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Imagining the Future of Equipment Finance

Date: May 08, 2018 @ 07:00 AM
Filed Under: Industry Trends

Fear of disruption. Fear of irrelevance. Fear of being left behind. Are we investing enough time in thinking about the long-term future of our businesses? Are we bringing enough diversity of thought into the discussion about the future? Are you shaping the far-off future?

“We’re going to be spending the rest of our lives in the future," says futurist and author Daniel Burrus. “Given that reality, why do we spend such little time or energy trying to anticipate what it has in store for us?”¹

With all the change going on in the world today, the future can seem a bit scary; disruption can come from anywhere. With so many day-to-day responsibilities, it can be difficult for professionals in our industry to extract themselves from the present and take time to shift into long-term thinking. Long-term thinking takes focus; it takes an intentional shift in mindset, and often requires purposely breaking away from the daily business environment.

During the Equipment Leasing & Finance Association's (ELFA) Operations and Technology Conference  (OTC) last September, we conducted, a fast-paced, interactive, two-hour mini-workshop titled, “The Future Lab.” In the Future Lab, 50 participants produced eight future customer-experience scenarios, all within about two hours.²

The thought experiments and group discussions in the Future Lab were designed to prompt long-term thinking and imagine possible futures for the equipment financing customer experience in 2025. To help the group shift into a futuristic mindset, we discussed the impact these five forces of change could mean to the industry:

Chart Deb Reuben Creative -- Forces of Change - Equipment Finance Advisor

In the Future Lab, wild ideas are welcome. So did we get wild enough with our imagination?

What Did We See?

  • What if we leverage biometric identification for an instant financing experience? What if we reimagine the origination experience from the decision to execution, enabled by future technology? In 2025, we see an equipment finance origination experience where we leverage biometric identification and data aggregation to bypass the traditional notion of a financing credit application. With contract execution completed by thumbprint, or some other biometric method, we see signatures disappear, enablng the entire process to be instantaneous for the customer at the point of sale.
  • What if the traditional role of the sales rep goes away? What if commercial equipment acquisition were more like consumer purchases on What if, from sales through credit decision-making, we leverage proactive analytics data to transform the customer experience? In 2025, we see the sales process as we currently know it, replaced by AI. Acquiring commercial assets will be similar to what Amazon does today for consumers. People and systems drive Amazon's business. There are no salespeople that you are purchasing from, yet you love the experience, whether it's frictionless payment and purchasing, the speed of delivery, ease of finding the right products, or the low cost of all of that. We see a future where algorithms suggest the content and products you need commercially. The existing relationship model for selling will become very transparent and system driven, with everything custom tailored, and machine learning employed to help systems structure deals in flexible ways. Machine learning and systems will also impact the credit function, providing better insights and predictive analytics to make great instant credit decisions.
  • What if physical assets trigger specific types of transactions rather than people? What if we challenge our assumptions about asset replacement scenarios? What if we leverage sensors, big data, machine learning, wearables, augmented reality, and IoT concepts to create a frictionless asset replacement experience for the end-user? In 2025 we see that assets, not people, will trigger certain origination transactions. What if the asset reminds you rather than you having to remember? The transaction is processed through systems employing machine learning, advanced algorithms, proactive credit assessment, and notifying the end-user through an augmented reality (smart glasses) interface that their asset replacement is ready.
  • What if we apply sharing business models to commercial equipment finance? What if we leveraged technology to connect commercial asset needs with excess asset capacity? In 2025, we see asset sharing as common. Leveraging sensors, IoT, data, and advanced analytics, we see the creation of commercial customer profiles containing attributes of different customer needs as well as the capture of asset profile data and real-time metrics to create an ecosystem for commercial sharing of asset capacity.
  • What if we leverage technology innovation to create a new business model to enable financing of transportation outcomes? In 2025, we see us evolving to more than just a financing arm; we are enabling customer outcomes. It all starts with your mobile device, when the customer needs to get a load of goods from point A to B. Like ordering an Uber car, the self-driving truck shows up. After loading the shipment, a drone shows up to perform an inspection and verify insurance. With satellite and sensor capabilities, we know where the truck is and where it is going. With everything connected via the cloud, a single person back at the leasing company is monitoring all the action. Settlement for utilization and payment are executed via smart contracts on the blockchain.
  • What if we leverage blockchain to enable per-use financing with intelligent assets and blockchain-based smart contracts? In 2025, we see smart assets with blockchain-based contracts governing the use of the asset. For example, a "smart copier," connected via the cloud, would not be available for use if there were a violation of "smart contract" managed terms (rules).
  • What if humans are augmented by advanced technology to provide superior customer service experience? In 2025, we see a future where humans are still crucial to the leasing customer service experience due to asset innovation and extreme specialization. Employing digital interaction portals and blockchain-based smart contracts technology enhances the customer experience by giving the customer access to just the right information to meet their needs.
  • What if we leveraged blockchain to create a platform for bill presentment and payment. In 2025, we see a paper-free unified invoicing and payments experience, with a B2B platform allowing participants to subscribe to outsourced accounts receivable capabilities for the right to invoice customers.  Blockchain-based smart contractswould be there to manage the bill payment lifecycle.

Good questions can be like portals to future discoveries. While the storyboards are interesting, even more interesting are the new questions prompted by the diversity of thought and an environment where wild ideas are welcome.

Forward-thinking leaders build on these questions, continue to explore future scenarios, and discover actions to take today.

It takes boldness to challenge long-held assumptions, to break from status quo, and explore multiple wildly different future scenarios. Even in our short time together,  many of our lab participants challenged long-held assumptions.

Asking, What if?

As Erik Brynjolffsson stated in the book, The Second Machine Age: “Technology creates possibilities and potential, but ultimately, the future we get will depend on the choices we make.”³

By taking time to focus on long-term thinking, we can influence future outcomes by bringing new questions and considerations into our decision-making. What new products, processes, offers, or business model ideas will you discover by asking different questions about the customer experience of the future?


¹ Burrus, Daniel. The Anticipatory Organization: Turn Disruption and Change into Opportunity and Advantage. Greenleaf Book Group Press
² For more information on the Operations and Technology Conference see:
³ Brynjolfsson, Erik. The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies. W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition.

Deborah Reuben, CLFP
Founder & President | Reuben Creative, LLC
Deborah Reuben, CLFP is CEO & President of Reuben Creative, LLC a consulting firm specializing in strategic process and technology consulting. An equipment finance industry veteran, she has a broad professional background in both financial services (Wells Fargo and TCF) and the software industry (HCL and Linedata Capitalstream).

Known for connecting the dots in unconventional ways, her unique industry experience, creative approach, and a keen eye for future trends enables her to bring forward-thinking insights and original ideas to developing vision and solutions. A coach and trusted advisor for leaders who want to leverage cutting-edge technology to achieve their business goals. She helps leaders and teams to see the bigger picture, understand technology possibilities, stretch the imagination of what could be, and chart a course for transformative change.

A frequent speaker at industry events, she served as ELFA Operations & Technology Committee Chair and is a founding member of the ELFA Women's Council.
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