About ForwardLine

Meeting a Critical Need on Main Street

The vast majority of America’s Main Street businesses can’t obtain a bank loan because they don’t have assets to secure a loan and the loan amount they need is often too small for banks to consider.

This mismatch between Main Street businesses and bank lending criteria has existed for decades and affects all of us.  When Main Street businesses can’t get access to adequate capital, we lose economic growth, we lose job growth, we lose tax revenues and more.

We started ForwardLine in 2003 as a nationwide non-bank lender dedicated to solving this problem.  Using technology and proprietary credit algorithms, combined with a direct sales model, we’ve now been successfully lending to Main Street for 14 years.

Success Comes from Customer Focus

We’ve succeeded because:

  • We offer busy small business owners a fast and convenient borrowing experience with a 2-minute online application, instant credit decision, multiple loan options, and next day funding.
  • Our proven credit algorithms are specifically designed for Main Street businesses and measure the stability of the business, rather than evaluating assets or collateral. 
  • We offer guaranteed low rates made possible by selling direct, rather than through brokers.
  • We have consistently demonstrated that we are a trustworthy and reliable financial partner for our small business borrowers as proven by the outstanding customer reviews and ratings that we have received for 14 years.

Today, we’re proud to say that we’ve grown our loan volume every year since 2003- even during the Great Recession- originating more than $450,000,000 in loans to America’s small businesses.

We are also dedicated to providing other services and resources that help small businesses grow.  If you are a small business owner, visit our ForwardLine blog for helpful tips on all kinds of topics including staffing, advertising, social media, in-store product display strategies, and much, much more.  Also, our affiliate, ForwardLine Payments Services provides payment processing services helping you save money and helping you grow by accepting payments from your customers in new and convenient ways.

So, if you are a small business owner, give us a call today and see how ForwardLine can help your business grow!   

More than 15,000 small business loans funded

2016

ForwardLine surpasses $400,000,000 in cumulative small business loan volume and launches new loan product for "thin file" small businesses.

2015

ForwardLine raises $35,000,000 in equity to support accelerated growth.

2014

ForwardLine implements version 2.1 of ForwardLine's proprietary credit algorithm, ForSight™.

2013

ForwardLine surpasses $250,000,000 in cumulative small business loan volume.

2011

ForwardLine hires its 50th employee.

2009

ForwardLine successfully emerges from the "Great Recession" having grown small business loan volume every year while maintaining low credit losses.

2006

ForwardLine secures $20,000,000 credit facility.

2004

ForwardLine founders hire first employee.

2003

ForwardLine is founded, inventing and funding the first "merchant loan."

Our Leadership Team

Steve Carlson

Steve Carlson

CEO

Steve understands what it takes to succeed as a small business owner. Over the years, he and his wife have started several companies, including an early-stage language program for children, a consulting firm, and a venture-backed financial technology company. These experiences have provided Steve with a high degree of respect for the businesses that ForwardLine serves. “Throughout my entrepreneurial career, I’ve seen the value that partners such as ForwardLine can bring to the table in helping to deliver on a business owner’s dreams.”

Steve has built his career on using data and technology to assist borrowers in improving their financial health — a passion that he brings each day to his work at ForwardLine.  Prior to joining ForwardLine, Steve was the co-founder and CEO of Ascend. In this role, he led a team in defining the next generation of lending by leveraging behavioral economics and real-time data to monitor and reward borrowers for positive financial behaviors demonstrated throughout the life of their loan.

Steve has held senior executive roles at HSBC and Washington Mutual. He also advised global financial services firms as co-founder of Sung Carlson Associates and led marketing and business development at Intuit. He is actively involved on the regulatory front, including having served as an inaugural member of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Consumer Advisory Board.

Steve holds a BA in political science from the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign and an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

Martyn Watson

Martyn Watson

Head of Finance

Martyn joined ForwardLine in 2018 and brings more than 25 years of experience in the financial services industry.

Martyn brings expertise in business analytics, process optimization and technology — in addition to his core accounting and compliance experience.

Prior to joining ForwardLine, Martyn spent seven years as CFO of Ryland Financial Services Group, a fully operational mortgage bank, plus title and property & casualty insurance agency. Martyn also spent more than a decade with the accounting firm Ernst & Young LLP, specializing in financial services audit and transaction support, based in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Silicon Valley and New Zealand. He spent two years as controller of Balboa Insurance Group, a 50-state life and casualty insurance carrier. Martyn has also served as a consultant to early stage and pre-IPO start-up companies.

Martyn holds an active California CPA license and is also an active Chartered Accountant (Australia and New Zealand).

In his spare time, Martyn enjoys boating, playing tennis, and enjoying the local mountains.

Larry Gomperts

Larry Gomperts

Chief Marketing Officer

Larry is a seasoned customer centric executive who knows what it means to drive company performance. He brings to ForwardLine more than 10 years of experience in strategic planning, brand building, traditional and digital marketing, and corporate finance.

Larry believes in creating a strong corporate culture and values driven organizations. “I strive to understand our customers needs so that we can provide the products and services that add meaningful value. My goal is to build a marketing plan that mirrors the business strategy, where every touch point ties in with helping small businesses succeed.”

Prior to joining ForwardLine, Larry was the Executive Vice President in Marketing and Strategic Development for Robbins Brothers, The Engagement Ring Store and also worked for Marks and Spencer and McKinsey and Company.

Larry earned his BA in Accounting and Economics from the University of the Witwatersrand, in Johannesburg, South Africa and his MBA from Stanford University Graduate School of Business.

In his spare time, when he is not strategizing and planning for the next marketing move, Larry is spending time with his family, hiking, running, and enjoying the outdoors.

Sri Kaza

Sri Kaza

Chief Operating Officer

Sri brings twenty years of experience in scaling sales and operations for growth as a business leader, as a consultant, and as an entrepreneur. Having been a business owner himself, Sri understands the challenges of accessing capital to sustain and grow a company. As ForwardLine’s Chief Operating Officer, Sri is leading the company’s financial consulting efforts and customer service operations to help small businesses get access to capital for their growth. “Every day, we work with entrepreneurs to give them a chance at achieving their goals through financing options that they didn’t know they had access to.”

Prior to joining ForwardLine, Sri ran a startup SaaS company that helped businesses access and evaluate sales talent. He has held senior executive roles at Viking Cruises and Tax Credit Co. He was also a Partner at McKinsey & Company.

Sri holds degrees in chemical engineering and materials science from the University of Michigan, an MBA in Strategy and Operations from Kellogg School of Management, and a Masters in Operations Management from Northwestern University.

Stewart Sui

Stewart Sui

Chief Risk and Analytics Officer

Stewart is a results-oriented veteran with broad experience in the financial services industry. He brings to ForwardLine rich domain expertise in data analytics, credit risk management, credit scoring, and credit bureau information.

As ForwardLine’s Chief Risk and Analytics Officer, Stewart ensures that ForwardLine establishes and maintains all credit risk policies supporting its lending products to preserve the safety and soundness of the company. He also ensures that all risk decisions follow internal policies for approval. “It is very satisfying to me that our innovative underwriting, powered by advanced analytics and algorithms, is helping small business owners become better-qualified and is making it faster to receive the funds they need for their business.”

Prior to joining ForwardLine, Stewart was the co-founder and VP of Risk and Analytics at Ascend. Stewart has also held a variety of executive roles, including VP, Head of international analytics at TransUnion, and Director of Global Analytics at HSBC.

Stewart earned his BS in Computer Engineering from Shandong University in China, his Masters in Mathematics with concentration in Statistics from Portland State University, and an MBA from The University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

Saravanan Gurumurthy

Saravanan Gurumurthy

Senior Vice President, Systems & Technology

Saravanan is passionate about finding innovative ways to empower people and utilizing technology to deliver those competitive advantages. He brings to ForwardLine extensive global leadership experience in technology and operations management, linking business strategies and technology decisions to create sustainable success.

Saravanan believes businesses continuously transform themselves through technology that enables them to be more agile, innovative and efficient. He is excited to be building a best-in-class technology solution, creating an effective and pleasant experience for all ForwardLine customers. “I have the great opportunity to make technology a key competency of ForwardLine, and provide innovative solutions that directly benefit the growth of our customers.”

Prior to joining ForwardLine, Saravanan was the Senior Vice President for Union Bank, Executive Director for Goldman Sachs & Co. and a Systems Engineer for Sony in Tokyo, Japan.

Saravanan earned his BA in Engineering from Bharadhidasan University, India, and his MBA in International Business Management from Aoyama Gakuin University, Tokyo Japan.

Molly MacIsaac Coleman

Molly MacIsaac Coleman

General Counsel

Molly serves as ForwardLine’s General Counsel. Working closely with ForwardLine’s leadership team, she offers counsel on a variety of legal matters.

By staying abreast of unique legal issues impacting ForwardLine’s business, Molly ensures that ForwardLine’s foundation of integrity is maintained through compliance with applicable laws, rules and regulations.

“A big part of my job is simplifying our financing process so that our service continues getting faster and easier for our customers.”

Prior to joining ForwardLine, Molly practiced as both a corporate attorney and an intellectual property transactional attorney at Brobeck, Phleger, & Harrison, LLP and Irell & Manella, LLP. She also served as Director of Legal Affairs for Wirebreak Entertainment. From 2002 to 2008 Molly was an adjunct professor at Loyola Law School, where she taught Venture Capital Financing and Business Planning.

Molly received her undergraduate degree in American history from Brown University, and earned her JD, with high honors, from Georgetown University, where she served as the Executive Editor of The Georgetown Law Journal. After graduation, she worked as a clerk to The Honorable Joseph M. McLaughlin of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York City.

In addition to her role at ForwardLine, Molly enjoys a variety of sports, reading, cooking, traveling and – most of all – spending time with her family.

Our Board Members and Advisors

Martin Nesbitt

Martin Nesbitt

Board Member-Chairman

Mr. Nesbitt is a co-founder and co-CEO of The Vistria Group, LLC. He formerly was the co-founder, President and CEO of PRG Parking Management, LLC (The Parking Spot), an owner and operator of off-airport parking facilities, and was an officer of Pritzker Realty Group, L.P. 

Mr. Nesbitt previously served as an Investment Manager at LaSalle Partners where he was responsible for investment management for regional retail properties and management and leasing for office projects and parking.

He serves on the Board of Directors at Jones Lang LaSalle, Norfolk Southern Corporation and American Airlines Group.  Mr. Nesbitt also serves as a Trustee of Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art and serves as Chairman of the Barack Obama Foundation. 

He is the former Chairman of the Board of the Chicago Housing Authority and a former board member of the Chicago 2016 Olympics Committee and treasurer of President Barack Obama’s 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns.

Mr. Nesbitt earned a BA and an honorary Ph.D. from Albion College and an MBA from the University of Chicago.

Michael Castleforte

Michael Castleforte

Board Member

Mr. Castleforte is a co-founder and partner at The Vistria Group, LLC. He formerly was the General Counsel and Head of Business Development at United Shore Financial Services, LLC, where he was part of the team that transformed the company from a regional, independent lender to one of the nation’s leading independent mortgage lenders, and a partner at Kirkpatrick & Co., LLC.

Mr. Castleforte began his career as a corporate attorney at Winston & Strawn LLP, where he represented public and private companies in a variety of mergers, acquisitions and divestitures. 

Mr. Castleforte received his BA from Duke University and his JD from Columbia University.

Siddharth (Bobby) Mehta

Siddharth (Bobby) Mehta

Board Advisor

Mr. Mehta is a seasoned veteran in the financial services sector. He is the former CEO of TransUnion—a global provider of credit and information management services.

From 1998 to 2007 Mr. Mehta held a variety of senior positions at Household International, HSBC Finance Corporation and HSBC North America Holdings, including CEO of HSBC North America Holdings, CEO of HSBC Finance Corporation and Group Executive (Credit Cards) at Household International.

He currently serves as Board Advisor to ForwardLine and Senior Advisor to Giact—a leader in providing real-time data for payment risk analysis. He also serves on the boards of AllState Insurance, TransUnion, Datacard, Piramal Enterprises, AvantCredit, The Chicago Public Education Fund, The Field Museum, and Myelin Repair Foundation.

Mr. Mehta earned his Bachelor’s degree in Economics from the London School of Economics and his MBA from the University of Chicago.

Michael Marcus

Michael Marcus

Board Member

Mr. Marcus brings a wealth of experience in successfully growing financial companies. He is managing partner at Marcus Partners, LLC—a strategic advisory firm to major retail financial services organizations. 

Mr. Marcus is the former Chief Marketing Officer, Chief Credit Officer and Managing Director of New Ventures at HSBC Credit Card Services. Prior to this, he was partner at the Boston Consulting Group where he was a leader in their financial services team.

He currently serves as a board member for ForwardLine Financial as well as a board advisor to several financial services companies and non-profit organizations.

Mr. Marcus earned his Bachelor’s degree with honors in Political Science from Grinnell College and his MBA at Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago.

Norman Bobins

Norman Bobins

Board Member

Mr. Bobins founded and is the chief executive of Norman Bobins Consulting LLC; providing financial consulting services to various clients. Prior to that, he spent 40 years in the banking industry, beginning his career at American National Bank and Trust Company. Mr. Bobins currently serves as non-executive chairman of The PrivateBank and Trust Company and non-executive chairman of the board of Transco, Inc. 

He serves as a board member for ForwardLine Financial as well as on the corporate boards of AAR CORP., AGL Resources, Inc., Omega Healthcare Investors, Inc. and RREEF America REIT II, Inc. Mr. Bobins is also a member of the boards of directors for Auditorium Theatre, Brain Research Foundation, The Field Museum, Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center, Illinois Sports Facilities Authority, Navy Pier, Inc., and the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation.

Mr. Bobins has received numerous awards including the Illinois Bankers Association 2014 Illinois Banker of the Year Award, the 2012 Woodrow Wilson Award for Corporate Citizenship, the 2007 Order of Lincoln, the state of Illinois’ highest award, the 2007 Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce’s Daniel H. Burnham Distinguished Leadership Award, the 2003 University of Chicago Graduate School of Business’ Distinguished Corporate Alumnus Award, and the 1992 Human Rights Medallion from the American Jewish Committee.

Rob Finnegan

Rob Finnegan

Board Member

Mr. Finnegan is the Marketing and Credit Executive at 2nd Order Solutions where he provides marketing and credit consulting to the banking industry.

Prior to his role at 2nd Order, he held a variety of roles at Capital One including leading Decision Sciences, Small Business Card, and US Card customer management. He serves as a board member for ForwardLine Financial and West Creek Financial.

Mr. Finnegan earned his Bachelor’s of Science degree in Systems Engineering from the University of Virginia. 

Craig Coleman

Craig Coleman

Co-founder and Board Member

As a member of ForwardLine’s founding team, Craig pioneered the concept of merchant financing. He guided the company from inception and grew it into an industry leader.

“As someone who has started and grown a business, I make sure everyone on our team understands what small business owners have gone through, what they’ve accomplished, and how valuable their time is.”

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Craig received a BA in economics, with high honors from Boston College, and a JD, with honors from Georgetown University.

Craig began his career practicing corporate and banking law with O’Melveny & Myers, LLP and Skadden, Arps, Slate Meagher & Flom, LLP. In 1998, he joined the world of entrepreneurial finance by teaming up with Brian Sullivan at Rolling Oaks Enterprises, LLC, a private investment fund that became a holding company for ForwardLine.

In his personal time, Craig is most often found coaching one of his children’s sports teams, or otherwise spending time with his family. Craig is an avid exerciser, enjoys just about all water sports, and remains a perpetual student of U.S. political and economic history.

Brian Sullivan

Brian Sullivan

Co-founder and Board Member

As part of the triumvirate of ForwardLine’s founders, Brian brings a background in small business financing with Rolling Oaks Enterprises LLC, a short-term debt provider he founded in 1997, to service small businesses in southern California.

Brian comes from a long line of entrepreneurs and he shares his business knowledge as an adjunct professor of entrepreneurship at the University of Southern California (USC).

“From my great-grandfather’s first car battery company in 1921 to my children’s lemonade stand, someone in my family has always been starting, growing or selling a business,” he says. “Entrepreneurship is our way of life.”

Brian served a six-year term as a Director for USC’s Marshall School of Business and is a member of the Young Presidents’ Organization. He earned a BS degree in communications from Northwestern University and an MBA from USC.

Brian has four children, and when he isn’t advising entrepreneurs, he can be found attending soccer games, Little League or gymnastics meets, or surfing the waves of Malibu.

Peter Bieler

Peter Bieler

Co-founder and Board Member

Peter is a serial innovator and entrepreneur. He developed the concept of using credit card sales to underwrite financing. In 1993, he founded Media Funding Corporation, based on the principle of advancing media funds to infomercial marketers and recouping payment directly from the infomercial-generated credit card sales. This concept inspired the financing model for ForwardLine.

Prior to founding Media Funding, Peter had an extensive career as a direct response marketer. In the early 90’s, Peter launched the ThighMaster product, creating a massively successful infomercial, starring Suzanne Sommers and later writing about his experience in his book This Business Has Legs, published by John Wiley & Sons in 1996.

He states that he has formed many entrepreneurial ventures over the last 40 years, where some were very successful, and some remembered only in a box of unused business cards. But they were all rich with experience, and he continues to do it because he enjoys it.