Industry Profile – George Shapiro
CEO & Chairman, Interface Financial Group
“There is nothing usual about me or my company”, says George Shapiro. As CEO & Chairman of Interface Financial Group (IFG), Shapiro’s responsibilities parallel those of similar executives, but both his background and approach to the business are relatively distinct.
Shapiro, a scientist by trade, was born in the Ukraine before moving to Russia to pursue computer science and physics. However, upon moving to the United States in 1988, he shifted his focus to a more practical field – financial services. Before joining IFG 12 years ago, Shapiro successfully launched and sold his hedge fund CBSF Capital Management. Noticing an opportunity in the small business lending space, he believed that he could leverage his experience building businesses in emerging financial markets to help grow and scale IFG. With regard to his particular interest in invoice financing, Shapiro contends that it’s based in the same fundamentals and requires similar disciplined analysis to any sophisticated investment vehicle.
IFG is one of the largest alternative funding providers for small business, offering short-term financial resources, including invoice financing and invoice discounting. IFG provides innovative accounts receivable funding services and solutions by delivering short-term working capital to growing businesses when they need it most. IFG is also one of the few funding providers to offer single invoice factoring, or selected invoice finance, which is an extremely fast and flexible way to turn receivables into cash with low fees and no minimums.
IFG operates 150 offices in 9 countries, leveraging a franchise system to build what Shapiro calls “effective points of presence” in local markets. IFG functions as a franchise system for two primary reasons. First, in order to scale the business, IFG needs to have an extensive network of delivery channels to provide fast service to small businesses at the local level. IFG’s typical turnaround time is less than 48 hours, which would not be possible without local presence, knowledge and expertise. Second, IFG uses the franchise system to mitigate risk, performing same-day site audits and due diligence. Furthermore, each franchise location invests in every transaction executed, aligning interests and sharing in both the risk and reward.
Shapiro characterizes himself as a workaholic – “I wake up with Europe and I go to bed with Australia,” bringing into question when the energetic CEO sleeps. Shapiro attributes his work ethic to his passion for the industry and for building the business. “If I wake up with excitement every morning, then I know that I’m doing something right. I’m building something I love here.” Shapiro describes his management style as “shock and awe.” He challenges everyone at the company to be fast, decisive, excited, bright, and entrepreneurial. Essentially, he expects his employees to mirror his own enthusiasm and intensity. He states that he is trying help IFG scale both “organically”, through execution at the local level, and “non-organically”, through joint ventures like its recent one with the UK’s Assetz Capital. Whatever he’s doing, it appears to be working given IFG’s reputation and impressive growth. Shapiro modestly concludes, “We’re operate like a small company but have global ambitions.”