Ricardo E. Rios, CFA, CLFP: NextGen – Empowering Others for Success

by Markiesha Thompson Sept/Oct 2022
Ricardo E. Rios, Chief Operating Officer of Commercial Equipment Finance (CEFI) has had great success in both Puerto Rico and the U.S. and is making a name for himself in the equipment finance industry. As a leader and mentor, Rios focuses on relationship building to find success.

Ricardo E. Rios, CFA, CLFP,
Chief Operating Officer,
Commercial Equipment Finance

Believing in the leadership motto, “Learn more, inspire more, do more,” Ricardo E. (Ricky) Rios, chief operating officer of Commercial Equipment Finance, also models his life after it. Following his passion for self-development, Rios has taken Commercial Equipment Finance to Florida, Texas, Georgia and other U.S. states expanding out from Puerto Rico.

Rios is motivated to be a mentor to colleagues, and he welcomes the opportunity to mentor young people in the industry who are finding their way. His focus on personal self-development has helped him see through some of the challenges he has faced in his career and have assisted him in making an impact on his colleagues.

“Ricky possesses a clear vision and passion for the equipment finance industry, always downplaying his significant contributions,” Connie Eimers, president and COO of VFG Leasing & Finance, says. “He has a keen focus on innovation and shares his leadership qualities and empowers those around him for success. I am truly honored to be associated with Ricky and knowing he will do anything for you at any time.”

U.S. Expansion

Rios was tasked with opening the Florida market for his company and focused on four key principals that contributed to its success in the United States. He focused on experienced leadership, focused relationship building, the company’s bilingual and local presence and its core mentality. Focusing on South Florida allowed Rios to grow the roots the co-founders of Commercial Equipment Finance have there.

His efforts to stick to the company’s core competencies influenced the company to focus on transportation and construction. Going into a new territory was risky and Rios, with the support of company ownership, believed it was best not to diverge from what the company did well and to offer that service to South Florida. Vendor relationships are also important to Rios and Commercial Equipment Finance. Showing versus telling vendors what the company can do has opened doors for it to enter new territory.

Being from Puerto Rico, Rios saw an opportunity to target the bilingual presence in the Florida market. There was a gap in the market for Latin-owned, Spanish speaking business owners in Florida and other states, so Rios began with Florida first. By bringing a cultural aspect, recognizing thr Latin business owner preference to be known by name — instead of being identified by a number — and building relationships with its customers, Rios and his team created a lane where the company could be a business partner to Latin and non-Latin business owners.

“That’s a recipe that has proved successful in Puerto Rico,” Rios says. “All we had to do was speak the same language, replicate our business model and persistently take a two-hour plane ride to Florida to expand our business into the United States.”

One area Rios desires to impact within the equipment finance industry is the speed that companies and the industry adopt new technologies for the betterment of business operations, their customers and the industry. Rios believes this adoption is already occurring, but the pace hasn’t advanced as quickly as some other industries.

As a leader, Rios has learned to overcome the challenge of his personal fear of failure and his professional challenge of joining Commercial Equipment Finance. His father, Ricardo A. Rios, Sr., founded the company, which placed him in a precarious position of feeling the need to prove himself serious about the industry to avoid being labeled as simply being along for the ride. Faced with the choice of going to New York to pursue a career in a different industry or joining the family company, Rios chose to join in the legacy of his family company.

“Ricardo has been exposed to the equipment leasing industry since childhood and joining CEFI 10 years ago to work at his father’s new company, was not an easy decision,” Ricardo A. Rios, Sr. says. “Today I can honestly say that he carries the industry in his blood and is passionate about it.”

“With the great guidance of my father, I’ve been able to demonstrate that I can add value to the company, to the industry and to our customers,” Rios says.

Becoming an Industry Leader

With the philosophy, “True wisdom is knowing that you nothing,” in mind, Rios has remained open to always learning something new when it comes to business and personal development, focusing on progress and growth.

Overcoming his initial challenge of passing the Chartered Financial Analyst exams to earn the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation early in his career proved to be the start of Rios’ growing confidence in himself and his abilities. He learned to overcome his fear of failure by having to retake the exam twice and conquered that challenge by passing on his third attempt, which prepared him for the journey of proving himself within his family’s company. This paved the way for Rios to build relationships with many professionals in the industry as well as face the challenges that arise within it.

Rios is also actively involved in the Equipment Leasing and Finance Association and became chair of its Independent Steering Committee after only a two-year tenure with the steering committee. Rios believed taking on this leadership role would help him continue growing as a leader and a professional in the industry.

Attending ELFA events can be exhilarating for Rios. There, he sometimes encounters a new business entry and looks back 10 years to Commercial Equipment Finance’s first few ELFA events. Seeing the new faces allows him the opportunity to pay it forward and share the great advice he was given early on.

One of Commercial Equipment Finance’s core values is to participate in the specialized associations to gather insight on how the company can add value to the relationships it builds and understand the market to help clients make the right decisions. Recently, Rios became part of the ELFA’s research committee to be exposed to the research side of the equipment finance industry and is a member of the Equipment Finance Cares (EFC) Advisory Council, supporting his continuing growth as a leader.

“Ricardo is an outstanding leader,” Elsa Bandas, controller and CFO of Commercial Equipment Finance, says. “He always cares about the team and its professional development, always providing tools and seeking opportunities for the team to get more insight of the industry and to bring new ideas to the table. He encourages everyone to bring solutions and values every employee’s ideas.”
Empowering Employees

With Rios’ encouragement, three employees have currently completed their Certified Lease & Finance Professional certification and more employees are working toward completing their certifications.

Rios believes if he can learn more, he can share more. And if he can share more with the people surrounding him, his colleagues and teammates, then he can inspire them to do more as a collective unit. He wants to absorb knowledge and then see how it can be of use to everyone else around him to continue to progress of the company and his team. He uses ELFA events to help motivate him to go back to Commercial Equipment Finance, focused on what he learned and how he can transfer that information to him team. Rios views this method as a great benefit that assists them in accomplishing more success as a team.

“I’m passionate about self-development because it helps me fuel the fire to continue to be a better person, husband, father, professional and so forth,” Rios says.

Getting guidance from mentors inside and outside of the equipment finance industry has provided Rios with guidance to become the leader he is today. He credits his success and recognition as a leader and changemaker in the industry to his mentors, especially those within the industry.

“It has been such a privilege to mentor Ricky within the ELFA and see him grow so much as a person and always marvel at his self-starter qualities,” Eimers says. “He has such high integrity and is one of the most transparent industry leaders I know.”

Paying it forward, Rios is also learning to be a mentor himself to make an impact and add to the list of people he encountered on his journey, to aid others and give genuine advice to newcomers to advance their passion and mission in the equipment finance industry.

“[Past NextGen Icon award recipients] Kara, Alison and Lexie are great industry professionals. I am honored to be part of this group of award recipients. The have all accomplished great things for the industry, their respective organizations and I am humbled to be in their company,” Rios says. •

Markiesha Thompson is associate editor of Monitor.

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