Across the United States and perhaps even the world, when Kentucky is mentioned, most people will immediately think of horses. Beyond the legendary Kentucky Derby’s “most exciting two minutes in sports,” the Bluegrass state also ranks as one of the most robust centers for horse breeding in the world, and the economic impact of this on the state is more than $3 billion annually.
Despite the significance of the industry to Kentucky, PBI Bank is one of the very few financial institutions that will provide capital to horse owners and breeders in Kentucky. Andy Hils, PBI’s Lexington Market President, said that with more than 28 banks in the Lexington area, only three lenders handle the equine industry, most of them reluctant to do so because they don’t have the specialized knowledge. “This is great for PBI,” said Hils. “We can service a customer need and there is not as much competition.” The market president said that the bank has earned its excellent reputation in equine lending with years of experience in the industry, a vital component to understanding the fundamentals, trends and cycles that can best meet the needs of equine banking clients.
“Horses are a vital industry and a huge employer base in Central Kentucky, and even throughout Kentucky,” said Hils, “but there are not a lot of banks who are knowledgeable about it around the state. PBI brings a wealth of experience for the equine portfolio, he said. “In fact, PBI’s equine lending experts have more than 50 years combined experience in the field.”
What kinds of loans are breeders and other horse industry professionals needing to be successful? Hils said that with so many farms in Kentucky, most of their lending involves farm loans on real estate or equipment, lines of credit, or loans on the actual horses themselves. “Each stallion on the breeding farms is like its own independent business, and could be owned by multiple people, explained Hils. “We make loans to people who buy into those stallions, and we make loans to people who have mares that breed with those stallions – that’s what we do, he said.
While PBI has lent to many local farms from Kentucky, today’s equine industry has an international flavor, with breeders from countries such as Ireland or Saudi Arabia that contribute to the local farms that PBI lends to. “Equine is all over the world,” said Hils, “what we try to determine is who are these people and do they know what they’re doing in the business?” This is where the expertise of PBI’s equine lenders becomes critically important, he said, because some novices in the industry may need a good deal of guidance on investing. “PBI can bring in an exceptional level of expertise,” Hils said.
That expertise comes from lenders like Peter Costich and Scott McCauley, horse industry veterans who came to PBI within the last several years to expand the equine business. Peter says, “It’s great to be at a place where I can use my equine knowledge, and help customers at the same time. I know that we offer them a great service, while helping them meet capital goals, and that offers peace of mind!”
“We’re very fortunate to have such savvy equine lenders here, said Patty Mitchell, PBI’s Equine Relationship Manager. “They understand the competitive nature of the market, and I think a lot of banks don’t. It really puts us at a sharp edge in the game because at PBI we understand it fully, we’ve found a niche.”
Mitchell is another one of PBI’s cadre of experts who is a horse industry veteran. She joined PBI after previous positions in the industry as an equine physical therapist and horse veterinarian technician, and said her history with the industry gives her empathy for her clients.
“When you’ve been in a business from the day a horse is born or bred, to the day the customer is then standing in the bank and asking for a line of credit, you understand. I have lived that life myself. We are here to help people succeed – we’ll follow them to the farm, we’ll follow them to the horse sale – we’ll go out to vet clinic to see horse if we need to – we’re very hands-on. We’re definitely out there in the field with them.”
Andy Hils said beyond financial returns, lending for the equine industry has other perks, including when your customer brings home a Derby winner to your farm. “You get to go out there and meet the stallions and get your picture taken, just like with a sports star. It’s a very fun thing we get to do,” he said.
Patty Mitchell agrees. “We’ve been there even before that horse is born, when it’s just a conversation,” she said. “Then, the horse is born and we follow the horse through a sale, and the horse goes to a trainer and then wins a race. The customer comes in and they’re full of smiles, and they tell me all about it, and it’s incredibly gratifying to know that the horse that just won that race was once nothing more than a conversation, said Mitchell. “That’s what makes it so amazing.”
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