ELFA celebrates next-gen leasing, finance
More than 1,000 attendees convened in Orlando, Fla. Oct. 22 to 24, 2017, for the 56th annual Equipment Leasing and Finance Association conference. The festive event, held at JW Marriott Grand Lakes, was designed to help companies in the $1 trillion equipment finance sector build future-proof businesses and remain competitive in a continually evolving industry.
"Our convention theme is Building the Next Generation Business, and the agenda is designed to help you position your company for success in the face of new policy, new people and new technology," stated Ralph Petta, ELFA President and Chief Executive Officer. He provided the following examples:
- Policy: Petta commended ELFA members for their advocacy with policy makers, noting the need to actively engage with the new U.S. presidential administration on matters that impact the industry, from tax reform to the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act.
- People: As a new generation enters the workforce, the rules for attracting and retaining talent are changing, Petta stated. Interactive sessions provided insights and discussions on workforce trends and explored ways to create more flexible, compassionate workplace environments.
- Technology: Emerging technologies and alternative finance are disrupting traditional business models. Petta highlighted the industrywide migration from paper to electronic forms of processing and from ownership of assets to managed services models.
Workshops and presentations addressed emerging technologies, regulatory issues and industry trends and included the following keynote speakers:
- John Ellis, Managing Director, Ellis and Associates, a global management consulting firm: Ellis, a former Ford and Motorola executive with expertise in connected cars, explored the Internet of Things (IoT) and its potential to repurpose inert devices. He urged the audience to get comfortable with being uncomfortable, because that's the future, and to give lessees the ability to opt out. "No matter how solid your contract is, there's someone who will think it's creepy," he said. "Give them the big red button to opt out."
- Robert F. Wescott, Ph.D., President, Keybridge Research LLC, an economic consulting firm: Wescott, a global macroeconomics and public policy expert, advises leading international firms on global asset allocation; he also served as Special Assistant to the U.S. President on Economic Policy from 1999 to 2001 and Deputy Division Chief at the International Monetary Fund from 1994 to 1999. As he reflected on the 2017 State of the Equipment Finance Industry Report, published by the ELFA Foundation, Westcott noted economic shifts caused by fintech, changing definitions of asset ownership, IoT and blockchain. "We are entering a period of abundant free energy," he said. "U.S. manufacturing capacity will return, and U.S. retail will continue to be disrupted [due to increasing ecommerce adoption], resulting in a 10 percent reduction in floor space and too much space in suburban malls."
- Keller Rinaudo, CEO and co-founder of Zipline, a global public health drone delivery service: Keller, a software engineer and professional rock climber, created Zipline, a company that uses drones to deliver blood and medical supplies to hard-to-reach areas. The company has partnered with Rwanda, with a long-term vision of putting all 11 million citizens of that country within 15- to 30-minute delivery of essential medical products, no matter where they live. Zipline also works with other countries in East Afraica, as well as with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, GAVI, UPS, USAID. It employs 30 aerospace and software engineers and has received investments from Sequoia Capital, Google Ventures, Paul Allen, Jerry Yang and Stanford University. "Four years ago, we had no money, no experience or support, and no reason to be successful," Rinaudo said. "We just had a napkin sketch."
Financing a changing world
Petta and 2016 ELFA Chairman William Stephenson noted the equipment finance industry is facing new opportunities and challenges. "The rapidly changing needs of customers, the rise of the millennial generation, the growth of alternative finance and new technology, and the increase in regulation are just some of the trends requiring our industry to adapt and innovate," they wrote in ELFA's 2016 annual report.
To help address these challenges and maintain the industry's strength going forward, the member-driven association formed the Emerging Talent Advisory Council with the primary goal of developing a new generation of emerging leaders among ELFA member companies. Focused on engagement, attraction and retention, the council strives to consistently attract the best and brightest talent and encourage people early in their careers to become involved in the industry and in ELFA.
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