online training

Industry Intelligence and Best-in-Class Training: A Powerful Combination

Kyle Peterdy, Vice President of the Commercial Banking & Credit Analyst Program at CFI

Kyle Peterdy (pictured right), Vice President of the Commercial Banking & Credit Analyst Program at Corporate Finance Institute (CFI), is a former teacher, coach, mentor, and finance professional. He brings a passion for education, as well as unique credentials and career experience. When not at the office Kyle loves to travel and spend time with his family.
We recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Kyle to learn more about CFI and how Industry Intelligence integration benefits their learners.

Q: Tell us about CFI and the Commercial Banking & Credit Analyst (CBCA)™ training program.

A: Corporate Finance Institute (CFI) is the leading, accredited provider of online courses, certifications, and Microsoft Office productivity tools for finance professionals. We have over 5,000 individual lessons and hundreds of hours of practical, hands-on video learning content, as well as model templates and other tools to support skill development, productivity, and brand compliance. We’ve helped over a million learners in more than 170 countries expand their capabilities across many financial services roles — including commercial lending, investment banking, sales & trading, business intelligence, accounting & advisory, and various finance and treasury functions within corporations of all sizes.

The CBCA™, specifically, has been designed to train and upskill commercial bankers, underwriters, and other SME (small and medium-sized enterprise) lenders. We have over 50 courses, case studies, and credit simulations that are highly relevant for commercial lenders, with topics like credit structuring, financial analysis, and loan pricing; plus more specialized lending topics including commercial real estate, asset-based lending, and even ESG concepts.

Q: What makes CFI different from traditional classroom training programs?

A: We feel strongly that CFI beats traditional classroom training (or virtual instructor-led training) across a variety of measures.

The first is content. Our courses are very hands-on, which often surprises people since we’re an e-learning provider. We look to translate theory into practice, and our curriculum includes case-based simulations that really emulate a day in the life for financial services professionals. We believe people learn best by doing.

The second is delivery. We’re a pure e-learning provider, so participants can take our courses from anywhere and at any time convenient for them — as opposed to cohort-based, instructor-led training, which requires them to be available, focused, and prepared to learn precisely during the window the session is scheduled. Because our content is consumed individually, our curriculum also can be digested at a pace that’s comfortable and optimal for each learner, rather than having participants “tag along” in the group work you typically see in traditional classroom sessions.

The third is the very nature of our learning management system (LMS). CFI’s platform is designed to support “performance-adjacent learning,” meaning professionals can use our system while executing on-the-job responsibilities. Consider a banker who needs information on a specific topic in order to prepare for a prospect or client call; they can use our resource search functionality to call up a chapter, or even an individual lesson, from our content library in order to help prepare. Learning at the very moment when that information is required and most relevant supports a level of retention that simply can’t be replicated in a traditional classroom.

Beyond these three key points, CFI also allows Learning & Development teams to test and triage learners by skill category, create and assign custom learning paths, and track course progress in real time. CFI for Teams clients also can white label our training, earn CPE credits, and issue blockchain-verified certificates. We’ve really sought to reinvent the way corporate training is delivered to financial services professionals at all experience levels.

Q: What specific challenges were learners at CFI facing that Vertical IQ helped to solve? Why did you choose Vertical IQ to help meet these challenges?

A: For SME (small and medium-sized enterprise) lenders more junior in their career, it can be easy to miss the forest for the trees. What I mean is they meet a prospect or get introduced to a transaction by a broker, and they want to dive right into the financials and start spreading the statements. There’s so much more to the due diligence process, though, and being able to think through all those other considerations is really important.

One of the many things we loved about Vertical IQ was their slogan — “Readiness Wins” — and they live up to that standard in every way. Their industry research and intelligence, coupled with call prep resources, really help bankers approach each call with the right combination of big-picture thinking, while also drilling down into specific and nuanced data to support much more comprehensive due diligence.

At CFI, we also believe there’s no substitute for readiness. Our commercial lender training has been designed to help bankers analyze transactions quickly and more effectively, and to structure better, more profitable deals. When searching for industry intelligence platforms to partner with, it became clear that our purpose aligned well with that of Vertical IQ.

Q: How has the integration with Vertical IQ benefited CFI’s learners?

A: As leaders in business and commercial lending know, client interactions and prospect opportunities are high stakes; it would be hard for me to understate how important that point is. Unfortunately, we’re in an environment now where bankers are being asked to take on high-profile client-facing responsibilities earlier in their careers, having had less time to work with a mentor or to see sufficient deal flow (to get prepared for these interactions) than in eras past.

It brings me back to this notion that readiness is so important, and part of being ready is having access to best-in-class tools and resources like Vertical IQ, as well as high-quality training, to help learners get the most out of those tools and resources.

Since setting up the CFI integration with Vertical IQ, we’ve not only made platform access available to our subscribers, but also produced a Vertical IQ Fundamentals course to support these learners in their professional journeys. We’ve received really high NPS (net promoter scores) and survey results for this course, as well as some terrific anecdotal free-form feedback about how helpful the integration has been for our commercial lending audience.

Q: If you had to sum up the value of Vertical IQ in a couple of statements, what would you say?

A: Vertical IQ is a great platform for many financial services professionals, but particularly SME lenders. The amount of highly relevant information they include in such a digestible format is both impressive and really valuable. And from our perspective, they’re also an absolute pleasure to work with — thank you!

>> Check out CFI’s free Vertical IQ Fundamentals course!

Banner picture: Andrew Neel via Unsplash

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Introducing Our New VP of Strategic Partnerships, Paul Hock

Introducing Our New VP of Strategic Partnerships, Paul Hock

VP of Strategic Partnerships, Paul HockWe are very excited to welcome the newest member of the Vertical IQ team, Paul Hock, vice president of strategic partnerships.

In this new role, Paul will wear a variety of hats. He will explore additional sectors where Vertical IQ can bring value — helping salespeople strengthen relationships and become trusted advisors. Paul also will manage existing partnerships to ensure we are providing our customers with the best possible solution.

Paul’s background combining technology, business development and sales, banking, partnerships, government, and more makes him an ideal fit for this position.

We recently sat down with Paul to discuss his new role and what sets Vertical IQ apart from the competition in the Industry Intelligence space.

Q: Tell us about your background in strategic partnerships and enterprise sales.

A: I have always enjoyed working with people. My background in sales and strategic partnerships incorporates varied experience:  branch banking sales and small business banking, construction management communication software, government and law enforcement sales, infrastructure integration sales and partner development, and business process consultation. Most recently, I managed strategic enterprise accounts in higher education and drove net-new sales growth for a global, cloud-based spend management company.

My strengths lie in building trusted advisor relationships with customers and prospects, understanding needs, ensuring alignment to goals and objectives, and “walking with” my customers in right sizing solutions to meet and exceed expectations.

Q: What do you love most about strategic partnerships and sales?

A: I enjoy the opportunity to build and grow customer relationships and help them meet their goals. There are many ways to help, and working to know my customers’ strengths, weaknesses, competitors, challenges, et cetera, enables me to become a strategic advisor and provide true value to my customers. To me, it’s about giving more than taking, and this typically strengthens trust.

Q: What do you think sets Vertical IQ apart from other Industry Intelligence companies?

A: Vertical IQ is the market leader in providing and packaging industry insights to help sales, marketing, and customer success teams understand their clients’ needs, communicate effectively, and deliver results. Packaging this data into an easily digestible tool is key.

There are other companies out there that provide programs and strategies to help salespeople become more effective. But Vertical IQ proactively and strategically incorporates customer input and multiple points of cutting edge industry knowledge to ensure their users are prepared, confident, and ready to win in their sales discussions and intelligently talk about the initiatives that matter most.

Q: What is the most exciting part about joining Vertical IQ? Why did you decide to make this change?

A: Having worked for many years selling and partnering with successful companies, I recognize the importance of readiness in sales call preparation and general interactions. Vertical IQ has packaged a solution that truly drives better partnerships and better outcomes for customers, which is important to me.

I had trusted relationships with team leaders Bobby Martin and David Buffaloe, who I have known personally for many years, but then met founder Susan Bell, who helped me see the power of Vertical IQ’s offering.

The opportunity to join a team that is laser focused on providing the very best service to their customers and where I can help grow this solution in other sales verticals is very exciting! I look forward to helping more sales teams, consultants, and strategic advisors realize the value of maximizing Industry Intelligence to optimize their client and prospect interactions.

Q: Looking ahead, what are your goals for Vertical IQ in the next 5 years?

A: Vertical IQ has proven its offering for many years, focusing mainly on the banking industry, where it originated. My goals are tied to driving additional growth by helping expand Vertical IQ through partnerships in their current markets plus new verticals. I would love to see significant growth in partnering and strategic sales within technology, insurance, and other financial sectors.

Q: What is your favorite motivational quote OR favorite meme?

A: I have two that come to mind. “The Zen philosopher Basha once wrote, ‘A flute with no holes is not a flute. A doughnut with no holes is a danish.’” (Ty Webb, Caddyshack) This is not particularly motivating, but it reminds me to think outside the box and mainly, it just makes me laugh — plus, I like doughnuts.

One quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. that does truly motivate me: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

Q: What type of music do you enjoy?

A: I have several genres of music I like to listen to: classic rock — Led Zeppelin; grunge — Presidents of the United States of America, Offspring, 311; country — Zac Brown Band, Eric Church, George Strait. I also appreciate some good ‘80s tunes — Duran Duran Radio on Spotify does the trick. If I’m being honest, I do listen to Taylor Swift as well and groove on some Yacht Rock at times.

Q: What’s your favorite movie?

A: Braveheart

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: I enjoy spending time with family, hunting, yard work, and cheering on the Tar Heels and the Pirates.


The entire Vertical IQ team is excited to have Paul on board! We look forward to more great insights and content from him in the future as he works to strengthen our current partnerships and build new ones. 

If you are interested in learning more about VIQ partnerships, visit .

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Nick Miller

Celebrating 10 Years of Vertical IQ: Spotlight on Nick Miller

How time flies when you’re having fun! This is the final installment in a series of four blog posts commemorating the 10-year anniversary of Vertical IQ. Each post features one of our company founders sharing their memories and thoughts on Vertical IQ’s early days.

Related: Celebrating 10 Years of Vertical IQ: Spotlight on Bill Walker
Celebrating 10 Years of Vertical IQ: Spotlight on Bobby Martin
Celebrating 10 Years of Vertical IQ: Spotlight on Susan Bell

Vertical IQ co-founder and Clarity Advantage president Nick Miller has been working in the banking industry for most of his career. Nick and Clarity train banks and bankers to attract and develop deeper relationships with small businesses.

Nick Miller“Bobby and I first connected at a conference and discussed our shared philosophy that call preparation and industry knowledge are integral to business bankers’ success. So, 10 years ago, when Bobby started pondering the idea of launching a new Industry Intelligence tool, we met on a rainy afternoon at a coffee shop in North Hills, near Raleigh, to share ideas on what this hypothetical Industry Intelligence tool should do.

“I told him, from my perspective working with bankers who are calling on small businesses, bankers need easily accessible industry information oriented to salespeople rather than credit analysts.

“So we talked about: What are those key things that need to be on the first page of industry information if a salesperson only has time to look at that one page to prep for their call? Bobby and I put our heads together and drew on a piece of paper what turned out to be the first screen of the Vertical IQ Industry Profile.

“I knew we had a good idea for a product, and I agreed to invest both startup capital and sweat equity. Bobby recruited Bill Walker. Bill started writing profiles and sending them to me for comments. I also wrote content for the product knowledge portion of the website.

“Meanwhile, Bobby and Susan were going around the country, trying out ideas and asking prospective clients, ‘Would you buy this?’ — trying to scare up that first round of clients while gathering feedback to generate ideas for the product. It was an all-hands-on-deck effort in those early days.”

Adding value at every turn

“Like Bobby, I’ve long believed that conversations with clients should add value that the client would say is worth paying for. As a business owner myself, I feel impatient with bankers who come in and say, ‘Tell me about your business’ without any knowledge of my industry.

“I have no patience for that because I think bankers have an important role to play, especially with small business owners. Their accountants handle their taxes; their financial planners manage their investments; but in most cases, nobody is looking at their companies from a business health point of view. Their bankers should do that.

“That’s why call preparation using the Industry Intelligence on Vertical IQ saves time for the banker and for the business owner. It opens the door to more productive conversations.

“Industry Intelligence also creates opportunities for the banker to demonstrate value throughout the relationship — asking questions about things that are happening in the business owner’s industry, sharing information on trends, providing tailored solutions based on their understanding of challenges and risks within the industry, and providing that big-picture financial advice on the business owner’s company that other advisors to the business may not be providing.”

A rewarding collaboration

“This journey has been so rewarding because Bobby, Bill, Susan, Ken, Christy, Laura, and others are good people. I’ve felt a very positive vibe about being part of the Vertical IQ clan. It’s been a huge source of encouragement and satisfaction to see them turn an idea that started on a small piece of paper in a coffee café into a robust and valuable tool.”

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cofounder blog Susan Bell

Celebrating 10 Years of Vertical IQ: Spotlight on Susan Bell

How time flies when you’re having fun! This is the third in a series of four blog posts commemorating the 10-year anniversary of Vertical IQ. Each post will feature one of our company founders sharing their memories and thoughts on Vertical IQ’s early days.

> Related: Celebrating 10 Years of Vertical IQ: Spotlight on Bill Walker
Celebrating 10 Years of Vertical IQ: Spotlight on Bobby Martin

Vertical IQ co-founder and EVP of Sales Susan Bell is a former banker, who has long held a passion for helping sales professionals and advisors differentiate themselves.

cofounder blog Susan Bell“When I first started selling Vertical IQ to prospects in those early days of the company, we had maybe 50 Industry Profiles. I knew it was a leap of faith for longtime customers and prospects who knew me from previous roles I’d been in to join the Vertical IQ journey. It was definitely an ‘If you build it, they will come’ situation. But what really struck me was that those early adopters became like family. They took a chance on us, and most are still customers 10 years later.

“The creation of Vertical IQ brought industry research into a new decade. Before, this type of research was just a report. Now, thanks to Vertical IQ, it’s actionable. We put Industry Intelligence into people’s hands through shareable content, a mobile version, and more. The platform itself was lightyears ahead of what industry research was before we came onto the scene.

“After these 10 years, I think one of the best things our customers can say about Vertical IQ is that we just keep getting better. The compliment they give us as a company is we are small but nimble. We are indeed empowered to do the right thing for our customers; there isn’t red tape like at a big company. It’s a personalized experience, and I really like being able to do that for our customers.”

A family of coworkers and clients

“What I love most about working at Vertical IQ is the people. We truly have a family here. Not only do we work well together, we also are embedded in each other’s lives. We go to weddings, celebrate babies, cheer on the successes of other’s families, and we support one another through the tough times.

“Joining Vertical IQ in its early days was a lifestyle choice — a career choice — for me. I’ve had the ability to work remotely since before working remotely was a ‘thing.’ I’ve always been two hours away from our headquarters, but I never felt disconnected from the team. Flexibility and ‘family first’ are philosophies that people within this company have always embraced.

“This all goes back to how we treat each other, and it also is reflected in our relationships with our customers and prospects. Ultimately, it has to do with loyalty. I’ve been loyal to my co-founders through several companies. In fact, I’ve worked with Bobby [Martin, co-founder and CEO of Vertical IQ] since 1993 when we were both in banking. Loyalty is just a part of my personality, and that’s reflected in how I treat our customers. I am dedicated to them, cheer them on, and do everything I can to help bring about their success.”

Thoughtful innovation

“In addition to our dedicated and personalized customer experience, we can be nimble and forward-thinking because we are small and don’t have to wrestle with red tape. We put a lot of thought and energy into our product, which means constantly listening to what customers are saying. We are able to respond quickly but conscientiously with enhancements and innovations.

“For example, creating strategic partnerships over the years has been one of the keys to Vertical IQ’s success. We try to go to market wherever salespeople’s eyes are to make it easy and convenient to access Industry Intelligence. Whether that means integrating with other research or sales enablement tools, we want to make it simple to access the information you need to win more deals.

“Steve Jobs always strove to give people things they didn’t even know they needed out of an Apple product, and we have a similar mindset here at Vertical IQ. Instead of playing catch up, we always aim to stay ahead of what people realize they need, and we will continue to do that in the decades to come.”

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Bobby Martin

Celebrating 10 Years of Vertical IQ: Spotlight on Bobby Martin

How time flies when you’re having fun! This is the second in a series of four blog posts commemorating the 10-year anniversary of Vertical IQ. Each post will feature one of our company founders sharing their memories and thoughts on Vertical IQ’s early days.

>> Related: Celebrating 10 Years of Vertical IQ: Spotlight on Bill Walker

Cofounder series, Bobby MartinVertical IQ co-founder and CEO Bobby Martin is a serial entrepreneur and angel investor. A former banker, Bobby authored the book The Hockey Stick Principles about the typical progression of the startup process.

“Researching for my book on entrepreneurship and startups, I learned about a Dutch psychologist named Manfred Kets de Vries who did work on leadership and entrepreneurs. One of the things Kets de Vries found was that most entrepreneurs start companies for one of two reasons.

“The first reason is because they are frustrated by a situation in business or they aren’t fitting into the current paradigm, but they aren’t the retiring type, so instead of giving up, they start their own company. That’s why I started my first industry research company.

“But the other reason Kets de Vries found that entrepreneurs are inspired to create their own startups is because they see a good business opportunity, and that’s why I started Vertical IQ — I saw a good opportunity. I realized that my first go at industry research was good, but I believed if I did it again, I could do it better than twice as good.”

Putting our heads together

“I started noodling on this idea, and then Nick Miller, a longtime friend and colleague, came to me and said he had some ideas too, which I thought were cool and useful.

“He and I met up at a small coffee shop in North Raleigh — North Hills to be specific. That location was prescient, as it so happens, because it turned out to be only about a quarter mile from our first customer, a large regional bank.

“Nick and I were playing around with concepts, and we enlisted the expertise of Bill Walker to help us start to document some of them. Together, the three of us started formulating the product. What we were trying to do was create an industry research platform that was more useful and uses simple navigation and technology, instead of just throwing a lot of overwhelming content at people.”

Developing a recipe for success

“We began flying around the country, meeting with bankers to get their advice about what we should build. It was pretty disparate advice, but still really useful, and it helped solidify the concept that would eventually become Vertical IQ. And I learned some important lessons during those conversations.

“One meeting with the head of business banking for a large bank inadvertently taught me that just because you have a better product doesn’t mean you’ll make a sale. This banking executive said to me, ‘Looks like you have built a better mousetrap’ — which we had — but you know what? He didn’t care. “He told me, ‘We already have something we’re using, and we don’t want to take the time and effort to do something different and switch.’

“We frequently had to overcome this type of resistance when making those tough initial sales. But we also discovered two key lessons. The first was that we needed to start thinking about the whole product — not just the Industry Intelligence we were providing. Our product was more than just the platform. It was, and is, the whole Vertical IQ experience: the customer service, the personalized training and access, the flexibility and ease of doing business with us — basically, all the ways we work to make our customers more successful.

“The second lesson we learned in those very-early days of the Vertical IQ journey, before we even had our first customer, was that we needed an amazing salesperson dedicated to relationships and with a long-term commitment to our customers’ success. We looked no further than Susan Bell, and she became a cofounder and our EVP of Sales.

“Over these many years, Susan has constantly reinforced and challenged me to remember our customers always come first. One of the secrets to Vertical IQ’s success is our mutual respect among the cofounders and our employees.”

Uncompromising quality

“When we were first going to market, the co-founders and I paid the way with sweat equity and a fair amount of personal cash. We needed hundreds of pages of research, after all, and we needed a platform to surface that content.

“We hired some tech consultants, and I was sharing with them my vision for what I wanted the platform to do and how it would work. One of the programmers said, ‘Hey Bobby, let me ask you a question: Why are you telling us how you think it should work? We’re the experts; let us surprise you.’

“Well, guess what. They totally messed it up. It was done all wrong, and it cost us a bunch of money and caused a three-month delay. Vertical IQ has to be easy to use, and I didn’t think what they built was easy enough. But there was a lesson I took from this costly experience. It started Vertical IQ’s commitment to excellence.

“To that end, we created ‘Feedback’ and ‘Support’ buttons, which are included on every single page of the Vertical IQ site. If our customers or users need support with Industry Intelligence or have any issue with our platform, they can reach out online, and it goes directly to our industry research team, which takes care of it. We simply don’t compromise on quality or customer satisfaction and success.”

Continuous improvement

“Our first official employee was Laura Stidham, our Director, Integrated Marketing, who at the time was right out of college. I first met Laura at a Panera Bread, probably 100 yards from where I’d met with Nick. Laura wanted to learn about marketing, and she had the same startup mindset as us cofounders: She was willing to work hard and wear a lot of different hats.

“Once Laura was on board, she, Susan, and I went to a tradeshow, which also happened to be in D.C. We were a startup that no one had heard of, and we were struggling to get anyone to come to our booth. I suggested Laura give her best puppy dog look so people would feel sorry for us! There’s no doubt we had to be scrappy to get our first customers!

“We’ve come a long way in the past decade. We’ve made countless enhancements to the Vertical IQ product offering, but there are a few things that I’m proud are unchanged: our commitment to support our customers’ success and our dedication to our fellow employees. Vertical IQ was built on the premise that Industry Intelligence needed to be accessible, but we also wanted to create a unique business culture that prioritized people over technology. I believe we have achieved both objectives.”

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Cofounder series, Bill Walker

Celebrating 10 Years of Vertical IQ: Spotlight on Bill Walker

How time flies when you’re having fun! This is the first in a series of four blog posts commemorating the 10-year anniversary of Vertical IQ. Each post will feature one of our company founders sharing their memories and thoughts on Vertical IQ’s early days.

Cofounder series, Bill WalkerVertical IQ co-founder and EVP of Product Strategy Bill Walker has been working in the technology product management arena for over 35 years. Here, Bill reminisces about the creation of Vertical IQ.

“It’s a little-known fact about Vertical IQ that the original name we came up with was Vertical Guru. We were trying to think of a name that not only stood out but suggested the vertical marketing concept with industry focus and how to make yourself an expert or a ‘guru’ on a particular industry.

“As part of the company formation process, we did a trademark search and found there was a company in California called ‘Virtual Guru.’ Although that business wasn’t anything like our product concept, we ultimately decided to go with the name Vertical IQ instead — a name that Beth Potter on our news articles team came up with.

“While all of this was happening, we had a design firm conceptualizing some logo options for ‘Vertical Guru.’ One of the ideas they came up with was intersecting conversation blocks, which we ultimately used for the Vertical IQ logo we still use today.

“In November of 2011, we officially debuted Vertical IQ at the annual Small Business Banking Conference in Scottsdale, Arizona. It was our first marketing event, and the entire company went … all four of us.

If you build it…

“Vertical IQ was born out of an idea that bankers needed Industry Intelligence information specific to banking. We went to several key contacts at banks across the country and asked, ‘If we built this, would you buy it?’

“We created a rough prototype that we could show people with an example profile and solicited their feedback to fine-tune the concept. We got several banks that said they were interested, but we knew we didn’t actually have a marketable product until we had a certain number of Industry Profiles written.

“We called on experienced technical writers we’d worked with in the past, and we were able to initially go to market with 50 of the most prominent industries. It’s pretty amazing to think that we now cover over 350 industry niches, as well as hundreds of local economies!

“I recall another somewhat comical episode from this time period. Our first official customer asked us to complete a due diligence questionnaire as part of the contract process — a fairly standard procedure for a lot of larger companies. I remember one of the questions on that form was, ‘Please list your company’s other customers.’ We wrote in, ‘None.’

Always improving

“Soon after launching we decided that adding industry videos would be a worthwhile, differentiating enhancement for the Vertical IQ product. At that time, we were filming the videos ourselves, trying to find places where we could go in and film a food distributor, for example. I remember I was recruiting business owners from my church, and I joked that people there wouldn’t make eye contact with me anymore for fear I’d ask them to be part of a video!

Vertical IQ then and now

“Vertical IQ’s product has evolved quite a bit over the years, but we continue to listen to our customers for ideas about how to make it better. We’re constantly adding new profiles, new content, and enhanced features and sections to provide customers the type of Industry Intelligence they and their teams need to succeed.

“I am proud of what we’ve accomplished over these 10 years, but the thing that stands out most to me is getting to work with people who I really enjoy working with — people who have passion about taking care of customers and doing the right thing.”

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