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Lotus Bank eyes 20% growth, plans to open new branch

Lotus Bank has its eyes on opening a new branch in Metro Detroit over the next year as it works to keep up with its recent growth.

It will be the third branch for the Novi-based bank, which also has branches in Novi and Farmington Hills. The location hasn’t been selected yet but is expected to become a reality in 2015. That would allow the 7-year-old financial institution to keep up with the growth it's been experiencing in recent years.

"2013 was an exceptional year for the bank," says Neal Searle, president & CEO of Lotus Bank. "We grew about 20 percent. We also surpassed $100 million in assets in April."

Lotus Bank is 80-percent owned by Indian-Americans and primarily serves that community in Metro Detroit. It grew by about 20 percent over the last year and is on track to repeat that number in 2014. Accordingly,  the bank has hired three people, including a credit administrator and client service professionals. It has a staff of 20 employees and one intern, and is looking to hire a commercial lender right now.

Searle points out that Lotus Bank's growth is entirely organic. He credits traditional community banking practices that stress customer service as the fuel for the bank's growth. It's why he is bullish on the bank’s expansion plans and hiring prospects.

"We intend to continue to grow our staff as the market demands," Searle says.

Source: Neal Searle, president & CEO of Lotus Bank
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Level One Bank hires 18, grows assets 25 percent

Level One Bank is well on its way to the next level, thanks to a spike in its asset size and staff.

The Farmington Hills-based bank’s assets have grown 25 percent over the last year, topping out at $630 million. Its deposits also stand at $545 million. That has allowed the company to grow its staff to 145 people at its seven branches across the region. It has hired 18 people over the last year, mostly in lending. The bank currently has four open positions.

"Our primary businesses are focused on commercial loans," says Patrick Fehring, president & CEO of Level One Bank. "We're seeing a lot of action in our loans to entrepreneurs. We're also seeing an increase in our residential mortgage loans."

Fehring expects his bank to grow another 15 percent this year. He sees Level One Bank's status as a local bank as a key ingredient to its success at a time when an increasing number of people don’t trust large financial institutions.

"We think that gives us a distinct competitive advantage," Fehring says. "It's easier to connect with a decision maker at Level One Bank."

Source: Patrick Fehring, president & CEO of Level One Bank
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

CitrinGroup investment firm adds 4 new consultants

CitrinGroup made a name for itself in its early years as an investment firm with a track record for sizable returns.

The 10-year-old firm realized there was a sizable number of financial firms that could do the same thing. If it wanted to continued its growth streak it would need to find a way to separate itself from the pack.

"It's been an exciting year," says Jonathan Citrin, chairman of CitrinGroup. "We have intensified our focus as a portfolio manager."

CitrinGroup’s advantage is divorcing emotion from its decision-making process. Sounds simple, right, or just industry standard? Not necessarily. Citrin points out his firm relies solely on numbers and seizing opportunity. No gut calls. No more sticking only to what they feel comfortable with.

"We have been super focused on keeping emotion out of decisions," Citrin says.

That has allowed the downtown Birmingham-based firm to make its returns more consistent and increase its new business. CitrinGroup has also grown its staff, adding four consultants to its core team of four employees.

"We were just creating a way to give our clients some added value," Citrin says.

Source: Jonathan Citrin, chairman of CitrinGroup
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Michigan First Credit Union aims to add 17 jobs

Michigan First Credit Union is in the process of hiring another 17 people right now, including a new spokester for its Young & Free Michigan program.

The Lathrup Village-based credit union currently employs 247 people across six stand-alone branches, plus three more in Meijer stores. It is replacing a branch on Gratiot Avenue, which is expected to open this fall. Michigan First Credit Union has hired 17 people over the last year. Its new positions range from IT professionals to branch operations. For information on those jobs, click here.

Among the new positions is the credit union’s spokester job for its Young & Free Michigan program. The 3-year-old program employs one college student for a year, making the person the credit union’s spokester. The spokester engages local college students through social media, community events, blog posts and online videos. The idea is to encourage smart financial behavior and help attract more young people to the credit union.

"The year goes by so fast," says Vicky Goldwater, young & free Michigan spokester for Michigan First Credit Union. She worked as a waitress and studied communications at Macomb Community College before taking the position. "The experience was awesome."

Michigan First Credit Union is taking applications for this year's spokester. The position comes with paid gas and insurance. Applicants are expected to make a video when applying. More info can be found here.

"Have fun with the video," Goldwater says. "Be yourself."

Michigan First Credit Union has about 94,300 members in Michigan, which is up more than 4,000 since the beginning of 2013. It has added $30 million in assets in the last year, totaling $674 million.

Source: Vicky Goldwater, young & free Michigan spokester for Michigan First Credit Union
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Telemus Capital adds 4 positions, $100M in new clients

Telemus Capital isn't trying to make its clients rich. It's trying to keep them wealthy. That’s part of the reason why the Southfield-based financial management firm has been growing so much in the past year.

The 9-year-old firm has watched its revenue increase by 20 percent over the last year. That’s due in part to strong performances from stock markets. It also is due to an infusion of new customers.

"Our new clients that have come to us have exceeded our expectations," says Lyle Wolberg, partner & senior adviser at Telemus Capital. "We have brought in $100 million in new clients to the firm in the last year."

Telemus Capital acquired Concentratic Capital in Los Angeles earlier this year. The new acquisition will serve as Telemus Capital’s new LA office. Telemus Capital has also hired four new people, including a new partner and a few research analysts.

"We have done quite a bit of hiring," Wolberg says.

Source: Lyle Wolberg, partner & senior adviser at Telemus Capital
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Complete Data Products makes 6 hires, expands customer base

Neal Doshi and his brother, Nyrav Doshi, purchased Complete Data Products two years ago with the idea of turning the software firm into something bigger. A few software product launches later, the Troy-based business is realizing that dream for its owners.

"From a numbers standpoint we expect our company to grow 20 percent, top-line, by the end of the year," Neal Doshi says.

Complete Data Products specializes in paperless document management software. If there is some sort of business function that requires using paper, Complete Data Products is coming up with ways to do it digitally.

For instance, the firm launched its financial receipt product last year, which allowed users to send sales receipts through email. It also recently launched an electronic signature application, and upgraded its financial receipt product to utilize text message technology.

"There were a lot of people who pushed that out," Neal Doshi says. "There was a lot of growth in that vertical."

The customer base of this technology has grown from credit unions to include banks and law firms. That has allowed Complete Data Products to hire six people, primarily in tech support and marketing, over the last year. It now employs 28 people.

Source: Neal Doshi, managing partner of Complete Data Products
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

DFCU Financial distributes $23M in dividends to members

For eight years running, DFCU Financial has paid out a dividend to its members. This year was no different, with $23 million in dividends making its way into the accounts of the Dearborn-based credit union’s membership.

"Of that $23 million we paid in January, 76 percent ($17.5 million) went to tri-county residents," says Mark Shobe, president & CEO of DFCU Financial. "I like to think of it as our own little stimulus program."

DFCU Financial members received an average of $250 each. Some of its clients received thousands of dollars while one received $18,000.

The 64-year-old credit union has grown exponentially in the last decade. It has gone from having three branches in Dearborn and Livonia to 24 offices across Michigan, including in Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and Lansing. It opened a new office in Ann Arbor last year and plans to open another in Michigan later this year.

"We plan to deepen our coverage into these markets," Shobe says. "We will be opening new offices in these cities."

DFCU Financial currently employs 500 people and the occasional summer intern. It hired about 50 people for a broad range of positions over the last year.

Source: Mark Shobe, president & CEO of DFCU Financial
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

LoanMod builds TurboTax-like software to prevent foreclosure

The leadership at LoanMod.com thinks the process of helping people prevent home foreclosure is too complicated, to put it nicely.

That's why the Dearborn-based loan-modification firm, which has hired one person over the last year, is working on a software program that streamlines and simplifies the process so everyday people can keep their homes from the comfort of their homes. The platform, called LoanMD, aims to become the TurboTax of home foreclosure prevention.

"It makes an overwhelming task [break] down into simple steps," says James Cline, organizational architect for LoanMod.com.

The firm is currently working with Ann Arbor-based software firm Menlo Innovations to create a platform. Cline is helping spearhead the project, which he hopes to launch next year. It is currently going for a $250,000 grant from the Chase Mission Main Street program. You can vote for it to make the finals here.

"We're hoping to make the required technological investments and put the final touches on LoanMD," Cline says.

When it's launched, LoanMod.com expects to focus on the Michigan market first with an eye on making it a national product. "Our main focus is here in Michigan," Cline says.

Source: James Cline, organizational architect for LoanMod.com
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Joshua Tree Investments focuses on ethical investing

Josh Keagle has had a number of different jobs over the years. He has served in Iraq, been a middle-school teacher and worked for JPMorgan Chase & Co.

In that time he noticed a number of investment professionals push products they had little knowledge of and were arguably not in their clients' best interests. He also noticed that a lot of people were supporting things with their investments that wouldn’t fit in with their moral code.

Not long after that he started Joshua Tree Investments, an financial investment advisory firm that helps people make ethical investments that maximize return. That could mean funds that specialize in sustainability or other investment vehicles that are socially conscious.

"Our purchases shape the world," Keagle says. "It's possible to responsibly prepare for retirement and think about how your decisions impact the planet."

The Troy-based company got its start a year ago and is now working with a broad range of individual clients. Keagle describes them as young and old, liberal and conservative and from all walks of life. He believes they all want to make the best decisions for the long-term.

Source: Josh Keagle, investment advisor & founder of Joshua Tree Investments
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Level One Bank expands mortgage team with 4 new hires

Level One Bank is expanding its mortgage team in Oakland County as the Farmington Hills-based bank looks to capture more of the local housing rebound.

The bank has added four new mortgage bankers to its Consumer Division. Those new hires will be stationed in both Bloomfield Township and in the bank’s Farmington Hills headquarters.

"We feel there is ample opportunity in Metro Detroit," says Tim Mckay, senior vice president of Level One Bank. "The economy feels good and people are starting to buy homes again."

Level One Bank has been growing steadily over the last few years, becoming one of the larger banks based in Oakland County. It now has $580 million in assets and seven branches that stretch from Ferndale to Bloomfield Township. The bank was working to execute a merger with Oxford Bank last year, but that didn't reach fruition.

Level One Bank has also grown its staff. The bank now employs 135 employees and nearly half a dozen interns after hiring 20 new staffers over the last year.

"We have hired a number of people over the last year," Mckay says.

Source: Tim Mckay, senior vice president of retail & mortgage banking
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Michigan Mutual hires 90, including 70 in Southfield

Michigan Mutual went through a big expansion over the last year, hiring 90 new people, including 70 for its Southfield office.

The Port Huron-based mortgage lender now has 432 employees and three interns. The bulk of its operations is in Southfield. There an office of 280 employees handling underwriting and wholesaling of the mortgages Michigan Mutual sells.

"The focus last year was putting the right people in the right seats," says Hale Walker, co-founder & senior vice president of Michigan Mutual. "The focus for the next year is talent."

Most of Michigan Mutual's business comes from traditional Midwestern and Southern states. The company is licensed to sell mortgages in 39 states and plans to grow by taking on more business along the U.S. Eastern seaboard and Western states, expanding by increasing its marketshare.

"There is a ton of potential for us to expand both east and west," Walker says.

Source: Hale Walker, co-founder & senior vice president of Michigan Mutual
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Schechter Wealth Strategies opens NYC office, adds 5 jobs

Schechter Wealth Strategies opened an office in New York City late last year as the Birmingham-based firm looked to capitalize on a growing economy.

The new office in Midtown Manhattan is the second satellite office for the 74 year-old wealth management firm, which also has an office in the Flint area. Schechter Wealth Strategies has notched close to 30-percent growth in the last two years. It has a goal of 15-percent growth this year and 65-percent growth by 2015.

"We felt that now is the right time with the economy on the upswing," says Stephen Blocki, COO of Schechter Wealth Strategies.

The New York City office is staffed by one person, who is one of the company's five new hires over the last year. Blocki was recently brought on as the company's new COO and Jimmy King (of the University of Michigan's Fab Five fame) as the new vice president of business development. The firm now employs 30 people.

Robert Langer is the managing director of Schechter Wealth Strategies' New York Office. Blocki says the firm decided to make the investment in a New York office as a way to replicate the firm's business model in new territory.

"Our goal is to grow into any market that has access to a network of high-net-worth individuals," Blocki says.

Source: Stephen Blocki, COO of Schechter Wealth Strategies
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Genisys Credit Union continues growth streak in Auburn Hills

Genisys Credit Union is riding high on some sizable growth numbers. The Auburn Hills-based financial institution has watched its membership, loan growth and employee base jump in the last year.

Membership for the credit union is up 7 percent, reaching a total of 138,000 members in Metro Detroit. That has allowed the credit union to hire about a dozen people, rounding out its staff to nearly 350 people. Its loan growth is also up several percentage points and is on track to be up between 10 and 11 percent in 2013.

"That's one of our best years ever," says Jackie Buchanan, president & CEO of Genisys Credit Union.

Genisys Credit Union got its start in 1936 as the credit union for workers of General Motors Truck & Coach and Burroughs Corp. It merged with three other credit unions five years ago to create Genisys Credit Union.

Since then the company has focused on growing its membership (credit unions are member-owned) by focusing on customer service. It doesn't try to push certain products on its members, instead focusing on finding ways to save them money in financial transactions. It has also been building out its technology to make banking easier for its membership.

"We have some really good technology," Buchanan says. "We have a really robust online platform and our mobile banking platform. We're adding to that all the time."

Source: Jackie Buchanan, president & CEO of Genisys Credit Union
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

TerraYebo scores $150K Automation Alley investment

The Automation Alley Seed Fund has struck again, investing $150,000 into TerraYebo.

This is the Troy-based business accelerator's second six-figure investment in the micro-funding website start-up. It invested $100,000 in the Madison Heights-based firm earlier this year.

"Our investment committee liked their entrepreneurial team," says Thomas Anderson, senior director for Automation Alley. "We thought they were smart and focused."

TerraYebo is the company behind MyInchofTheEarth.com, a micro-funding platform for nonprofits. The website enables users to claim any virtual inch of the earth or ocean, share why that place is important, and choose a nonprofit that either supports the preservation of that place or a nonprofit that does good in the world. The idea is to let people's life experiences at different institutions (such as their alma mater) or places (a national park) prompt them to give small amounts to non-profits that fund them.

The 3-year-old company has signed up a number of name-brand institutions for MyInchofTheEarth.com, including The National Park Foundation, CURE International, VH1 Save the Music, Veterans of Foreign War Foundation and The Pink Fund. TerraYebo's team of four people, it has hired two people so far this year, plans to use the new seed capital to continue the build out of its website and developing its market.

"We want to continue to focus on the user experience of our website," says Dan Glisky, president of TerraYebo. "That is first and foremost."

The Automation Alley Seed Fund invests in early-stage start-ups with high growth ceilings. Investments range from $50,000 to $300,000. The fund is similar to the Michigan Pre-Seed Capital Fund, which is managed by Ann Arbor SPARK.

The Automation Alley Seed Fund got its start in 2004 and has received $6 million in funding, primarily from the state of Michigan. It has invested $8 million over that time, including a couple of start-ups that have either repaid the loans, cashed out the equity in the investment or have been acquired. One start-up, University of Michigan spin-out CieloMed Solutions, was acquired last year and provided a healthy return to the Automation Alley Seed Fund.

Source: Thomas Anderson, senior director for Automation Alley; Dan Glisky, president of TerraYebo and Michele Favoretto, CEO of TerraYebo
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Mobile banking spurs growth at Michigan First Credit Union

Michigan First Credit Union is looking for a few good employees, 14 right now to be exact.

The Lathrup Village-based financial institution is looking for everything from tellers to human resources professionals to add to its staff of 225 people. However, technology pros are in especially high demand for the credit union. About a third of its new positions have some sort of tech angle, such as software developer or IT professional.

The 87-year-old credit union tries quite hard not to act its nearly century-old age, employing the latest and greatest technology into its systems. A large part of its business plan is to stay ahead of tech trends to attract younger clientele who value the ease and access to their finances that such technology can provide.

"We're in the process of testing mobile debit cards," says Linda Douglas, vice president of marketing for Michigan First Credit Union. "We are always looking to stay ahead of the curve in our mobile and online banking options."

Michigan First Credit Union has 90,000 members and $640 million in assets. It adds more than 1,000 new members each month. It has also hired 70 people so far this year.

Source: Linda Douglas, vice president of marketing for Michigan First Credit Union
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.
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