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Interview with Bank of America’s Seth Benefield
By Charlie Perer
In this installment of our series of executive interviews, Charlie Perer sits with Seth Benefield, head of Bank of America Business Capital and Asset-Based Financing, to hear his perspective on the state of the ABL market, challenges of running one of the biggest ABL groups, ABL as a product or business, leadership and competition, among other things.
Charlie Perer: Thank you for your time, Seth. To begin, can you please talk briefly about your background?
Seth Benefield: Thanks, Charlie. It’s hard for me to believe, but I am approaching 23 years with Bank of America. Except for a short stint in healthcare finance, I have worked in the ABL business my entire banking career and have had the opportunity to work in underwriting, portfolio management and leading our originations team. For the last two years, I have led Bank of America Business Capital, our Asset Based Finance Business, which includes our general industries ABL team, the Retail Finance Group, Dealer Financial Services, and our A/R securitization business. Prior to joining the bank, I was a CPA in public accounting and then an FBI Special Agent. I work with great people, and I am truly grateful for the relationships made throughout my career.
What have you learned from prior economic cycles that you plan to implement this next cycle?
Regardless of the economic backdrop, our approach is to be consistent with how we manage risk and serve clients. During expansion periods and in times when the economy is softening, we want to support our clients and drive responsible growth. The strength of our balance sheet provides us this flexibility. Our focus on client selection and maintaining underwriting standards doesn’t deviate materially through the cycles. I will say that in periods of higher volatility, we ask our teams to spend even more time with clients to understand the challenges and opportunities they are facing. We want to be proactive in how we manage asset quality and the better we understand our borrowers’ businesses, the quicker we can respond to their needs.
What is the most important challenge facing bank ABLs right now?
For us, it always starts with our people. This is a tight labor market, and we are fully committed to maintaining our competitive advantage with the quality of our associates. We continue to invest in our team and look to attract new talent to our organization. I hope that the culture we have built is appealing to our associates and future teammates. But we have to work at it every day and continue to make our employee satisfaction a top priority.
Is BABC positioned as a product of the commercial bank, its own business or a combination of both?
One of the things I love about our business is the breadth and importance of our ABL franchise to the bank. We cover many different groups including Business Banking, Global Commercial Banking, and Corporate Banking. We also partner closely with our sponsor coverage teams, leveraged finance and investment banking. It is a dual-coverage model with our ABL team and bankers jointly covering client relationships. In addition to our internal coverage, we place a heavy emphasis on external calling on sponsors, prospects and other referral sources. I do have a separate P&L for our asset-based finance businesses that I am responsible for managing.
Most large banks are integrating ABL as a product within the commercial banks. How are you shaping this strategy point?
We really benefit from the coverage provided by our banking teams. Our partners do a tremendous job serving their clients across the globe. We lean into this coverage model and enhance it with our ABL expertise and external calling effort. We pride ourselves on how well we collaborate, and joint pitches by the teams of different credit solutions are common and encouraged.
Can you please talk about the breadth of borrowers BABC serves from business banking to large corporates?
Our transaction sizes range from as small as $5MM to up to over $5B. I love the diversity of our clients, both in terms of size and industries represented.
Please click here to read the entire interview.