ELFA/IMN Spring Meetings: The Investors’ Conference and Women’s Leadership Forum

by Amanda Koprowski May/June 2019
Spring brings with it an influx of new and returning conferences after the long, gray doldrums of winter. The ELFA this year hosted two major meetings: its 18th annual Investors Conference on Equipment Finance with co-host IMN and its 2nd annual Women’s Leadership Forum, an initiative born of the organization’s new focus on growing diversity within the equipment finance industry.

While winter in the Northeastern United States was milder this year than in 2018, it still brought with it the requisite cold, gray skies, and snow. Spring’s arrival may have been just as mild, but at least served as an excuse to leave behind the winter doldrums – not to mention the parkas and hats – and launch the professional conference season, giving industry professionals from all over the country the opportunity to the learn, network, and socialize all along the East Coast.


On March 20, equipment leasing and finance professionals met at the 18th Annual Equipment Leasing and Finance Association (ELFA) and Information Management Network (IMN) Investors’ Conference on Equipment Finance in New York City. Though outside still had a bit of winter chill in the air in the morning, attendees were greeted with a cozy sight as they entered the speaking hall through the Union League library.

ELFA President and CEO Ralph Petta kicked things off with the opening introductions before handing the reins over to Anthony Cracchiolo, the president and CEO of U.S. Bank Equipment Finance. Cracchiolo looked at basic elements of equipment finance and provided an overview of how each part of the sector did in the past year.

Dr. Robert Westcott of Keybridge Research then delivered the keynote address on how macro economics can affect equipment financing, covering everything from the U.S./China trade war to the possibility of recession in the European Union to the effects of baby boomer retirement.

ELFA/IMN Panel (L-R): Ralph Petta, Anthony Cracchiolo, Christopher Gillock, Lauren Lannefeld, Joanne Desimone, Melanie Gnazzo
ELFA/IMN Panel (L-R): Ralph Petta, Anthony Cracchiolo, Christopher Gillock, Lauren Lannefeld, Joanne Desimone, Melanie Gnazzo


The conference moved into the bulk of its presentations, with multiple panels tackling a variety of topics. The Big Picture panel led off with individuals representing a cross-section of the industry. Chris Gillock of Colonnade Securities, Lauren Lannefeld of BMO Capital Markets, Joanne DeSimone of S&P Global Ratings, and Melanie Gnazzo of Chapman and Cutler joined Cracchiolo as they tackled the major questions facing the industry in both 2018 and 2019.

The dialogue then turned a bit more cautious for the next panel, “Prepared for the Downturn.” Joe Collins of Orion First Financial moderated a discussion on the potential slowing of economic growth with Quentin Cote of Mintaka Financial, David Normandin of Wintrust Specialty Finance, and Barry Ripes of PayNet.

The panel covering regulatory policy, consisting of Marc Franson of Chapman and Cutler, Barbara M. Goodstein of Mayer Brown, Scott Riehl, the vice president of State Government Relations for ELFA, and Andy Fishburn, the vice president of Federal Government Relations for ELFA, not only looked at the current state of regulations for the equipment financing industry, but also at new sectors such as fintech slowly coming under government purview.

The panel on tech and the equipment finance sector seemed to pick up on that thread as it led a discussion on the ways both regulatory agencies and the industry itself have had to adapt to a rapidly changing technological field.

Three panels on individual sectors of the industry followed: one on transportation, one on aircraft and one on general leasing. Like the earlier sessions, these were relatively forward-looking, not just covering the particulars of each sector but also tackling more general topics, such as how the industry will have to grapple with the end of the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) and whatever its subsequent replacement will be.

Finally, before attendees enjoyed the closing reception, the private equity panel and institutional investors roundtable tackled more of the straight financing side of the industry.


Entering into its second year, the ELFA Women’s Leadership Forum drew an even bigger crowd than its first year to its April 1-2 event in Washington, D.C. Developed as part of the ELFA’s new focus on diversifying the equipment finance and leasing industry, the forum felt like a combination of working lunch and continuing education class, complete with worksheets.


After opening remarks from ELFA President Jud Snyder and Women’s Council Chair Lori Frasier, the conference began in earnest with Professor Tanya Menon of Ohio State University taking the forum’s theme, “Find Your Superpower,” to heart and using it as a jumping off point for her discussion of negotiation strategy. She specifically focused on the ways men and women in general can diverge in their perceptions of negotiations, men seeing it as value claiming, women as collaborative. Attendees then put their own negotiating skills to the test in a roleplay session, before Menon took over again and broke down how and why some negotiators failed and some succeeded.

The rest of the afternoon was covered by the Executive Leadership Panel, moderated by Frasier and including Martha Ahlers of United Leasing & Finance, Kara Miyasato of Stryker Flex Financial, Amy Nelson from DLL, Kris Snow from Cisco Systems Capital, and Snyder again.

Panelists took questions from both Frasier and the crowd, leading a spirited and honest discussion of everything from how to adapt to a promotion when you have to move from peer to boss to exploring the ways the industry can work to not only recruit more diverse talent, but also make that talent feel more welcome.

(L-R) Nancy Gradwell, Rebecca Rogers, and Deborah Reuben roleplay at a Women’s Leadership Forum workshop
(L-R): Nancy Gradwell, Rebecca Rogers, and Deborah Reuben roleplay at a Women’s Leadership Forum workshop

Panelists also offered new advice on old issues such as work/life balance (Miyasato suggested to stop looking at it as balance and view it as integration) and people management (Nelson admitted the most important thing she had to learn was patience when placed in charge of a team).

The first day then ended with a cocktail reception and a short speech by Congresswoman Judy Chu, who stopped by to greet the conference guests.

The second day of the forum began in the morning, with breakfast and a speech by Jennifer Fanz of DLL on building executive presence. Although the topic was wide, Fanz honed in on three major elements that create notice: presentation, talk, and gravitas, or, essentially, how you look, how you communicate, and how you make people feel.

Building off the focus on individual development, Rochelle Carrington of Bulletproof Management then took the stage to examine personal branding. She worked to shift the idea of branding from a purely business notion to a personal plan; after all, just like companies want their customers to feel good about working with them, individuals often want other people to think well of them, too.

Attendees then broke out into two branding workshops, one for industry veterans and one for up and comers. Carrington attended the latter, which turned into a Q&A filled with useful tips and thought experiments.

Overall, both conferences presented useful information for their attendees, with the Investors’ Conference offering more in the way of data and analysis and the Women’s Leadership Forum offering more for personal growth.

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