Founded in 1943 and based in Fort Wayne, Indiana, STAR Financial Bank, or SFB, provides banking and financial services to individual and corporate customers in central and northeastern Indiana.

In 2000, the bank hired a local executive to help develop and lead a new division: equipment finance leasing. When the executive resigned from his position in 2003, the bank consulted with John Handelsman and Present Values for guidance.

“We did business for years with The Vaughn Group, an independent leasing business that John owned,” says Bill Wingrove, SFB’s Executive Vice President and Chief Credit Officer.  “By 2003, John had sold his leasing business and, fortunately, was available to help us work through our challenges.”

The abrupt departure of the division’s executive brought a host of challenges. “We’d acquired a lease accounting system and were struggling with its set-up and integration with the bank’s systems.  We were also inexperienced in the tax matters and myriad other details that go along with running a leasing operation,” says Wingrove.

“John and his team offered considerable industry and comprehensive operating experience across a variety of lease types that we weren’t yet familiar with.  He was a catalyst in helping us develop and refine our documentation and business processes, attract originators, manage the accounting side to better administer transactions, and move our leasing operations to the bank’s largest growth market.”

John served as interim CEO of the bank’s equipment finance group for a year, and also as a member of its advisory board, a group he formed to align strategies and improve communications among bank executives. He also led the recruiting and hiring of a new CEO, who went on to lead SFB’s equipment finance division for eight years.  Today, the division offers and structures a full range of equipment leases and loans for commercial business.

“John was a catalyst in helping us develop and refine our documentation and business processes, attract originators, manage the accounting side to better administer transactions, and move our leasing operations to the bank’s largest growth market.”

“John helped us see things we couldn’t see, not only in our operations, but in our culture,” Wingrove says.  “We needed to fuse two very different perspectives, that of the banking group, which is relationship-based, and that of the leasing organization, which is more transaction-based.”

Over the past decade, since John’s consultancy with SFB, transaction volume has increased thirty percent and a new product, operating leases, has been offered as a leasing option.  Equally significant is a shift in organizational culture.  “We have succeeded in integrating cultures to strengthen our relationships with commercial clients and maximize opportunities to offer leasing products to them,” Wingrove says. “This union of cultures is truly a competitive differentiator in our market.”