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Warner talks recent “defining events” shaping Key Equipment Finance

By Amy Thomas in Thought Leadership Posted December 1, 2021

Adam Warner standing by desk

Key Equipment Finance President Adam Warner expects great things from his team, but the excellence they exhibited during a global pandemic by pivoting to work remotely, collaborate, and implement digital processes exceeded not only his expectations, but his imagination.

“It was almost so seamless, it was shocking,” he said during a recent podcast interview for the LTi US Leasing Leaders Series. “It reminds me a lot of the vaccines and how quickly they got rolled out. We've never seen anything like that before. Well, I read an article that those vaccines — that type of technology — had been in development for years. They just weren't ready to deploy it.”

Likewise, Key Equipment Finance has worked on its digital strategy for years, and in 2020, more fully deployed it, in part to address the challenges of the global pandemic.

"Now, 80% of commercial contracts and 15-20% of government contracts are done digitally. The pivot that our team did without losing a step and making sure clients felt included was nearly miraculous.”
Adam Warner, Key Equipment Finance President

Attracting new talent to the "niche" industry of equipment finance

Asked how he attracts talent to the team, Warner said during his 20 years at Key he’s always had a passion for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), including maintaining a strong relationship with the University of Colorado Boulder and serving on the Leeds School of Business Advisory Board.

In the last eight years, Warner has helped CU Boulder, just twenty minutes down the street, benefit from several hundred thousand dollars in grants from the KeyBank Foundation to promote DEI to attract new graduates to move into our industry.

"To diversify the industry, you have to plant seeds and plan for a harvest later. It's the planting of those seeds, built with the foundation, that has been so instrumental in making our workforce more diverse.”

Warner notes that today, half of the 14 people who report to him directly are women in executive vice president roles.

In addition, a lot of the leaders who work at Key and Key Equipment Finance do seminars, webinars, trainings – one even teaches lease accounting – at the University of Colorado Boulder.

“Treasure, in the form of grants is very meaningful, but time is probably even more important,” Warner said.

Key’s time on the CU Boulder campus keeps the company a top-of-mind employer for students after they graduate. They are familiar with the ‘niche’ trillion-dollar industry called ‘equipment finance,’ Warner said, and they get the message that “Key is a pretty cool place to work.”

Investing in digital interfaces with end-user clients

Asked about additional areas of focus for Key Equipment Finance, Warner talked about investing in more digital interfaces with business clients. Key is already a huge user of DocuSign, and the next investment will be in the digital interface with end-user clients.

“We’re trying to take all of the technology KeyBank uses for its consumers, things that you would normally never go to your computer or branch for, but you would go to your phone for, and we want our clients at Key Equipment Finance to be able to do the same thing. So that’s the next funding ask.”

These efforts are part of digitizing the entire spectrum while also enabling clients to have the option to interface with Key Equipment Finance, Warner said. “We want that to be the client’s choice, to be able to pick which one they think is the best way to interact with us.”

Energy and technology among current notable sectors

Looking past the pandemic, Warner shared his excitement around the technology and energy sectors, including alternative energy solutions, especially with potential government investment in infrastructure.

“We've got a heavy investment in that space today, and we're looking to expand that,” Warner said, “so I think that's a real opportunity for us.”

The technology sector is also exciting for its continued adaptation, Warner said.

“Think about 20 years ago, I could touch everything we were financing from a technology company, and today I can't touch any of it,” he said. “No one really owns it. We're just paying for the consumption of that product by the end user.”

Comparing the global pandemic to the Great Recession

The Great Recession and the global pandemic are very different, Warner said, and there are many pundits who will say banks were part of the problem in the 2009 financial crisis.

“During the Great Recession, banks had their share of involvement and extending credit maybe to obligors that were too far stretched,” Warner said. “In the pandemic recession, banks have been part of the solution. One of the things that I'm most proud of is our 50 or 60 people in Key Equipment Finance that pivoted and became part of lending on the Paycheck Protection Program for KeyBank. They just raised their hand and said, ‘I want to be a part of keeping people employed.’”

KeyBank was one of the top five lenders on the Paycheck Protection Program, Warner noted, and his team got to participate in that.

Key Equipment Finance is also very proud of how its clients managed themselves through the pandemic. Listen to the rest of Warner’s interview here:

Listen to Podcast



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