A Conversation with Alex Aguila, Sr. Director of Credit & Financial Services at Sam’s Club
Alex Aguila is the Sr. Director of Credit & Financial Services for Sam’s Club and project lead for the Spring 2015 rollout of the Sam’s Club Business Lending Center, which provides businesses with an easy-to-use financing solution to their working capital needs. Alex leads the development of financial services strategy for Sam’s Club Business and Savings member, including the award-winning 5-3-1 Sam’s Club MasterCard credit program.
Prior to joining Sam’s Club, a division of Walmart, Alex accumulated over 25 years of experience in driving business growth through consumer and business services, loyalty marketing and product development at the likes of Citigroup, Home Depot, GE Capital, and American Express.
1. Would you provide some context on the impetus for Sam’s Club’s recent introductions of the SmartBiz and Lending Club partnerships?
Based on member feedback, Sam’s Club is investing in a comprehensive portfolio of business benefits – the most robust of any retailer – that extends the value of membership and allows Sam’s Club to work harder for small business owners. Part of our model as a warehouse club is to do the homework for our members and present them with a highly relevant selection of products in each category. In building our portfolio of business services, we choose the best partners in their respective industries to bring best-in-class products to our members. That means members save time and money by having access to these services in one convenient location – Sam’s Club.
Based on conversations and research, Sam’s Club business members cite access to capital as the essential foundation to grow their businesses. Our members are America’s restaurant owners, resellers, care organizations and small office proprietors, and they need affordable access to capital at fair and transparent terms. As the Sam’s Club/Gallup Microbusiness Tracker told us last year, 65 percent of these business owners used personal finances to start their businesses. They need more resources to launch, run and grow their businesses.
This unmet need among our business members was a call to action for us to align with industry leaders to launch the Sam’s Club Business Lending Center, which is a fast, simple online platform connecting our members with responsible lenders and offering savings of 20 percent on loan fees.
- Lending Club provides members with access to term loans of up to $300,000 with great rates and affordable fixed monthly payments.
- SmartBiz connects members to vetted 7A SBA loans from $5,000 – $350,000 with low monthly payments, competitive rates and a streamlined process.
With the Business Lending Center’s needs-assessment wizard, members answer four simple questions to determine the right type of loan – and lender – to meet their needs and help them grow.
2. How do these products complement your existing private label and co-branded credit cards?
The Lending Club and SmartBiz products are intended to complement the Sam’s Club credit cards by addressing larger, less frequent borrowing requirements at lower rates over longer terms. For members interested in increasing cash flow, the Business Lending Center connects them to our award-winning Sam’s Club Business MasterCard with credit extended by Synchrony Bank. Business members using our MasterCard program earn up to 5% cash back on gas, dining, travel and all purchases anywhere MasterCard is accepted.
3. What role do financial services play in your member loyalty strategy?
Through an industry-leading financial services program and low prices on products and critical business services, Sam’s Club is in effect providing a “business in a box” solution – an online platform to help businesses grow by reducing the operational hassles small business owners so frequently encounter. For 30 years we’ve helped members run their businesses. With a robust financial services strategy, now we’re helping members GROW their businesses, which creates jobs, strengthens local communities and reinforces the value that the Sam’s Club membership delivers.
4. Can you envision Sam’s Club filling a financial services role for small businesses that is as important as the role Walmart plays for its customers?
Walmart’s founder Sam Walton created Sam’s Club in 1983 to provide savings and solutions to America’s small business owners, similar to Walmart’s heritage of helping customers and communities save money and live better. For years, Sam’s Club has provided responsible credit programs and listened to our members to provide the right solutions for their needs. Just as the Walmart MoneyCenter® is tailored to meet the needs of Walmart’s customers, the Sam’s Club Business Lending Center responds to what our members want, using a simple, fast platform enabled by technology to take the hassle out of accessing capital. As the club for the small business community, we are always looking for new ways to extend the value of membership to small business owners and will continue to explore means to save them time and money through great merchandise, key services, innovation and technology.
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