As an early adopter of new technological innovations, I always saw myself at the forefront, the cutting edge, adopting the latest and greatest. But today I find myself mystified by some of the emerging technologies. Artificial intelligence, machine learning, virtual reality, RPA, metaverse – the list goes on and on and on.
I gave up a secure job in construction equipment sales to take a flyer position of selling financing for computer equipment dealers more than 40 years ago. I’ve been at it ever since.
In the early 1980s, when I first began my leasing career, my dad gave me a couple of small paperback books that were rate tables. You could look up an add-on interest rate for a transaction. You simply added the amount of interest onto the purchase price to determine the total cost over time, divide by the term and that was the monthly payment amount. The concept seemed simple enough, but my colleagues frowned upon my use of these primitive tools. Instead, I was given a slightly used HP-12C calculator and told to learn how to use it. Its reverse Polish notation was foreign to me but eventually, by using my mortgage and car loan as sample transactions, I learned how to calculate rates, payments, residuals and ROIs. The 12C was the latest and greatest technology. I loved it.
Soon thereafter, my credit analyst began using an IBM PC with Lotus 123 spreadsheet software. He was amazed by the capabilities of the machine and its software. He would print amortization tables showing payment amounts, distinguishing principal and interest amounts for the full term of a loan or lease. Together, we gushed over the tremendous capabilities of this new technology.
Along came the 1990s and the advent of credit scoring and automated decisioning. There was risk involved in relying on these tools to run your business, but other risks if you didn’t adopt the new technologies. After lots and lots of modeling, we eventually came to rely on credit scoring as a legitimate way to adjudicate transactions. However, we never fully accepted auto-decisioning, preferring instead to have a real person review each transaction prior to making a final credit decision.
Technology is good, but it seems that technology has taken a turn toward autonomy. Many of the latest innovations require little or no human interaction.
Today I receive emails from Microsoft aka: Viva, informing me of my overall productivity for the past four weeks; how many people I collaborated with and how much free time I have to “focus” on my work. Big Brother is looming, and it is more scary than 1984. I’m afraid that we have lost control and the bots are winning.
Do you think about how technology and automation might change the way you do business? Robotic process automation (RPA), also known as software robotics, uses intelligent automation technologies to perform repetitive office tasks of human workers. Imagine taking credit applications that were submitted via a common gateway interface or by phone or fax and automatically inputting the data into your credit scoring system or application processing front-end. No longer a function performed by a human, instead, it becomes an automated robotic process. Imagine the functions that could be completed by RPA versus a human being. Could you be replaced? Is this the future?
When one feels overwhelmed by imposing technologies, out of touch with reality and a bit confused by some of the newer technological influences — perhaps it is time to reconsider one’s future.
Perhaps it is time for me to go. Perhaps my days of usefulness have expired.
Last October, the ELFA celebrated its 60th annual convention in San Antonio. It was 27 years since my first attendance at Palm Springs in 1995. During one of the first sessions on Monday morning, a friend approached me and asked if I was considering retirement. When I told him “No,” he responded by saying, “Good, because without you, I wouldn’t know anyone here.” The truth of the matter is that both of us are getting old and, in many ways, we no longer fit into the mold for senior leaders in the equipment finance and leasing industry. The industry is changing, and younger people are beginning to occupy senior roles in major companies. It is refreshing to see new blood come into our industry.
For the past 14 years I have penned articles for Monitor under the Dexter pseudonym. My creativity has come and gone over the years. I have struggled to find new material for articles of interest for Monitor readers. And, if you have paid attention, you will acknowledge what I mean. In an effort to recharge, I identified and approached two industry leaders and asked them to assume the roles of Dexter’s younger siblings Dixie and Dillard Van Dango. Separately, both have declined the opportunity to carry the torch forward in the Van Dango name. For different reasons, they each have legitimate concerns about getting involved in writing articles that their employers may frown upon.
So, this is it. The culmination of Dexter Van Dango. The end of a journalistic journey that will remain undisclosed to most readers. Several editors and a couple publishers are aware of my identity, but I see no reason to reveal myself – it can do no good. Let your imagination consider the realm of possibilities. Give it a good thought then forget about it. I am not important. Dexter is the real focus here and should remain the center of attention.
I am writing this in August 2022. If you approach me in October at the 61st ELFA convention at Marco Island, FL and ask if I am the mystery writer Dexter Van Dango, I will deny it and deflect your observation to another worthy possible person. I look for no credit for what I have done for the past several years, instead, a simple acknowledgement that my efforts were genuine, at times entertaining, noteworthy and legitimate.
I may write again if my creativity gets a boost of energy. Lately, that hasn’t happened. I have tremendous appreciation for the many people behind the scenes who pull together the Monitor publication. The publisher Lisa Rafter, editor-in-chief Rita Garwood and the many people who have filled those roles in the past. Each of them helped me by providing ideas for content and editorial correction of my many writing errors.
Most of all, I want to thank the many contributors who agreed to provide content for my articles. It was their words that made the articles interesting. My commentary was peripheral to their actual content. I am grateful for those many contributors.
Lastly, I want to thank the small group of people with whom I shared my identity. There weren’t many and only one who correctly guessed who I was. He had a bit of help from a former editor who revealed more than he should have! Collectively, they kept it a secret, for which I am grateful.
From an overweight, balding, grey-haired leasing guy in the twilight of a mediocre career, I bid you adieu.
Dexter Van Dango is a pen name for a real person who is a senior executive with more than 25 years of experience in the equipment leasing industry. A self-described portly, middle-aged, graying, balding leasing guy in the twilight of a mediocre career, Van Dango provided occasional insight from the front lines via Monitor.
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