Working with a Winning Team in the World’s Largest Leasing Market

International Business
Jeff Whitcomb
New York Branch

Describe your role and job responsibilities.

As the most senior executive in the construction and transportation equipment finance business, I lead a group handling transactions worth over US$250 million.

At the New York branch, established in April 2014, I oversee leasing operations dealing mainly with construction and transportation equipment. This business is worth over US$250 million. My nine-member team, which I recruited locally, is spearheading SMFL’s efforts in this enormous market. Collaboration with the Tokyo headquarters is, of course, indispensable. I work with people there and with our New York staff to develop business with our vendor partners.

What are the most enjoyable and challenging aspects of your work?

The US market is filled with corporations from every corner of the world, making cross-cultural communication skills an essential part of doing business.

New York City — one of the world’s leading business centers — attracts companies from around the globe. Cross-cultural communication, therefore, is key to success here. I have a graduate business degree and can speak several languages, but success rests on more than expert knowledge and language skills. How people solve problems depends to a great extent on their culture. Sometimes people provide solutions that would never have occurred to me, so I always remind myself to keep an open mind to the suggestions of others.

As for what I really enjoy, it’s seeing staff develop. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing someone learn a new skill or gain new knowledge and then successfully apply it.

Describe a particularly challenging experience at work.

One of the greatest challenges was the introduction of a new IT system for expanding business. It was a big project, and completing it contributed to the development of our staff.

Shortly after the New York branch was established, we introduced IT designed for a growing business. The new system — part of a floor plan finance (inventory-secured financing) service for construction and transportation equipment dealers — would be used for centrally managing the inventories of individual equipment dealers. We were extremely careful in selecting the right system developer, in the countless discussions required at each stage of development, and in every other aspect of the project. Everyone involved worked diligently to get the system up and running quickly.

On another note, I have been hugely impressed with the work ethic of SMFL colleagues on assignment from Japan. Their dedication to setting and achieving high goals while working in a foreign country away from their families has been tremendously inspiring to me and other local execs and staff. It’s great to work with such people.

Person I Feel Closely Connected To

Eiichi Matsutani
International Planning
Department

I worked with Eiichi Matsutani, whom we call Ethan, while preparing to sign a new agreement with a major construction equipment manufacturer in the US. He greatly impressed me with his excellent English and keen mind, which quickly cut through complex problems to propose workable solutions.

Among the things I learned from him, the most impressive was the concept of nemawashi, or educating stakeholders in advance of requests. Doing this greatly eased the approval process. Nemawashi is now one of my prized business skills.

Private Shot

My beautiful wife Hillary and the smiles of my six children are my inspiration.

My wife and I have six beautiful children ages 12 to 19. They are active in a wide variety of activities from robotics to cheer squad. They work very hard in school and we are immensely proud of them. My wife and I enjoy travel and music as well as reading good books. She is my true companion and I am truly blessed to walk this journey with her.

Note:Department names and assigned positions are subject to change.