In the late 1990s, Jason Seidl, at the time a green transportation analyst, was asked to take over his then-firm’s coverage of railroads, an industry in which Seidl had no experience or contacts.
Knowing he needed to meet people and absorb as much intelligence as possible, Seidl began scheduling informal meetings with rail executives at trade shows and conferences. There, over various types of libation, executives could speak fully and freely about the issues affecting their companies and the business.
“I let people know that I was buying at the bar,” Seidl said.
Fast forward nearly a quarter century and Seidl, managing director and the rail, trucking and logistics analyst at Cowen & Co., has become one of the deans of a cluster of folks who ply the transport trade on Wall Street. Through the years, Seidl (pictured) maintained the tradition of gathering executives across multiple modes at craft beer halls across the country to chew the fat over industry developments.
The custom came to an abrupt halt with the COVID-19 pandemic, which scrubbed nearly all in-person events. It was during this time that Mariel Santos, Seidl’s executive assistant, came up with the idea of continuing the get-togethers virtually.
Santos arranged with the New York State Brewers Association, whose members consist of craft beer breweries, to designate a different brewer for each meeting. The brewer would ship two beers to each participant, who would also receive a commemorative pint glass and a T-shirt.
The 90-minute virtual meetings were divided into two parts: The first 30 minutes were devoted to the brewer describing the beers, how they’re brewed, and — not surprisingly given the audience — the supply chain considerations in getting the products to market. The remaining hour was spent in industry chitchat between Seidl and the participants.
All that was left was coming up with a name. After some back and forth, Santos conjured up “Suds with Seidl.”
“Suds with Seidl” takes place between six and eight times a year. There are no set time frames. Depending on the rotation, the event will either focus on rail and truck or on logistics. Between six and 10 executives typically participate, a number that doesn’t include Cowen’s clients and salespersons. There are also two in-person events held in conjunction with craft beer tours and tastings in designated cities.
The companies participating in the virtual events are privately held and run the gamut in size, Seidl said in an interview earlier this month. “We’ve had truckers with 25 trucks and truckers with more than 1,000 trucks,” he said, noting that executives from senior salespeople to CEOs also have participated with one event alone welcoming five CEOs.
The events are collaborative, and none of the participants are concerned about competitors sharing the floor, Seidl said. Executives are able to speak openly and frankly. Best practices are often exchanged during the get-togethers. In one instance, Seidl said two executives discussed best practices on the call and agreed to continue the conversation after the event. Seidl provides summaries of the discussions in regularly published analyst notes.
Unlike many in the industry who effectively fell into it, Seidl, 51, is a self-described transportation junkie. He holds an undergraduate degree in transportation and distribution management from Syracuse University and spent nearly four years in the trucking field before receiving an MBA in finance from Rutgers University and embarking on a career as an analyst.
Seidl said the “Suds” events have become popular among industry types. They also have become an invaluable tool to expand his knowledge of the industry and build contacts in a relaxed atmosphere. The events combine Seidl’s love of transportation and craft beers, though he hastens to add that he is not a big beer drinker.
NOVEMBER 7-9, 2023 • CHATTANOOGA, TN • IN-PERSON EVENT
The second annual F3: Future of Freight Festival will be held in Chattanooga, “The Scenic City,” this November. F3 combines innovation and entertainment — featuring live demos, industry experts discussing freight market trends for 2024, afternoon networking events, and Grammy Award-winning musicians performing in the evenings amidst the cool Appalachian fall weather.