Meet Sterling Associates’ Southeast Team

November 20, 2019

The Sterling Associates’ yacht financing team covering the Southeast and Gulf Coast region of the U.S. brings multiple years of experience in yacht, aircraft and RV financing as well as the highest degree of professional and personal customer service to each client’s request.

Their knowledge of the inner workings of underwriting criteria and cash flows associated with each available lender ensures that each applicant’s request is presented to the best possible lending source for the best possible rates and terms. The team also takes a personal approach with each client.

“We pick up the phone and call clients, instead of emailing them,” notes Vice President Phill Hawkins. “It’s important to us and our clients to talk directly with each other. Working hand and hand with our clients and the lender enables us to proceed from loan request to closing in the shortest amount of time possible.”

Phill Hawkins is an expert in the marine lending sector of financing. He brings impressive experience to the Sterling Associates team with his years of professional experience.

Vice President, Senior Underwriter and Sales Representative Phill Hawkins grew up in New England fishing the waters of Cape Cod and Buzzards Bay with his sister and six brothers. He began his career yacht financing in 1988 with Yegan Marine and joined Sterling Associates in 1998 to establish and develop the Southeast and Gulf Coast Regional Territory for the company, based in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. 

“In the early days, sales calls consisted of driving an average of 40,000 miles a year between the east and west coasts of Florida,” he recalls. 

Twenty-one years later, Phill still drives to meet clients to sign closing papers. 

“Meeting clients in person whenever possible is how we build our client relationships that continue for years to come no matter if the loan amount is $ 25,000 or $10,000,000,” he adds. “Client relationships are what drives our business and is the best means of advertising. When a client’s feels and knows he has a partner on their financial side of their purchase their recommendation to follow boaters is the highest prize that any company or sales representative can value.” 

His most memorable closing was with a client who insisted that they signed the loan paperwork on his newly arrived vessel as it was off-loaded from the cargo ship upon its arrival in U.S waters. 

“So here we were sitting inside the yacht, swinging from a crane 50 feet up in the air so he could sign the bank note just prior to vessel being set down in the water. All so he could claim he owned the vessel once it hit US waters.  Needless to say, the cargo ship and crane crew though we were all nuts. Doubt we very much could get away with something like this today,” Phill says.

Walter Martinez has an impeccable resume fully experienced in the area of lending from cars to boats.

Walter Martinez,  Regional Manager and Sales Representative, grew up in Long Beach, N.Y., where he  enjoyed boating and fishing. Walter attended the University of Montreal on an ice hockey scholarship then spent four years in the U.S. Navy, serving in the Vietnam war.  Walter moved to Florida in 1972. 

His entire career has been spent in the finance business, from cars, mortgages, airplanes to boats. In 1984 he joined Essex Credit as a sale representative in South Florida, where over 15 years he became one of the company’s highest producers. He came to Sterling after Essex Credit closed its offices and became an Internet company. 

Walter has owned many boats, from 24 to 38 feet, making customers feel right at home when they’re pursing financing. He speaks Spanish, a plus for any business in South Florida.

“The craziest closing, I ever had was having a customer sign his loan papers while he was flying his private jet,” recalls Walter.

Lee Casey is a new addition to the Sterling Associates team, but she is full of experience in the marine industry with many years of experience in boat lending and boating insurance.

The team’s newest member is Lee Casey, a Regional Manager and Sale Representative who covers the  Carolinas for the company.  She grew up in Atlanta, Ga., and learned to sail on Lake Lanier in North Georgia. A graduate of Vanderbilt University, she was been in the marine industry since 2002 working for a cruising guide, as a boat finance specialist and as a yacht insurance agent. 

“This experience and knowledge added additional familiarity with all aspects of putting a deal together and creating a positive experience for the customer,” Lee notes.  

She has spent time living in and sailing the waters of San Francisco, Calif., St. John, USVI and Annapolis, Md, but now calls Charleston, S.C. home.  

“The most interesting closing for me this year was when the customer was in California, the yacht broker and myself in the Carolinas, the boat was in Grenada and the seller was in South Africa,” Lee recalls. 

“Coordinating everyone and keeping the deal moving along was certainly not dull!”