you to become a volunteer leader?
My early involvement was attending periodic dinner/ networking events in Connecticut and then the NYC Chapter holiday party.
When I relocated to Philadelphia, I attended events as a way to meet people in a new area and was eventually asked to become the treasurer of this chapter. I enjoyed the involvement and worked my way through the leadership ranks and, after finishing my tenure as chapter president, I was asked to join a committee on the national level.
Over the past 15 years, I’ve had great opportunities to serve on many committees as a participant and/or leader, including the Executive and Management Committees.
The personal and professional dividends I’ve received far outweigh the time involvement. The volunteers, as well as the employees of SFNet, are dedicated to the betterment of the practitioners in our industry community. We share the common cause of continuing to adapt and create value-added services and programs that our members desire.
What are your main priorities and goals as SFNet president?
SFNet has made supporting the next generation a high priority, through its YoPro Committee and conferences, as well as the 40 Under 40 Awards. As president, I plan to attend as many YoPro events nationally as possible.
I will also focus on strengthening pillars of our member value proposition, including Education/Information/Advocacy/ Networking. Our goal is to increase engagement across the board. Engagement is the best indicator that we are providing real value to our community.
I plan to continue building on the the excellent foundational work my predecessors have laid, including fiscal responsibility, inclusion of all constituents, as well as collaboratively championing new initiatives.
You’ll be taking the helm during the association’s first full year as SFNet. How do you think this will affect the Network and its members?
It’s more than just a name change. With all the positive developments at the former CFA over the past few years (more inclusive membership; new, focused programming for diverse constituents; new, value-added information resources), we see this as a great opportunity to further invigorate, energize and better serve our community.
How will the Network honor its history while moving forward under the new brand?
CFA will always be in our DNA. It’s where we came from and it’s a proud and rich heritage. Under the new brand we will build on that legacy. Just one example is introducing the Hall of Fame at the Annual Convention to honor and recognize those who have given so much to our industry.
We have four main areas of focus in which we are making substantial investments: The first is networking, which is critical for business growth. SFNet fosters communities of shared interest that generate opportunities and deal flow. These connections often lead to meaningful, long-term relationships and collaborations.
SFNet also offers industry data through its Foundation. We provide data and insights that help members see around corners and improve competitiveness.
Knowledge is another key area. Whether you’re a small to- large regulated bank, an independent entrepreneurial enterprise, a factoring firm, a private direct lender, law firm, or advisor, SFNet develops and delivers content, training, and best practices to advance your organization and your career.
Advocacy is an integral offering of any trade association and we’ve sharpened our focus on legislative and regulatory matters; this includes educating regulators, filing briefs, and working to establish cooperative relationships around the globe.
What challenges and opportunities do you see for the industry in 2020?
I think a big risk is an eventual economic contraction. A downturn could easily result in lower lending volumes as some firms are consumed with addressing portfolio issues. This could easily bleed over to other professionals who focus on new business activity for their practices.
A downturn can also present opportunities, if history repeats itself. Supply and demand principles will prevail and those lenders who have the ability and desire to put capital to work should be rewarded with better structures and pricing. In addition, there will be the natural progression of borrowers under cash-flow structures to refinance their loans into ABL structures.
We also face risks on the legislative front, particularly relating to priority of lien rights, disputes over asset proceeds and these financial disclosure bills that keep popping up SFNet is working hard to educate uninformed lawmakers and get the best possible outcomes for our community.
A coordinated effort is underway with SFNet constituents with diverse backgrounds and perspectives to advocate and influence proposed laws to the benefit of the secured lending community.
How do you spend your time when you aren’t working?
Family time is most important, but I do enjoy the ongoing challenge of chasing a better golf index. I also enjoy exercising, cooking and reading fiction. These are some of the ways I escape the rigors of work.