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Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Watco Cos.
By Daniel Niepow, Associate Editor
Stefan Loeb has no second thoughts about making the transition from banking to railroading. As he enters his fifth year at Watco Cos., he reflects on the extensive rail connections he’s made.
“It’s an incredibly welcoming industry,” he says. “I enjoy the relationships I’ve created here.”
The rail industry played an integral part in his career before he made the switch. As a credit analyst and later client manager at LaSalle Bank in Chicago, Loeb helped finance acquisitions for multiple short lines and suppliers.
Watco Cos. approached Loeb with a business development position in 2010, about three years after Bank of America acquired LaSalle.
Loeb accepted the offer and served as Watco’s vice president of business development for about four years before moving up to senior vice president of marketing.
He was appointed executive vice president and chief marketing officer in January 2015.
Loeb’s managed several large acquisitions for Watco, including the Wisconsin & Southern Railroad, the Ann Arbor Railroad, Birmingham Terminal Railway and more.
These and other acquisitions have resulted in “tremendous growth” for Watco, says Loeb, who earned a finance degree from the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University. He estimates the company has added as many as 2,000 employees since he began working there.
In the future, he hopes to boost the company’s organic growth, as well. That’ll involve improving the supply chain and paying close attention to customer needs and wants, Loeb says.
“Stefan is helping to shape short-line railroading and the railroad industry in the twenty-first century,” wrote Mark Rosner, owner of consulting firm JNK Associates Ltd. and a former client of Loeb’s. “He has accomplished more during [his time] in the railroad industry than many do in a lifetime.”
With more than a decade of banking experience under his belt, Loeb brings a keen business sense to his work, but also a passion for the industry.
“Even on the worst day I am doing things I enjoy,” he says. “I love this industry, and I’ll stay in it forever if possible.”
That passion is apparent in Loeb’s personal interests, too. He’s a member of several railroad historical societies, and has co-authored a book on the history of the Chicago South Shore & South Bend Railroad, says Watco’s President Rick Baden, who nominated Loeb for the Rising Stars award.
Loeb also has published several photographs from his journeys across the North American rail network in other trade publications.
For the plethora of young, ambitious MBA grads and engineers vying for positions, Loeb emphasizes that railroading provides numerous career opportunities.
“If folks are willing to put the time in, it is a very rewarding industry,” he says.
Rising Stars 2015 Award Winners:
Francois Belanger, CN
Todd Blaylock, HNTB Corp.
Jonathan Chastek, Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway Co.
Oliver Dolder, Railtech Welding & Equipment
John Riley Edwards, RailTEC, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Stefan Loeb, Watco Cos. LLC
Jessica Moore, Union Pacific Railroad
Amanda Nightingale, King County Metro Transit
Celia Ann Pfleckl, Amtrak
Charles Rennick, Providence & Worcester Railroad Co.
Kaleigh Reyes, GE Transportation
Rebecca Reyes-Alicea, Federal Railroad Administration
Bruno Riendeau, VIA Rail Canada Inc.
Curtis Shogren, CSX Transportation
Alanna Strohecker, AECOM
Keith Tarkalson, Stacy & Witbeck
Brett Urquhart, Rocla Concrete Tie Inc.
Tara Vesey, Dakota Gasification Co.
Lexie Walker, Metra
Adam Weiskittel, BNSF Railway Co.