CEDAR FALLS, Iowa — Greg Engelkes freely admits he was one of the fortunate ones in the fallout of the Peregrine Financial Group collapse.
Engelkes landed, more or less, on his feet, and went to work at Web developer Spinutech Inc. in Cedar Falls.
“I was actually very fortunate,” said Engelkes, who had been a Web developer at PFG for two years.
Spinutech co-founder Marc Reifenrath said he went looking for candidates from PFG after that company went bankrupt in the fraud scandal involving Russell Wasendorf Sr.
Hundreds of PFG employees were immediately thrown out of work.
Reifenrath found three — developers Engelkes and Alan Corley and designer Sara Kies — in relatively short order.
“They’re great,” Reifenrath said of his three pickups from PFG. “They got a lot of good experience there.”
Kies declined to comment for this story, and Corley did not return numerous phone calls, but Reifenrath said all three newcomers were fortuitous additions to his growing company.
Kies, he said, brought a bit extra in terms of her 12-year background at PFG.
“She’s been a really good asset,” Reifenrath said. “A lot of people we hired are younger. She’d got some good experience and perspective.”
Engelkes and Corley also were doing well, Reifenrath said.
“The other two are developers and have been doing a great job,” he said.
The fallout from PFG was tragic, but Spinutech was able to come away with some prized talent, Reifenrath said.
“That was really an unfortunate situation but fortunate for us because we really needed good people and they kind of fell into our lap,” Reifenrath said.
Engelkes, 26, said Corley was already working at Spinutech at the time PFG closed in the wake of Wasendorf’s suicide attempt and subsequent arrest.
“I sent a message to (Corley) and asked if Spinutech or anybody he knew had anything available,” Engelkes said.
Corley went to Reifenrath and Spinutech’s other founders, Adam Lewis and Cory Schmidt, Engelkes said.
“I believe (PFG) shut down on July 9, and by the end of the day, I had an interview here for the next Wednesday (two days away),” Engelkes said. “It actually was a quick process. The following Monday, the 16th, Cory called me from Spinutech and offered me the position, so it actually was a quick process.”
PFG’s collapse took Engelkes and many of his former colleagues by surprise, Engelkes said.
“Yeah, for the most part,” he said. “Once everything came out, you kind of take the blinders out. Ultimately, what we knew was just that the company had been making money for how long, so the extravagances that were around were just normal. Nobody questioned it, really.”
In spite of all that had happened at PFG, the transition to Spinutech wasn’t difficult, Engelkes said.
“The environments, I wouldn’t say they were a lot different, as far as the people,” he said.
“Obviously, PFG was a lot different, much bigger. But it was very similar, very laid-back. The dress code was different, but it’s for the better, more laid-back here.”
The new job and old job are similar, Engelkes said.
“It’s about the same; it’s a little less hectic, I’d say, because PFG had so many different divisions,” he said. “They had a metals division and main entities. It was a broader spectrum. Now, I’m working solely on one project. It’s a lot easier to make changes and add new features, like that.”
Wasendorf recently was transferred to a federal prison in Indiana to start serving a 50-year sentence.
Engelkes said he followed the case as it progressed through the courts, “but not as close as some.”
“A lot of people here at Spinutech kind of followed it, as well; it was a topic around the office one way or another,” Engelkes said.
Engelkes said he never had a whole lot of interaction with corporate leadership at PFG; indeed, he said, his immediate supervisor, Liam Boyle, the chief information officer, was in PFG’s Chicago office.
“I like it a lot more here because Adam and Cory are very much intertwined with the business,” he said. “Marc is obviously often out and about, but I see him every week, multiple times a day. He’s actually around here and there and very accessible. That’s different from PFG, where I could get ahold of my boss but most of the time it was by phone. I’d have to leave a message most of the time.”
Keeping up with the latest technology is probably his biggest challenge, he said.
“At PFG, we had outdated systems and outdated websites that were built a few years back and weren’t upgraded,” he said. “Here, we’re keeping it up to date and using the newest things that are available to us.
It’s always nice to learn new things and keep your skills up to date.”
Engelkes said he plans to stick around Spinutech.
“That’s ultimately my plan,” he said. “My dad has been in the same job for almost 40 years. That’s my work model: get my roots in the ground and kind of stay there.”