David Gens

Forty Under 40 winner 2014:  CEO, Merchant Advance Capital LP, Age: 27

David Gens was a 21-year-old student helping to manage about $3 million worth of assets at the University of British Columbia (UBC) when the 2008 global financial crisis took hold.

As part of his commerce degree, he was accepted into the UBC Portfolio Management Foundation and tasked with investing capital in the year that started about a month before the bottom fell out of global stock markets.

“It was an incredibly crazy time to be doing it,” the 27-year-old told Business in Vancouver. “Needless to say, the fund did poorly and we lost a lot of money.”

Stocks he helped choose would bounce back and he would move on to a career in finance that includes his role as president and CEO of Merchant Advance Capital LP, which he co-founded in 2009. He expects the company’s revenue to jump about 88% to nearly $3.2 million in 2014.

“We’ve pretty much grown 100% every year since we started,” Gens said. “I obviously don’t expect that to continue because it’s harder to grow off a larger base.”

To finance Merchant Advance, Gens raised more than $4 million from retail and high-net-worth individual investors as well as $1.5 million in revolving debt capital.

His company lends money to small business clients who accept debit or credit cards. They then automatically pay him a percentage of each sale until their debt is repaid.

Other finance industry experience includes working for a couple of years at CAI Capital Management Co. as a private equity analyst, following his degree.

While building Merchant Advance, he took a second job as vice-president of finance at Nations Energy Corp., where he built financial models related to the company’s logging, sawmill and other operations.

Last year, he helped found Creditloans Canada Financing Inc., which lends money to consumers who are a higher credit risk. He remains executive chairman of that company.

As a private pilot licence holder, he flies a few times a year for fun. He also plays a lot of tennis and has been in different folk bands such as Portage and Main and Head of the Herd.