We’re thrilled to present another installment of Oxpecker & Impala, our Yieldstreet interview series. These talks will help you get to know us better as a company, our values, and what makes us tick.
We recently sat down with Larry L. Curran II and Barbara Anderson of Yieldstreet’s asset class, Private Business Credit. In this candid interview, we dive into their personal and professional lives, touching on Larry’s childhood as a surfer, Barbara’s love of math & science, and their passion to build the Yieldstreet Private Business Credit brand as the go-to solution for our borrowers’ needs while balancing the needs of our investors’ goals of predictable, diversified current income.
I grew up in Huntington Beach, CA on the West Coast, and naturally, I surfed as a kid. My parents divorced when I was a freshman and I moved to the condos on the north side of the Huntington Beach Pier, where we lived on the sand. Back in those days, nobody cared how old you were, you just got on your bike, put your surfboard on your surf rack and from 8 a.m. ‘til the street lights came on we’d be out surfing.
Growing up in a beach community was a very casual environment. I was also a multi-sport athlete: baseball pitcher and linebacker in football. I was fortunate to experience a lot of things and had a really great childhood despite the divorce, one house one neighborhood from birth through high school graduation, dad’s house. Today, I still get together with a lot of the guys I grew up with, many of whom I’ve known since first grade. We have an annual ski trip at Beaver Creek – Avon Colorado.
My background is entirely different from Larry’s. I was born and raised as a city kid in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. My Dad was born and raised less than a mile from where I grew up. He served in WWII in the Coast Guard and was a semi-pro ice hockey player before taking over a family-owned, food distribution business.
My Mom grew up in Brooklyn too, worked for a while at the March of Dimes then became a stay at home. My parents were married for 39 years. Both were children of immigrants, Germany on my father’s side, and Poland on my mother’s side. I’m an only child and I spent 12 years in all-girls, private, Catholic schools. Where Larry was in that casual surfer dude atmosphere, I was the shy, straight-laced, studious kid.
After high school, I went to Colgate University, a small liberal arts college in upstate New York. I was the first in my family to attend college. Those were my four years living in the country with nothing nearby besides cows, grass, and trees. I promptly came right back to the city after those four years and started my career in commercial banking. Although I had summer jobs during college in the check processing and letters of credit department of Manufacturers Hanover Trust (now JPMorgan Chase), I had no work experience in corporate lending.
A couple of things from high school stand out for me. The first, for some reason my school’s student council continuously picked me as the “bachelor” from HBHS to be in the dating game with opposing high schools, long before “The Bachelor”. In my senior year, we won the 5A Sunset League Championship in football, and against our big crosstown rival I had the game-ending interception to help get to the championship. I have also named all-conference Sunset League Pitcher with a < 1 era. Varsity baseball’s Bill Jenkins Hustle Award winner.
For me, it was math and science. I was a Psychology major and Fine Arts minor in college, but all through grammar school and high school I loved math and science. I was even on the math team in high school. My husband is a PGA Pro and my son and daughter are both great athletes in baseball and softball. They all make endless fun of me because “Mom is a mathlete.”
I had a not so glamorous beginning. When I was in college, I took a summer job in L.A. cold calling at a broker-dealer, Hollywood stars lined the sidewalks. When you’re new, they actually gave you a stack of leads that were for individuals to call on. These leads had already been called on by others in the office who had been told, “no thanks.” in less eloquent language. As I started making these calls, I actually produced a lot of leads and those leads actually turned into some deals. I thought I could do this, get licensed, and become an NASD registered representative.
As I was going through college, I started training, got licensed, and ended up launching my career in the broker-dealer business. This was right as the savings and loan crisis hit in 1989. Just as I was starting, we hit our first major financial crisis in decades, with the epicenter in the California real estate market. We decided to start raising our own capital to go out and buy distressed assets, real estate, and consumer receivables. In short order, I took additional licensing to become the Principal of the broker-dealer
This was my first foray into the debt buying business. By the time I was done, we had raised $50M from 1,900 accredited investors. This was before the internet so we had to do it the old fashioned way—one phone call at a time. We became one of the largest debt buyers in the nation. I was a regular on the financial news radio and held investor seminars at our respective collections agencies weekly by the age of 28.
Foreign banks were buying small commercial banks in the US and growing them. Many came to campus to interview for their credit training programs when I was graduating from college and I interviewed with all of them. I took my first job with National Westminster Bank USA, which was owned by a British parent. At that time, they had an 18-month loan officer development program. I thought it would be a good way to transition into large corporate lending as a Psychology major and a Fine Arts minor. The bank was looking for someone who could write and think, then they would teach the accounting, lending, and credit analysis part of the job tailored to their business. I was hired right before I graduated, moved back to Brooklyn, and commuted to Manhattan for the first seven years of my career.
As an accredited investor, I had invested in other FinTech platforms prior to starting here. I had served at the Institute for Entrepreneurship at Colorado State University, helping young entrepreneurs, and fintech played a big part. As a capital markets professional, I’ve always loved the idea of creating this kind of parity where investors can leverage a FinTech platform to access numerous diversified income-producing opportunities that originators like Barbara and I can produce.
As a member on the platform, I saw the speed and trajectory of Yieldstreet’s investors and I thought to myself, “we just need to do what we do, where they do it.” We initially met Michael in 2016, when we were both raising capital and knew our two ideas could cross paths one day. Fast forward roughly four years later and here we are.
I am excited about offering individual investors senior secured asset-based loans. I am a true believer in the safety and security of these loans if they are structured properly and monitored correctly. I think it’s very exciting to be able to offer that type of diversity to individual investors who are limited in the ways they can participate in these types of investments. Individually, they can invest in the stock market or a fund, but they don’t have direct access to the senior secured loan market. That’s an exciting opportunity that Yieldstreet provides. I think Private Business Credit has the potential to grow tremendously at Yieldstreet.
In 2008, I was a senior secured asset-based lender and the bank that I was working for got acquired. As a result, most of the commercial lending staff were laid off. I was looking to make a career change and Larry had just started a new company with his partners, VION Receivable Investments. They were in the business of acquiring distressed assets from performing companies or performing assets from distressed companies.
We would buy non-performing charged-off consumer credit card debt and installment loans from banks and finance companies. Also, if a company was going out of business and selling its assets, we would buy that portfolio of assets either in bankruptcy or out of bankruptcy.
We traveled the globe looking for these opportunities. It was a super exciting time to be doing that because it was during and right after the Great Recession. Once the market started to normalize, VION decided to retire the fund we built and return the capital to its investors. VION started a new fund but Larry and I decided to leave the distressed investing world in 2016 and start a new company together financing growing businesses in the post-recession economy.
We decided to pursue growing businesses because we felt that there was a void between companies providing $3M of funding and those providing $30M in funding. There were very few lenders out there that could grow a $3M borrower to a $30M borrower. They could either fund them at $3M or fund them at $30M, but they couldn’t fund them from $3M to $30M. Our company filled that void in the marketplace with the private investors that backed us. That’s when we met Michael Weisz. We thought Yieldstreet could be a potential investor in our loans through the Yieldstreet platform.
We’re defining that as we go right now. Most of the online crowdfunding platforms focus primarily on one asset class and don’t venture out of it. At Yieldstreet, we have multiple asset classes with their own channels and partners. What we’re going to do is add diversity well beyond what we currently have. Private Business Credit will not be a one-trick pony.
One week you may see auto loans, the next you could see bourbon barrels or equipment leases. We want to lend to a borrower that’s going to be borrowing from us this year, next year, and for years to come after that. This vision extends the lifetime value of both the investor and borrower to each other and to the Yieldstreet platform with the goal of creating prosperity for all.
Our aim is to keep borrowers on our platform borrowing from us as we both grow. As borrowers become a better quality credit risk with growing capital needs we can reduce their cost of capital over time. This allows us to build trust with our investors around our platform borrowers. We’re confident that our investors are looking for that as well because each investor on the Yieldstreet site has to do their own due diligence on every deal. Having deals repeat from the same borrowers as they grow enables the trust to grow between the two.
Larry and I have been remote workers for at least the last decade. We’ve been remote to each other, and remote to our headquarters. For myself personally, I have worked remotely for 25 years across multiple banks and finance companies. In addition, while I have been a remote employee, my staff were remote to me as well. Productivity didn’t skip a beat. Much of my time as a remote employee was before the days of Zoom, Skype, and other technology that makes it so much easier these days.
I think that the biggest issue right now is not being able to meet prospective borrowers in person. I like to say I’ve never made a loan by mail. Not getting to meet the borrowers face to face is a bit challenging, but we are working through it as Covid-19 restrictions ebb and flow. On the Yieldstreet side, I thought the entire onboarding process and meeting the team has been flawless. Kudos to the HR team here for the great coordination effort.
As Barbara said, we’ve been doing this for two decades so our productivity is at 100%. Although I will say when we first received the stay at home order, my two college-age children came home to my newly-downsized home to join their high school senior little brother. Working from home initially was much more exciting with all my adult-sized children in the house along with my one-year-old grandson running around screaming. I was able to return to my office recently, thankfully. It is all good, though as I am still an early riser from my surf days so I can get a lot done before anyone is up.
I’ve been really blessed to be close to the New England Patriots. My father-in-law worked for the New England Patriots for the last 38 years and was the director of college personnel during the first three Super Bowl Wins. He aided in drafting Tom Brady. No big deal. The Patriots have a very simple mantra, “do your job”. The idea is if everybody on the team does their job within the game plan, they can win. The Patriots coaches, players, etc. were annually poached, traded, and the like yet their culture remained, winning for nearly two decades. It’s a culture of self-responsibility, clarity of your role, and execution i.e. “do your job”, and flexibility because you may be playing in someone else’s position if that’s what it takes.
I also have two simple family mantras from my father (a lawyer) that I passed onto my kids. The first is, either you will or you won’t. People contemplate things for so long. You’re either going to do it or you’re not. You might as well take your path and go because there’s not really anything in the middle. Fail fast and make another decision.
The other one is really just mastering the not-to-do list. We think about goals and aspirations all the time that we may not hit. But we also have these things we tend to repeat in our lives that we can’t believe we did, again. If you master everything on your not-to-do list (by not doing them), then what you are left with is what to do making the achievements much more accessible. This is very helpful in underwriting and every aspect of life.
I’ve always been interested in reading autobiographies and documentaries of famous people, historical figures, and entrepreneurs. They provide inspiration and motivation to think outside of the box. Make changes. Take risks. But also to learn from others’ mistakes. Master the not-to-do list as my partner, Larry, would say, without having to do it yourself.
I think it will be a completely different company than it is today. If we look at Yieldstreet, the messaging is that we want to touch millions of people’s lives. In order to do that, not only do we have to get the members, but we have to have the products and services that can touch those lives. That’s going to require billions of dollars in deals simultaneously available on the platform. Today, we aren’t able to reach millions of people. However, in three years I believe we will be.
Over the next few years, we will be continually rebalancing, finding our place of parity between supply and demand, and the cost of capital and the business’s margins. Balancing the borrowers’ cost of capital with the inventors’ need for return is a recipe for potentially exponential growth. Barbara and I are here to boost the supply side and create the branding of Yieldstreet’s PBC as the go-to capital partner. Combine this with the growth concepts we have discussed and we expect that the member demand side will increase as well, enabling us to reach exponentially more people. We are here to make sure we achieve our mission to realize each of our next levels.
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