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Posted: August 29, 2014

Top Company 2014: Financial services

Mike Dano

Financial Services winner: SquareTwo Financial

squaretwofinancial.com

Paul A. Larkins boasts that SquareTwo Financial’s differentiating factor is that it works with its clients – consumers and small businesses – squarely and fairly. While that might not sound like a unique approach for most companies, it clearly is for SquareTwo: The company is in the debt-collection business.

“We are in the business of helping consumers and small businesses get back on their feet,” said Larkins, the company’s CEO, explaining that Denver-based SquareTwo acquires consumer and small business debt from banks and then uses advanced behavior modeling technology to determine when and how those clients can most efficiently pay off their debt. “We evaluate the ability of the consumer to make payments and resolve their debt. We work with them based on their situation.”

SquareTwo only contacts its clients when they have the ability to pay back debt, and then the company creates a payment plan that the client can actually meet. “They know they need to resolve this (debt); they just don’t know how,” Larkins said. It’s this approach – offering real-life repayment plans packaged “with the respect that they’re not used to getting” – that Larkins said is “turning an entire industry on its head.”

Although the company is privately owned, its debt is public and it therefore makes financial filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. In the first quarter of 2014, the company posted cash proceeds on purchased debt of $112.2 million and revenue of $71.5 million.

Larkins said SquareTwo got its start when the company’s founder, Scott Lowery, was working for General Motors Acceptance Corp. on accounts in which car buyers could no longer afford to make payments. That experience created the ideals behind SquareTwo – to work with those who owe debt rather than to simply pursue their money. The result is a company that was founded in 1994 and today counts 350 employees and millions of clients with debt. Larkins said that SquareTwo managed to help 600,000 people last year resolve their financial woes.

Although SquareTwo continues to grow its business, Larkins pointed to one major overhang that has yet to be cleared up: He said the Dodd-Frank Act, passed in 2010, promised to lay out clear rules to protect consumer finances. However, those rules still haven’t been written. Larkins said the company has worked diligently to become the “gold standard” of regulatory compliance, but continues to guess at what the final regulations will be.

Financial services finalists:

CoBank

Denver

Cobank.com

CoBank, a part of the U.S. Farm Credit System, is an agricultural credit bank serving cooperatives in the agribusiness and rural infrastructure industries. This past year, the customer-owned organization announced a $1 million gift to Mile High United Way in support of its new community headquarters in Curtis Park. The facility will feature the CoBank Leadership Center, a 10,000-square-foot conference and collaboration space open to nonprofits and community organizations.

First Western Trust Bank

Denver

Myfw.com

To celebrate its 10-year anniversary, First Western Trust expanded its financial services into Wyoming, growing its footprint to 11 states in the western part of the country this year. With the sophistication of an institutional wealth management firm and the experience of a high-touch boutique bank, one of First Western’s competitive advantages is its proprietary ConnectView process, which takes a holistic view of past, present and future financial realities and goals to tailor products and services to each of its banking customers.

Mike Dano is a freelance writer and the executive editor for the Telecom Group for FierceMarkets, which includes FierceWireless, FierceTelecom and other publications. Mike has been a journalist for more than a dozen years. Follow Mike @mikeddano and on LinkedIn. Mike is based in Arvada.

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