UNIFIN Financiera, S.A.B. de C.V. was founded in 1993 by Rodrigo Lebois and today leads the way in Mexico’s operational leasing sector. The entrepreneur started the company with just five employees but it’s grown to become the largest independent financial corporation in Latin America with assets of $2.1bn and a debt of $1.8bn.
The company now has 500 employees and 7,000 sqm of office space in 12 cities throughout Mexico, offering operational leasing, factoring, auto loans and insurance solutions.
Operational leasing remains UNIFIN’s core market covering a wide rage of areas, from cars, trucks and helicopters to heavy machinery and medical equipment, ensuring diversity throughout the operation.
The success of the company has been driven by its philosophy of offering custom made financial solutions, providing all its clients with the highest quality of financial services backed by a team of specialists, who ensure the company remains in sound financial health.
In the 1990s, more than 160 companies were in competition with UNIFIN; Lebois’ strategic decision was to focus on offering the highest quality service, knowing that his company’s edge was in its attention to detail and tailored client approach.
The idea is for UNIFIN to do everything in its power to help its clients achieve their goals. This means that, if necessary, the company will shift strategies. In essence, UNIFIN acts like a partner to its clients’ interests and ambitions.
The European has awarded Rodrigo Lebois, Founder, Chairman and CEO of UNIFIN ‘Chairman of The Year, Mexico 2017’ in its Global Banking and Finance Awards 2017, while UNIFIN Financiera has also received the awards for ‘Best Finance and Leasing Company, LATAM 2017’ and ‘Best Corporate Governance, Mexico 2017.’
Against the odds
To understand this philosophy and the success of UNIFIN, we look to the resilient spirit of its founder.
Rodrigo Lebois Mateos was born in Mexico City and graduated from the Universidad Anáhuac México in Business Administration. At 30, he left the car sales company he worked for, and with his savings founded UNIFIN, a financial institution that began operating solely in the vehicle-leasing sector.
Then came the financial crisis of December 1994, when the Mexican peso suffered a devaluation of 100% – going from 3.50 to 7.00 pesos against the dollar overnight. As a result, on 1 January 1995, Lebois awoke to a $17m dollar debt. He devoted his energy to negotiating his debt, and by 2001 he had managed to pay it off completely. This was an exceptional feat; the vast majority of Mexican debtors either declared bankruptcy, declared themselves unable to meet their liabilities or simply disappeared. In 2001, he started over again, hired banking experts and managed to avoid being hit by the financial crisis of 2008.
Lebois strongly believes that a good businessman is not merely an executive officer or president of a company, but that special talent is required. This belief is reflected in the company’s commitment to innovation. UNIFIN is a company that attracts young talent. Internal politics are absent, and while there are supervisors, everyone works towards the same goal.
UNIFIN endeavours to hire young people. Lebois believes that it is the talent in the lower positions that drives the company from the bottom up, giving new talent the opportunity to grow and be able to make a lifelong career within the company. With this in mind, in December 2015, UNIFIN turned all of its employees, including maintenance personnel with over five years of employment, into partners; needless to say, this has had a galvanising effect on the company.
In addition to his UNIFIN interests, Lebois sits on a total of 10 boards – including Banco Mexicano S.A. and is a Director of Maxcom Telecomunicaciones S.A.B. de C.V., a telecommunications company. An entrepreneur who loves his country, he believes a large part of success lies in the ability to build and develop a talented team of professionals. As such, he is an active member of The Duke of Edinburgh’s World Fellowship scheme, as well as the government’s Strategic Committee between Mexico and France.