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The Year as Chairman of the ELFA for Bob Rinaldi

February 17, 2016, 07:00 AM

Equipment Finance Advisor’s publisher Michael Toglia sits with his good friend and colleague, Bob Rinaldi about his experiences as Chairman of the ELFA in 2015. In the following interview Rinaldi exposes us to the significant commitment needed to meet the requirements of this appointment, the extraordinary people he worked with, and what he gained personally from the honor of serving the ELFA and its members.

Equipment Finance Advisor: Bob, it’s been a while since we had the pleasure of featuring your industry insights for our readers. Perhaps it would be best to start with an explanation for your hiatus from your intriguing writing contributions.

Photo of Robert J. Rinaldi - Chief Executive Officer - Commercial Industrial Finance

Bob Rinaldi: It has been a while and frankly I have missed those brainstorming conversations with you that usually lead to one of my rambling diatribes.  In October of 2014, following the ELFA Annual Convention I started my year as Chairman of the ELFA. As Chairman of the ELFA, I was representing every member of the ELFA and not myself. As you know, my writings for Equipment Finance Advisor were always tinged with my opinions on a variety of topics.  Woody Sutton, then President and CEO of the ELFA and I thought it best to take that year off from writing – well, that isn’t entirely true … Woody highly suggested that I take the year off. I think he must have read a few of my past posts! I love that guy!

Equipment Finance Advisor:  Well, it’s great to have you back! So, let’s dive right in for our readers. How would you describe your year as Chairman of the ELFA?

Rinaldi: Hmm, how about – Eye-opening, Humbling, Grateful, Inspiring and finally Encouraging.

Equipment Finance Advisor:  That’s a very interesting set of responses. Let’s explore them all to give our readers a full view of your experiences. Let’s start with “Eye-opening.”

Rinaldi: Well soon after the convention, and right on the precipice of the usual year-end rush, I started to work with Woody and the ELFA staff on planning out the coming year’s agenda and events. I felt like the guy in that commercial who is on the phone with his boss being told he has to be in numerous places in a short period of time. The guy in the commercial responds with “I can do that.” He hangs up with a shocked look on his face and says, “How am I going to do that?” That pretty much summed up how I felt at that time. 

Equipment Finance Advisor:  Well, being named Chairman is certainly an honor that is not easily earned. Why do you also describe the position as “Humbling?”

Rinaldi: It was a real honor having been nominated by my peers and friends for Vice Chair some five or so years prior – which is the length of the road to Chairman. It was also an honor working with some of the smartest and frankly, nicest people I have ever known on the board of directors over the course of that time.  At many of the events I attended on behalf of the ELFA during the year, I always had members, many whom I had never met, come up to me and thank me for attending and for serving as Chair. That just blew me away! After it happened the third or fourth time it finally hit me they were putting their trust in me, my fellow board members and the entire staff of the ELFA. That is what I mean by “humbling.” From that perspective alone, the year was a lesson in humility and gratitude.

Equipment Finance Advisor: Since you just said “Gratitude,” let’s explore that one next.

Rinaldi: That’s an easy one.  I was, and still remain incredibly grateful to the many members of the ELFA who volunteer their time so selflessly, willingly and do so with such good humor. There are over 600 members who volunteer for numerous tasks, committees, subcommittees, and research efforts throughout the year – year in and year out! That’s all on top of their “real” jobs.  And then there’s the professional staff at the ELFA. The staff takes such pride and care in what they do for our industry and members.  They made my job as Chair so much easier. When I was stressed trying to balance work, family and ELFA duties, they recognized it and were there for me every step of the way. Woody, Ralph, Ed, Paul, Amy, Lesley, Lisa … wow, they and their teams were and are great to work with daily. We members of the ELFA should all be very grateful they are there watching our backs and orchestrating all of the events flawlessly. I will add another person, while not staff per se, but who was there for me at every event providing guidance and encouragement – that is Claudia Sutton, Woody’s better half! And then there are the Chairmen and Chairwoman before me who were there for me, truly amazing. But, I also owe the most gratitude to my wife, Diane and daughter, Madi who supported me throughout the process showing incredible patience and understanding. By February, Diane and Madi too started to have the same reaction I mentioned earlier to my greater than normal travel schedule. So, I am profoundly grateful to so many people!

Equipment Finance Advisor: Bob, what do you mean when you say “Inspiring?”

Rinaldi:  I guess it follows closely with “grateful.” All of your readers know how busy they are in the day-to-day of this business. They are also busy with their families, church, organizations, charities and more! I’m sure that at times, like me, they walk around with their heads spinning.

Now imagine three to four obligatory events a year are added to the mix. The sort of events that require two to three days per event, plus travel time added to their hectic schedules. That is what ELFA board members commit to do for three years and the Vice Chairs commit to for an additional five years. Most directors of the board of the ELFA also volunteer to serve on various task forces and subcommittees which require frequent conference calls of an hour plus in duration, while the Chairs of those committees spend even more time preparing and organizing for the conference calls and reports to the board. Do the simple math and you get an idea of the requirements that come with these positions. Moreover, the pre-reading and thought regarding the board book (usually some 150 pages in length) needs to be completed so that one can contribute to the board discussions.

Please don’t take this as complaining, rather just a statement of fact. I hope it gives your readers a sense of the level of commitment and service the board members put forth on behalf of the industry and every member of the ELFA. Therein lies the impressive thing about the directors (some eighteen at any one time) – they all do it willingly, graciously, and with such a passion and spirit of giving back, that I am so inspired by our ELFA board members, past, current and future!

Equipment Finance Advisor: Last but not least, you mentioned “Encouraging.” Please tell us why you feel so encouraged.

Rinaldi: That has to do with the fact that the ELFA staff and the many volunteers I mentioned earlier, are really looking out into the future and around the corners for opportunities and threats – and how to address them. I think this past year the ELFA board of directors saw the largest number of new task forces created and new initiatives launched to handle a wide range of hot topics. Here again, the staff and the many volunteers stepped up the level of engagement to a new level. That is encouraging in and of itself. With that as the backdrop, I am absolutely encouraged about the future of our ELFA and the Foundation. Consequently, I am absolutely encouraged about the future of our industry, its members, their livelihoods and the positive impact this all will have on the U.S. economy going forward!

Equipment Finance Advisor: Thanks for sharing your experiences of your year as Chairman with our readers Bob. And, of course we look forward to hearing more from you in the future on a variety of topics impacting the equipment finance industry. 

Rinaldi: You’re welcome Mike, and thank you for allowing me to tell the story!

About Robert (Bob) Rinaldi

Immediate Past Chairman, Equipment Leasing and Finance Association

Bob Rinaldi is Chief Executive Officer of Commercial Industrial Finance (“CI Finance”), a national equipment finance company headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio and St. Louis, Mo.  Originally founded in 1982 and acquired in 2015 by CBank, a Cincinnati based community bank focused on commercial and industrial lending to the SMB sector, the organization provides equipment financing for companies of all sizes.  CI Finance specializes in the development and implementation of sales-aid finance programs for manufacturers, vendors and distributors of capital equipment. Rinaldi is focused on CI Finance’s expansion strategy in the commercial and industrial equipment financing sector and in sustainable energy efficiency finance initiatives, predominantly in the built space.

Most recently Rinaldi was Senior Vice President of CSI Leasing, responsible for its organic and inorganic growth strategies. Previously, Rinaldi was Executive Vice President of National City Commercial Capital Company (NC4), now PNC, and President of NC4 Canada. Rinaldi has held positions including Senior Vice President of Provident Bank and Executive Vice President and Principal at Information Leasing Corp. (ILC), later acquired by Provident. As a founding partner of ILC, Rinaldi helped grow the company to the fifth-largest bank-owned leasing company in the United States with annual originations of over $3 billion and $8 billion in assets.

An industry pioneer, Rinaldi has a solid background in leading companies to the forefront through innovative strategies, revenue production, creative marketing, new product development, technology solutions and international expansion.

Rinaldi is the immediate Past-Chairman of the Equipment Leasing and Finance Association (ELFA), the premier trade association representing the $903 billion equipment finance sector. He is also a member of the Equipment Leasing & Finance Foundation’s Research Subcommittee and Development Committee. He is a past Trustee of the Foundation and past Chairman of ELFA’s LeasePAC. Rinaldi was the recipient of the Foundation Research Committee’s 2013 Steven R. LeBarron Award for Principled Research and ELFA’s 2014 David H. Fenig Distinguished Service in Advocacy Award.

Rinaldi can be found on LinkedIn and on his website dedicated to the pioneers of the modern equipment leasing industry as we know it today -

Founder / Publisher | Equipment Finance Advisor
Michael Toglia's experience in commercial finance spans over 30 years having held various roles in senior management, business origination, capital markets and commercial credit underwriting. Prior to entering the publishing industry, Toglia served as 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 also held various roles with General Electric Capital and CIT Group.

Toglia currently serves as Marketing Chair for the Turnaround Management Association (TMA) Philadelphia/Wilmington Chapter and also serves on the Equipment Leasing and Finance Association (ELFA) Communications Committee.

Toglia served as the Executive Director/CEO of the National Equipment Finance Association from 2018-2020 and has been an active member of the Equipment Leasing and Finance Association for years 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

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