Converge: Past, Present & Future

by Phil Neuffer May/June 2023
Monitor pulled off an incredible event in June to celebrate its 50th anniversary, attracting nearly 300 attendees for a two-day conference that featured an all-day workshop focused on the equipment finance industry’s future and an evening gala celebrating its many successes and most influential leaders.

Phil Neuffer,
Senior Editor,

Monitor is celebrating its 50th year as the leading publication in the equipment finance industry this year, and to commemorate the milestone, it held Converge, its 50th anniversary celebration, in Philadelphia in mid-June, attracting nearly 300 attendees. The two-day event featured an opening welcome reception on June 14, followed by a full-day conference designed to create the future of the equipment finance industry and an evening gala and awards ceremony on June 15.

“There is so much interesting information that links the past with the future opportunities for the equipment finance industry,” Bruce Kropschot, senior managing director at The Alta Group, says. “I have always depended on the Monitor for the best feel for what is going on in the equipment finance industry, and it continues to exceed my expectations.”

The full-day conference on Thursday opened with a keynote address from special guest John Hagel, a global speaker, futurist and best-selling author as well as the founder of Beyond Our Edge. Hagel discussed how to prepare for the future, touching on major themes such as change as a mindset, confronting and overcoming fear, and creating opportunities for innovation. Hagel emphasized a zoom out, zoom in approach to business strategy that resonated with attendees, eschewing the five-year plan model by arguing that businesses should forecast where they will be and whom their customers will be in 20 years before zooming back in to map out six-month initiatives to begin the process of getting there.

Hagel then moderated a panel with several industry leaders to identify fundamental issues in equipment finance and anticipate opportunities that can be leveraged today and tomorrow, such as artificial intelligence, new business models, cultural transformation and more. The panelists for the discussion included:

  • Bill Verhelle, founder and CEO, QuickFi by Innovation Finance USA
  • Linda Redding, managing director and head of Equipment Finance, JPMorgan Chase
  • Eric McGriff, senior vice president and chief credit risk officer, Wintrust Specialty Finance
  • Nicole Torraco, president, FITTLE, a Xerox Company
  • Bridget Lindner, chief information officer, DLL

Inspired by Hagel’s opening remarks and the industry panel, attendees then participated in group discussions to identify the most important questions and insights they took away from the panel, categorizing them as “reminders,” “sparks,” “questions” or “puzzles.” After a break for refreshments, attendees took their pick of thought-starter breakout sessions facilitated by industry leaders to continue the discussion about what issues are impacting equipment finance and how to step into the future and think the unthinkable. The panel discussions included:

  • Unveiling Opportunities: Embracing the Potential of the Big Shift, facilitated by Hagel and Denis Stypulkoski, founder and principal of Reimagine Advisors
  • The Critical Importance of Creating New Business Models (Don’t be Seduced by New Technology!), facilitated by Verhelle
  • Unlocking Competitive Advantage: Embracing a Customer-Centric Mindset, facilitated by Lindner
  • Keep Investing in the Next Generation: Cultivating Authentic and Diverse Leadership in the Equipment Finance Industry, facilitated by McGriff
  • Beyond the Visionary Leader: Empowering Teams for Successful Execution, facilitated by Redding
  • Cultivating Innovation and Change: The Imperative Role of Industry Leaders, facilitated by Torraco

From there, in a feature unique to Converge, participants spent the afternoon in additional breakout sessions based on the major themes and topics that attendees themselves identified during the morning’s panels, sessions and discussions. These organically constructed breakout sessions touched on topics such as AI (a major talking point throughout the conference), green energy, pay-per-use models, subscription-based financing and more.

“Converge was a well-orchestrated interactive look into the future of the equipment finance industry. The workshop exercises, the variety of backgrounds and skills of the participants, the talented panelists and guest speakers, all contributed to a thoughtful and enjoyable day,” Scott Thacker, CEO of Ivory Consulting, says.

The day-long event wrapped up with a creative workshop led by Deborah Reuben, founder and CEO of TomorrowZone, and Susan Carol, CEO of Susan Carol Creative, who tasked attendees with stepping into the Monitor’s shoes and designing the cover of a potential 75th anniversary issue, complete with headlines outlining what participants expected to be at the forefront 25 years from now.

“By the end of Converge, my brain was on fire,” Reuben says. “Not only is my notebook filled with takeaways from the event itself, but I also have 14 pages of fresh ideas brainstormed during the flight home.”

Following a day of in-depth and engaging conversations about equipment finance’s future, Monitor hosted the crown jewel of Converge, its 50th Anniversary Gala & Awards Ceremony, which was held at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. In addition to a cocktail reception, plated dinner, tableside wine pairings and an open bar, attendees were treated to a fireside chat moderated by Steve Grosso, CEO of Auxilior Capital Partners, with special guest Brian Lee, co-founder and CEO of Arena Club, LegalZoom and The Honest Company, and founder of Grosso and Lee covered a wealth of topics, including culture, hiring, taking risks, growth, innovation and, yes, AI.

“This was a first-class 50th anniversary event,” George Parker, CEO of VenSource Capital, says.

“We were honored to be a part of this very special event for Monitor,” Dave Fate, CEO of Stonebriar Commercial Finance, says.

The evening culminated in Monitor’s Converge Awards, a brand-new program to honor the legends who built equipment finance and the leaders who are making a memorable impact on the industry today. The award show featured 14 unique categories, with the winners — selected by a group of 25 notable industry leaders — listed below:

  • Trailblazer in Equipment Finance: Valerie Jester, president, Brandywine Capital Associates
  • Creating Change & Innovation: Bill Phelan, senior vice president and general manager of U.S. Information Solutions Commercial Services, Equifax
  • Champion of Diversity: Scott Thacker, CEO, Ivory Consulting
  • MVP Behind the Scenes: Bill Bosco, principal, Leasing 101
  • CEO of the Decade (1970s): John Deane, co-founder, The Alta Group; former president, Nevada National Leasing; former president, BancOne Leasing
  • CEO of the Decade (1980s): James S. Beard, former president, Caterpillar Financial
  • CEO of the Decade (1990s): Tom Wajnert, chairman emeritus, The Alta Group; founder, former chairman and CEO, AT&T Capital
  • CEO of the Decade (2000s): Steve A. Grosso, CEO and vice chairman, Auxilior Capital Partners
  • CEO of the Decade (2010s): Bill Stephenson, global CEO, PEAC Solutions
  • CEO of the Decade (2020s): Amrita Patel, head of Equipment Finance, Wells Fargo
  • People-First Leadership: Bill Verhelle, founder and CEO, QuickFi by Innovation Finance USA
  • Industry Legend: Bruce Kropschot, senior managing director, The Alta Group
  • Industry Titan: Tony Golobic, executive chairman, GreatAmerica Financial Services
  • 2023 Leader of the Year: Mike Jones, president of Vendor Equipment Finance, First Citizens Bank

“The sessions, the award ceremony, the gala and the networking were all top notch. I’m so proud to be a part of this industry. Thank you Monitor, and cheers to your next 50-plus years,” Kirsten Hawkins, director of marketing at SCJ Commercial Financial Services, says. “Everything was perfect, from the interactive sessions to the opportunity to see old friends, celebrate Monitor’s success and enjoy a glamorous gala,” Carol says. “Kudos to the Monitor staff for 50 years and the hard work to pull off this fantastic event. You could feel how much the milestone meant to everyone. It’s going to be hard to wait another 50 years for the next one,” Kyin Lok, president and CEO of Dext Capital, says.

The Monitor team thanks each person who contributed to the success of Converge, including our speakers, panelists, attendees, staff and the 2023 Converge Award Committee, which included:

  • Sudhir Amembal, chairman and CEO, Amembal & Halladay
  • Deborah Baker, head of Worldwide Leasing and Financing, HP
  • Laurie Bakke, former president, Western Equipment Finance (retired)
  • Vince Belcastro, group head, Syndications and Capital Markets, Element Fleet Management
  • Ellen Comeaux, senior vice president and commercial division leader, TIAA Bank
  • Rich Doherty, president, High Street Capital Advisors
  • Dave Drury, senior vice president and group head, Equipment Finance, Fifth Third Bank
  • Chris Enbom, CLFP, CEO, AP Equipment Financing & Tokyo Century (USA)
  • Steve Grosso, CEO and vice chairman, Auxilior Capital Partners
  • Terey Jennings, president, Financial Pacific Leasing
  • Xiang Ji, commercial risk senior manager, Toyota Industries Commercial Finance
  • Katerina Jones, chief marketing officer, Fleet Advantage
  • Kyin Lok, president and CEO, Dext Capital
  • Jennifer Martin, CLFP, senior vice president, sales operations and enterprise support, Key Equipment Finance
  • Rick Matte, president and CEO, Post Road Equipment Finance
  • Eric McGriff, senior vice president and chief credit risk officer, Wintrust Specialty Finance
  • Brad Peterson, CEO, Channel
  • Linda Redding, managing director and head of Equipment Finance, JPMorgan Chase
  • Dave Schaefer, founder and CEO, Orion First
  • Eileen Schoonmaker, former U.S. general manager of soft assets, DLL (retired)
  • Michelle Speranza, CLFP, executive vice president and chief marketing officer, LEAF Commercial Capital
  • Denis Stypulkoski, founder and principal, Reimagine Advisors
  • Bill Verhelle, founder and CEO, QuickFi by Innovation Finance USA
  • Dave Walton, president and CEO, Caterpillar Financial Services
  • Nahid Zamir, head of Operations and Transformation, Meridian OneCap Credit

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