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SUNDAY TIMES, Business Times Careers

19 Jan 2014 p.17

My Brilliant Career

Banking on a niche is all in a day’s work

Charles Meyerowitz is the co-founder and CEO of lending company Lamna Financial. He tells Margaret Harris that when he ran a dairy company, he learnt about some of the issues companies face when they need finance – and this is what inspired him to start his own business.

What do you do at work each day?

There are different tasks and responsibilities to which I have to attend. The primary responsibility is establishing the requests from our prospective clients, including evaluating and valuing our clients’ assets against the loan they wish to apply for, and trying to make it work.

Other daily responsibilities include interacting with our existing clients, attending to marketing and administrative issues and working on growing our business – making ourselves known and accessible.

What drew you to this particular career?

Before Lamna I was the CEO of Dairy Belle, a dairy company that employs thousands of people. That particular industry was an extremely capital intensive and cyclical industry which meant there was often the need for temporary finance in addition to the traditional bank finance.

The company had huge value in paid-up assets, but we battled to use those assets to access capital. We were too big and the banks were too big, cumbersome and embroiled in administrative procedures to be able to attribute value to them.

I could not blame them – the dynamics made it impossible to access the value. But I felt there could be space for such a service on a smaller and more intimate basis – for entrepreneurs who needed temporary finance to weather the storm – to provide them with working capital or take advantage of an opportunity when they did not wish to approach the banks due to time pressures, the nature of the security on offer, or confidentiality.

When I left Dairy Belle, I pursued this idea with an old friend and colleague of mine and we formed Lamna Financial.

What did you want to be when you were a child?

Ever since I can remember I wanted to be an accountant, I was always exposed to my parents’ family business, the discussion around the dinner table, the challenges and successes. That probably moulded my thinking from an early age. The structure, yet creativity, of accountancy suits my personality.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Not knowing exactly what the day will bring and what requests we may have. You never know what one call can lead to. I love being exposed to different people, the different way people make money and the brilliant entrepreneurial flair some people have and how they meet their challenge for finance. I find that quite inspirational.

What are some of the challenges of your job?

The main risk of our business is not evaluating the assets correctly – either overvaluing them, thus putting our company at risk, or undervaluing them, thus missing out on the opportunity. The value we attribute to our assets keeps me awake at night.

What would you do if you could not do this job?

I enjoy the financial field and would probably do something in that space.

What qualifications do you have and how do they help you do your job?

I am a chartered accountant with a higher diploma in tax. The finance aspect of this degree helps tremendously with the lending business.

What qualities do you need to do this job?

You need to have commercial savvy, emotional intelligence to deal with people and a good understanding of finance.

Where would you like to be in 2019?

In five years we would like to have increased the number of our branches around the country, with increased accessibility and awareness of the service we offer.

(Picture of Charles Meyerowitz)

ENTERPRENEURIAL FLAIR:  Charles Meyerowitz founded a company that grants loans based on the value of the assets belonging to the borrower, which means the assets do not have to be sold to raise cash

 

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