Find more alumni stories and tips for your success in Phoenix Focus.
Michael Kuentz stepped off the baseball diamond and into big business, launching a financial services career that’s been a proverbial home run so far—with more innings to come.
As a young man, Texas native Michael Kuentz, BSB/A ’06, spent his days on the baseball diamond, pursuing his passion for America’s favorite pastime. But this high school, college and minor league player wasn’t content to make athletics his life.
After playing baseball, “I came home to a dad who was a very driven business professional,” says Kuentz of his early inspiration. “I wanted to go out and put on the suit and start to create my own path.”
He has. In financial services, in fact—a far cry from the batting cages and ball games that colored his youth. From his ground-floor gig at Ford Consumer Finance in 1997 to his current role as senior vice president at consumer credit reporting giant Equifax, Kuentz has proven that determination and hard work are the keys to success, whatever your pursuit.
From the start of his career, Kuentz learned that connections count. The father of a friend helped him land his first corporate job at Ford Consumer Finance (FCF). Despite the fact that he hadn’t earned a college degree yet, he achieved success there. “I worked my way up through the channels to management,” he explains of his early jobs at FCF and other financial institutions.
When he decided it was time to take a leap away from corporate America to try something new, it was a connection from his baseball days that brought opportunity knocking: his former coach and mentor Jay Meadows. He’d played for him, and he knew one day he’d like to work for him, too. Meadows had offered him a job with his startup company Rapid Reporting a few years before, and Kuentz opted to stay put and continue to establish his career. But when Meadows asked again in 2001, Kuentz jumped at the chance.
“One of the reasons I left the corporate world in 2001 was because I wanted to be part of something brand new,” he says, “to create something from the ground up.”
With just eight employees, this fledgling company began making its mark by specializing in income and identity verification services for the mortgage industry. The company grew, and so did Kuentz’s role in it. In 2005, he made partner, becoming one of the prime owners of the company. “We continued to build our brand and revenue awareness in the marketplace to the point where we became the largest income and identity provider in the country,” he says.
Around this time, Kuentz began to think about returning to school to earn his degree. “I had been successful in my athletic career and in my business career,” he muses, “but what was missing was the completion of my education.” Inspired by his wife, whom he considers his “better half, without question,” he enrolled at University of Phoenix and earned his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in 2006, achieving a goal he considered overdue.
By 2009, Rapid Reporting had grown exponentially, boasting 150 employees and $35 million a year in revenue. This impressive growth caught the eye of the financial services industry, and many companies came calling.
“In 2009, Equifax came in and bought our company, and it became a subsidiary of Equifax,” explains Kuentz. Many people know Equifax as one of the three major credit reporting agencies in the United States, but the company also offers a wide range of data and analytics services to financial institutions, retailers, government agencies and other organizations. As senior vice president, Kuentz is responsible for the company’s mortgage services within Equifax’s workforce solutions group, a role that oversees 12 different business lines and a nine-figure budget.
It’s been quite an enjoyable ride the past few years to see how our product can grow,” he says of his time so far at Equifax. “Our CEO is always looking for stable growth, and he has been very successful at achieving [it].”
Kuentz plans to continue to build on his success at Equifax. “I have work to do still. I have ideas I want to bring to Equifax, coaching I want to do—[elevating] talent, challenging and motivating people,” he says.
He thrives on cultivating his employees to challenge themselves to excel, much as his mentor Meadows has done for him over the years. “My succession plan is that I’ve got somebody to take my place who’s 10 times better than I ever was,” he says of his ultimate retirement somewhere down the road.
As for the short term, Kuentz plans to spend more time with his growing family, which includes his wife and his three young children, ages 3, 5 and newborn. “We’ve been on a whirlwind growing the family. We are at a point where we can just focus on getting more involved with what they are going to do.”
His future also holds a return to the ballpark, this time as coach of his son’s T-ball team later this year.
For more information about the BSB/A degree, visit phoenix.edu >