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Building Bench Strength – Coaches Needed!

February 04, 2015, 07:00 AM

For years, equipment finance professionals have been lamenting what has been described as “the graying of our industry.” While this topic is frequently discussed at industry conferences and around company conference tables, few industry professionals have taken the leap to participate in a program structured to address this very issue; programs such as the ELFA’s Guest Lecture Program. Created in 2012 by the ELFA’s Financial Institutions Business Council Steering Committee, the ELFA’s Guest Lecture Program introduces the equipment finance and leasing industry to undergraduate and graduate college students via the utilization of a thirty minute lecture series presented at colleges and universities around the U.S. And, the program is proving to be effective.

Equipment Finance Advisor solicited the perspectives of three individuals – not all leasing professionals – to learn more about this program. This Blog provides readers with an academic perspective from a college professor, a leasing executive who participates as a guest lecturer, and finally commentary from the ELFA’s Chairman and guest lecturer, Robert Rinaldi.
 
Let’s cut to the chase – despite the fact that our industry is large, few college students have even the faintest notion of the significant role equipment finance plays in our economy. So the question is, what are we going to do about it?

For an academic perspective, we interviewed Andrei Simonov - Associate Professor of Finance at the Eli Broad Graduate School of Management, Michigan State University. Professor Simonov has hosted the Guest Lecture Program in his classes and intends to continue doing so for a few reasons. “Students want to learn from practical experiences. As a professor, I can certainly tell them how things work, but it’s all academic. When the message comes from a professional within an industry with practical experience, it carries great value,” says Simonov. He continued stating, “It’s also very important to show students real world examples of how this particular industry operates, how it helps real borrowers to borrow inexpensively, and also how equipment finance companies look to spread risk.”

We were curious about Professor Simonov’s impressions of how his students digested the information presented and if this program can effectively create interest in equipment finance as a career path for finance students.

“Thinking about equipment leasing and financing as a possible career path is very important. Students typically think about careers in broad categories such as commercial banking, but these types of programs help bring awareness to new options in the finance industry. The students enjoyed it and I think this is a very good program. Again, the leasing industry is not exactly a household name and students need to first be made aware of its existence in order to create interest in leasing as a potential career path,” said Simonov.

Our next participant in the discussion was James Cress, General Manager, Stryker Flex Financial. Cress participated as a guest lecturer for the first time in Professor Simonov’s class in the fall of 2014. We asked him why he was willing to take the time to participate in this program, and he provided interesting insights.

“I’ve been involved in different ways with the ELFA for ten years or so. One of the challenges the association has been discussing is the “graying” of the industry and it’s no secret that the industry is focused on how to attract new talent. Being based in Kalamazoo, MI, we face many of the same challenges for geographic reasons as well. Young people leaving school simply do not have an awareness of the equipment finance industry as a career option and many don’t consider it as they progress through their finance classes. So for me it’s a good opportunity to promote the ELFA and the equipment finance industry as a career opportunity for someone starting in financial services. Since our company is based in Michigan and it was a Michigan State University-based audience, this event also allowed us to promote our leasing company as a career option,” said Cress.

We asked Cress if left his presentation feeling students are aware of the equipment finance industry as a viable career option.  Cress replied, “The students attending the lecture were senior level students in capital markets and finance classes. Many of them seem focused on more traditional finance careers such as commercial banking or investment banking. When I began discussing the size and scale of the industry and its contribution to the economy, some of the comments I heard were, ‘I wasn’t aware of this industry,’ and ‘How to get started in this industry?’ One person actually asked if it’s better to start in sales or credit. The presentation also provided me the opportunity to discuss the entrepreneurial nature of equipment finance and the ability to work on a national scale. It was a very engaging conversation.”

Cress feels strongly about the Guest Lecture Program and added, “I believe it’s important for industry leaders to participate in this ELFA program as it provides an opportunity to interact with students. Participating creates awareness about how little the equipment finance industry is known to students majoring in accounting, finance or business. And when you hear the questions asked by students, it provides information about what they are thinking about so we can be more intentional about recruiting them into the industry in a way that will be more attractive to the students. What was important twenty years ago is not necessarily important today in terms of what students are seeking from an employer. So we need to intentionally recruit them in a way that better matches what they are seeking from employers. Our competitors in competitive industries are doing a better job of recruiting students than we are in the equipment finance industry. You can’t just 'post and pray.' This isn’t an effective strategy. It’s up to us to make them aware of its presence as a viable career path.”

Finally, we spoke with ELFA Chairman, Robert (Bob) Rinaldi, to gather his input on why he believes the Guest Lecture Program is an important program for our industry and why more professionals should get involved.

Watch a short video about the Guest Lecture Program from ELFA Chairman, Bob Rinaldi.

“One of the objectives is to control our destiny – the more we educate the business community and our educators about alternatives sources of financing, the more secure our future as an industry,” says Rinaldi.

He continued, “The other objective is to have leasing offered as part of the academic curriculum or perhaps at least including it as a discussion point in finance classes. Many of these students will ultimately become key decision makers at some point in the future. We need to educate students about our asset class – in a way we as the industry believe it should be understood. It’s really about trying to educate the business public at large about equipment leasing and finance. It’s not just for equipment finance decision makers, but also for others who will be in different areas of financial services in the future. And of course, it also builds awareness about the equipment finance industry as a career alternative.”

Rinaldi summarized his thoughts as follows, “There are really four parts to this Guest Lecture Program strategy, 1) Bringing young people into the industry, 2) Educating future decision makers about the value of the equipment finance and leasing option, 3) Educating the educators about our asset class and encouraging them to  incorporate this topic into a curriculum the way we as an industry feel is it should be incorporated on a continual basis, and 4) Building engagement within the industry by getting the members of the ELFA more involved in the association and the future of their industry .”

So, what’s the takeaway for all of us in the industry? According to Rinaldi, “the Guest Lecture Program is a way to engage association members with the association for the benefit of not only the industry as a whole, but also for themselves. This program provides a way for members to connect and engage with the association and partake in a program with great potential for growth.”

To learn more about the Guest Lecture Program, click here.

Founder / Publisher / Chief Executive Officer | Equipment Finance Advisor
Michael Toglia is the Founder, Publisher and President of Equipment Finance Advisor.

Toglia's experience in commercial finance spans over 25 years having held various roles in senior management, business origination, capital markets and commercial credit underwriting. Prior to entering the publishing industry, Toglia most recently served as a Vice President of Capital Markets and as the National Sales Manager for both the Equipment Finance and Asset-Based Lending Divisions of Textron Financial Corporation. He has also held various roles with General Electric Capital and CIT Group.

He has been an active member of the Equipment Leasing and Finance Association having served two terms as a member of the Service Providers Business Council Steering Committee.

Toglia holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting and an M.B.A. in Finance.

Contact Michael Toglia at 484.380.3184 or mtoglia@equipmentfa.com.


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Comments From Our Members

Kimberly Esposito
Excellent information. It is good to know that this Guest Lecture Program is available. Thank you for providing this important overview.
2.4.2015 @ 9:41 AM
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