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Venezuelan Financier Finds Global Niche in Wesport

WESTPORT, Conn. – A tight lending market in the United States and high inflation in Venezuela have combined to create a perfect financial storm for Ricardo Marino to serve people in both countries and create a business for himself.

Marino, a native of Caracas, the Venezuelan capital, has been in the financial industry for a quarter of a century since graduating from college in the U.S. Most of that time was spent in his native country, operating as a broker dealer. But a few years ago, spurred by the Socialist economic policies of the Venezuelan government, he decided to come back to America.

"It is really hard to make a go of it in Venezuela right now," Marino said. "There is so much government control, nationalizing businesses, and the inflation rate is very high."

Marino came to Miami two-and-a-half years ago and opened Venafin Financial , a factoring business. Last year he opened a branch in Westport. Factoring companies buy accounts receivable from small businesses and contractors who might need cash but can't wait 60 or 90 days to be paid and might have trouble getting a loan from a bank.

"We give them 80 percent upfront, then the balance, minus our commission, when the receivable is paid," said Marino. "With the recession, many banks are not willing to lend much money. Factoring companies are flourishing right now."

To raise the cash to pay for these receivables, Marino and Venafin benefit from the economic situation in Venezuela, where inflation hovers around 30 percent.

"People there want to invest in American dollars," he said. "Otherwise your money loses so much value so quickly."

By acting as a go-between for the two countries and their differing economic challenges, Marino has carved out a fairly unique, and he hopes successful, niche in the international financial world.

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