It was back in 2013, when LendIt was just getting under way, that I first connected with Larry Chiavaro. I had been hearing the First Associates name around and I wanted to learn more about them. I was immediately impressed by how well Larry knew the online lending space, he already knew every lender and had established a business relationship with many of them.
In fact, I would say that Larry quickly became one of the most well-connected and well-liked people in the space. Soon, I saw the First Associates name everywhere and I began running into Larry at pretty much every industry event or meetup. And whenever I wanted some background on a lending platform or an investor Larry was always quick to give me the unvarnished truth.
A few months before every LendIt I would give Larry a call to get his ideas on the topics we needed to cover and the companies that were doing the most interesting work. He helped put together at least one panel session every year and his advice was invaluable when deciding who was a compelling speaker and who we could skip.
First Associates has become one of the real success stories in all of fintech. David Johnson, CEO, along with Larry and one other partner bought a struggling loan servicing company with six employees back during the financial crisis. They saw an opportunity to disrupt an industry that had been run inefficiently and where incentives were often not aligned.
They built First Associates from six people to over 900 people today and became the industry standard in loan servicing. When First Associates was the loan servicer or backup servicer that was a stamp of approval for any fintech lending platform. Last year they completed a merger with PFSC, along with a funding round with Stone Point Capital and they rebranded the new company Vervent.
Vervent announced last month that they have hired a new head of sales, Lou Geibel, to replace Larry who will remain an advisor through the end of the year. David Johnson remains as CEO so Vervent is in good hands as they look to their next chapter. From what I hear the company continues to grow and is in even greater demand during the pandemic.
I can’t say I am surprised that Larry has called it a day. At a LendIt meetup last year in New York he did tell me he was getting sick of all the travel and that he wasn’t getting any younger. When you live in Long Island and your company is headquartered in San Diego that can get old after a while.
When I chatted with Larry last week, he said that this is not really a retirement, he will remain active in the space and is looking forward to what is next. And that is a good thing for all of us.
He also agreed to let me publish this letter to the industry.
Personal Note from Larry Chiavaro
Hope everyone and their families are healthy through his trying times we are experiencing! I wanted to reach out to you as some of you heard that I will be transitioning to a Senior Advisor at Vervent f/k/a First Associates and leaving the company at the end of the year. As such, I wanted to reflect on our relationship, our joys, some trying times, and successes that we shared together.
In 1981, I started my business career as a young sales guy who was ready to conquer the world. I had worked for a few small local companies and then some of the largest in the world too (GE, Household/HSBC, and CSC) and was constant an over achiever, ranking # 1 at every stop. In these years, this young sales guy has grown as a person and business executive, experienced corporate America, traveled throughout the world, and developed long lasting friendships with clients and colleagues. One of my greatest joys has been being able to balance work and family life and be able to coach my nephew’s travel baseball teams, and then my son’s travel hockey and baseball programs. I am proud of what my best friend, my son has become, as he too is now in the business world and thriving! Many of you have met him at conferences and company events.
Ten years ago, I decided to take a huge risk and buy into this 23-year-old start-up, First Associates, who for many years was a small loan servicing company in San Diego. It was time to bet on myself and leverage all my hard work, and relationships from many years in the finance industry. We started with 6 employees, who I recognized a few years later that they too took a chance on us, as we did not have much money, and only a handful of clients at that time. What I did know is that we could be successful if we “out worked” the competition, and assisted to raise awareness in the assets that we serviced by helping friends and clients with finding capital, services, and other valuable aspects of the industry, and take care of our employees who were extremely loyal to us.
We quickly became the “go-to” guys for loan servicing, backup servicing, and grew the business to over 600 employees in 2019 and was able to attract Stone Point Capital, a large P/E firm to invest what we had accomplished, and acquire PFSC as a result. We could not have done this without our amazing clients and friends, of whom many I consider family, as we accomplished so much together, and had fun doing it together.
This has been an amazing journey, and after traveling back and forth from NY to CA a few times a month, 100+ nights in hotels per year, and dozens of conferences per year, I have decided its time for me to pass the baton, and begin a new journey. As my longtime friend and Mentor Ron Suber mentions, this is not a retirement, but a “Rewirement.” I am excited about what is next and staying in contact with each of you and I am excited as to the possibilities that await. I am happy to be transitioning into something new and exciting.
I will be staying on for a while to support the senior management team and our client base and wish them continued success. I would like to thank David Johnson and Scott Scharman and the Stone Point team and look forward to catching up with all of my friends, clients, and colleagues, to be there for you to share ideas, discuss planning, and to provide assistance to you.
Peter Renton is the chairman and co-founder of LendIt Fintech, the world’s first and largest digital media and events company focused on fintech. Peter has been writing about fintech since 2010 and he is the author and creator of the Fintech One-on-One Podcast, the first and longest-running fintech interview series. Peter has been interviewed by the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, The New York Times, CNBC, CNN, Fortune, NPR, Fox Business News, the Financial Times, and dozens of other publications.