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Driving growth in vehicle and equipment leasing

Led by Peter and Luke Johnson and with help from Bank of Texas, Houston-based Mobilease is poised for a banner year. The brothers, whose company finances business equipment and vehicle fleets used by small and medium-sized companies, acquired Mobilease more than 10 years ago from founder Gary Johnson, who’s also their uncle. Mobilease has since expanded with a $120 million asset portfolio in 43 states. The company primarily operates in Oklahoma, Louisiana, and along the Gulf Coast in Texas, equipping customers operating in the energy, warehousing, construction, medical, and fitness industries, among others.

Fleet of Mobilease trucks with branding

Meet Mobilease

Founded:  1980

What they do
Headquartered in Houston, Mobilease leases vehicles and equipment to commercial customers, helping owners focus on running their businesses. On the commercial side, they offer clients a fleet management partner to help minimize depreciation costs—the single largest expense when operating a company fleet of vehicles.

They do this by controlling and tracking acquisition and maintenance costs and then identifying the best time to recycle or replace a vehicle to increase its resale value. Their portfolio is balanced across the construction, manufacturing, transportation, fitness, and warehousing industries. Products experience wear and tear, making them advantageous for lease instead of purchase. To remain relevant throughout the lease, Mobilease tracks and monitors all costs for the life of the asset. Vehicle leasing to consumers is an available but less common aspect of the business.

A family run business:
Brothers Luke and Peter Johnson own and operate Mobilease, having acquired it more than 10 years ago from Gary Johnson, their uncle and company founder. The brothers have worked in the business for more than 20 years, with roots in the automobile business that trace back to 1921 when their great-grandfather opened Houston’s first Ford dealership.,

How they made their mark
Mobilease is driven by customer satisfaction and responsiveness. The company strives to deliver on requests within 48 hours, and customer retention exceeds 90%. “We want to know about our client’s business. We analyze how we can help them stabilize, help them save money, and get the maximum utilization of the assets they need to run their business--not just provide equipment financing,” said Luke Johnson.

Though the Bank of Texas-Mobilease relationship is only about a year old, the Johnsons are quick to credit banker Frank Carvelli and his team for his impact on their business.

“We immediately took Frank’s introductory call because he knew our business from a prior banking relationship. He had us up and running with a line of credit within 45 days, and he knew how quickly we move,” Luke Johnson said.

Luke and Peter’s roots with the company precede the 1980 founding of Mobilease. The brothers are the fourth generation of Johnsons to be involved in vehicle financing—their great-grandfather, Jack Roach, began Jack Roach Ford in Houston in 1921. As equal co-owners of Mobilease, they’ve worked in virtually every company department.

Luke serves as president, having ascended through sales beginning in 1996. Peter is CEO, having focused first on sales in 2000 and then through administration, credit, and finance.

Mobilease owners talking to their BOK financial representative in their office.

The ideal partner
Speed and flexibility are Mobilease’s competitive advantages, according to Luke Johnson, and Bank of Texas helps them succeed. “Our customers typically need things like trucks ’yesterday’, and our goal is to deliver within 48 hours. We listen to their needs and source the product quickly. From a banking perspective, we need a financial partner, not just a lender. “We move quickly and need a bank that can keep up with our pace,” Johnson said.

Not all banks can, especially with a business that involves frequent transactions requiring extensive documentation. And while Mobilease works with a half-dozen or so banks, others have fallen out over time when they couldn’t understand, prioritize, or serve Mobilease’s needs. Weekly, the company submits several lease packages accounting for multiple pieces of equipment. That’s exactly what created an opportunity in early 2021 for Carvelli. He joined Bank of Texas in 2019 after 17 years in the industry, several of those as the relationship manager for the Mobilease account, which had been at a prior bank for 15 years.

Having served the Johnsons earlier and maintained contact, he knew their needs for local service at a time when legacy lenders either lost their appetite for the business or wanted to manage the relationship from beyond Texas. “I knew they wanted an in-market, high-touch bank with a level of service that others don’t provide. The people who take care of our customers day-to-day are all in the same building. That resonates with a client like Mobilease,” said Carvelli. Added Peter Johnson, “To Bank of Texas’ credit, they were able to step right into our bank group with almost no change from our existing lending relationships. They made it easy for us.”

Mobilease owners, Peter and Luke Johnson outside of their corporate offices.

As the relationship manager, Carvelli manages the credit facility, commitment amount, rules, and financial reporting. Beyond the transaction, he serves in an advisory role, too, helping the Johnsons think through potential operational or interest rate changes that can impact growth—and change the relationship further.

Speaking about the success of the relationship, Luke Johnson said, “Frank and his team have taken the time to get to know us. We’re not just an account number, and we’re not a typical customer because our balance sheet reflects long-term customer transactions. It takes a special bank partner to understand that.

Serving their clients since 1980
Mobilease is attuned to its customers’ needs in a highly competitive industry, one that’s bound to grow due to—not despite—the pandemic. “There’s just a lot of pent-up demand for our product out there,” Luke Johnson said. “Our equipment, from forklifts and construction equipment to vehicles, experiences wear and tear, and a lot of it has had to serve an extended life due to use, downtime, or shortages of parts needed for timely maintenance.” Unlike some industry players, Mobilease is a “cradle to grave” provider, not one that just collects first and last month payments. Beyond acquisition, Mobilease offers maintenance, fuel, telematics, and insurance programs, each designed to help the client control all operating costs. Mobilease also reconditions returned vehicles to help the client maximize the resale value.

"We want to know about our client’s business. We analyze how we can help them stabilize, help them save money, and get the maximum utilization of the assets they need to run their business—and not just provide equipment financing.”

Luke Johnson, President of Mobilease

Business problem solved by Mobilease
Mobilease offers a hands-on approach to managing clients’ overall fleet costs when others just provide financing. That is the Mobilease difference. This business philosophy helps them partner with their clients for years, helping them run their businesses with more focus and efficiency.

Fleet of Mobilease trucks

How Mobilease builds on success
Dedicated employees, including a tenured sales staff that stays in touch with clients and their changing needs. “We treat everyone like family and like to host fun events like crawfish boils, BBQs and events like domino tournaments—which Frank won last year!” said Peter Johnson.

  • Loyal and happy customers, with more than 90% retention.
  • Their bankers who provide high-level attention to detail and a willingness to finance up to 100% of a vehicle’s cost, reducing Mobilease’s initial out-of-pocket requirements. “With their resourcefulness, we can be responsive to our customers and exceed their expectations,” said Peter Johnson.
  • Good old-fashioned hard work and taking care of clients. “We want to make our clients’ lives easier and let them run their core business while we help manage their rolling stock and other equipment,” said Luke Johnson.
  • Tailoring leases to client needs, not templates or cookie-cutter solutions.
  • Face-to-face client interaction in an era of increasingly impersonal business.

A solid relationship
Looking ahead, the Johnsons see blue skies and open roads for Mobilease. They feel well-positioned for the pandemic’s recovery, and with help from lenders like Bank of Texas, they plan to double the size of their company within five years.

"And by being local, responsive, and helpful, Bank of Texas will continue to help them succeed. We’re helpful when they call, can process their business efficiently, and are known for our reliability. Like Mobilease, we listen to our clients, respond to their needs, and can help them at every stage of their financial journey.”

Frank Carvelli, Senior Vice President – Corporate Banking

Benefits of a local banking partner

With a strong local presence and experienced commercial bankers who pride themselves on knowing not only their clients but also their industries, Bank of Texas can quickly respond to our customers and serve as their advisors.

  1. Bankers know their clients by name - and they listen.
  2. Bank and client teams can integrate more easily when needed.
  3. Local decision-makers help expedite the processing of funding packages and with speedy responses to questions.

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