ELFA Convention ReportBy Deborah B. Brown
Last month’s 51st Annual Equipment Leasing and Finance Association Convention produced many highlights worth noting, but what stood out most was the strength and engagement of our industry association as it provides the leadership and resources needed to weather the current economic and political headwinds.
Whether you attended the ELFA convention as a large equipment financing and leasing company, a small shop, a broker, or an independent, the event held Oct. 21-23 in Palm Desert, Calif., demonstrated how important it is to have our collective voices heard and represented.
From my perspective as a conference attendee for Key Equipment Finance, the event was well attended, and the mood optimistic. But while many of us are having a good year compared to recent years, our industry and our clients remain concerned about which way political and regulatory winds will blow.
Fortunately, ELFA didn’t put its head in the sand when it came to selecting conference presenters. In fact, the roster of speakers showed that ELFA is willing to address the most prominent issues facing our industry, including economic uncertainties, the presidential elections, fiscal cliffs, Financial Accounting and Standards Board (FASB) lease accounting standards, and corporate tax reform.
There were many thought-provoking speeches and sessions, but these keynote speakers, in particular, addressed relevant and timely topics in our industry:
• Sheila C. Bair, chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation from 2006-2011, gave the keynote address, a fascinating account of that tumultuous period in the nation’s financial sector.
• Russell G. Golden, a member of the Financial Accounting and Standards Board, who shared his perspective on standards and emphasized the importance of everyone working together.
• Charlie Cook, editor and publisher of The Cook Political Report and columnist for the National Journal, who provided his sharp analysis of the political scene in America.
I also found highly beneficial the conference activities that addressed development of equipment financing career paths for the younger generation and increasing the leadership of women in the industry.
As you look out across the convention meeting rooms, it is clear the median age of our group is on the high end, so the recruitment and retention of young talent in our industry is critical. We in the industry know that equipment leasing and financing offers a lot of career opportunities. That said, our industry is unknown or confusing to many undergraduates and graduates. Given the tight job market, however, there is much to be gained on both sides of the hiring desk by doing a better job reaching college students and recent graduates.
With this challenge in mind, ELFA is now addressing this gap with the development of a guest lecture program featuring a recruiting presentation aimed at college students and recent graduates about our industry and its many career opportunities. The goal is to attract future jobseekers by laying out clearly delineated career paths in equipment leasing and financing, whether in sales, asset management, credit or operations. This program allows us to more easily go out to college campuses and talk about our industry, and I believe it is something we can all use. I also know from experience that this is an approach that works. At Key Equipment Finance, we’ve found success in our Sales ACT (Accelerated Career Track) Program, which trains recent graduates in the early stages of their careers in the different functional areas of equipment finance sales. The program provides numerous benefits to employees who are in the early years of their careers, and we already are seeing participants go on to accomplish great things in our industry.
More broadly, our annual conference once again offered a wealth of opportunities to reconnect with colleagues and develop new professional connections. The impact of these networking opportunities comes in shared best practices, increased knowledge to move our industry forward, and general support for our colleagues and peers.
In particular, I appreciated the opportunity to meet with other women in our industry through the Women in Leasing Reception. The event enabled women in our industry to discuss our shared successes and challenges. It was noted that from a sales and executive perspective, the number of women leaders in equipment leasing and finance is still too small. The women in attendance discussed ways to boost our numbers, especially in regards to what can be done to broaden the number of women in industry and ELFA leadership positions.
Finally, with each annual convention, I see how beneficial it is for our industry to gather together, learn from one another, and connect as professionals. What is evident each time is that despite a host of new issues and concerns, our industry is nimble in its response. Even with the significant challenges we now face, I expect to see that same resilient performance over the next year.