This article was originally published by MonitorDaily in April 2024.
Reprinted with permission from the author.

An audience poll at Converge 2023 revealed that most equipment finance leaders view innovation as imperative for the industry. Many companies are either planning or in the process of digital transformation initiatives. Innovation means change. Change often triggers fear. A question on many people’s minds is, “Will technology replace me?”

To delve into this subject, I sat down with equipment finance veteran and innovation luminary, Rafe Rosato, senior vice president and managing director at Auxilior Capital Partners. We explored how to think about AI and our role as humans in this rapidly changing world of work. The following is our interview condensed and rephrased for conciseness.

DEBORAH REUBEN: Could you briefly share your background and the journey leading to what you do today?

RAFE ROSATO: Sure. My journey into equipment finance was serendipitous. Nearly 30 years ago, I stumbled into this field thanks to a chance meeting with a headhunter at a happy hour. At the time, I was seeking new opportunities, and this led me to a role in credit underwriting with Tokai Financial Services, which eventually became DLL. Over 28 years, I transitioned through nine roles, culminating in positions that placed me at the forefront of digital transformation within the company.

My most impactful stint started in 2013 when I ventured into strategic marketing, closely working with IT on mobile technologies and innovations to enhance our business model. This journey led me to become the chief innovation officer and chief digital officer, where I focused on blending human elements with emerging technologies.

After leaving DLL in June, I took a short break before joining Auxilior Capital Partners as a managing director, drawn by its dynamic growth and focus on the intersection of people and technology.

REUBEN: With concerns about technology’s role in the workforce, many are wondering, “Will technology replace me?” What’s your take on this?

ROSATO: That’s a critical question. My perspective is that AI and technology are not about replacing humans but enhancing our capabilities. Think of it as a modern tool, akin to how the steam engine or the cotton gin revolutionized their respective eras. These innovations didn’t eliminate jobs; they transformed them, enabling workers to develop new skills and become more productive.

The introduction of AI in our industry should be viewed similarly. It’s a tool. When combined with human ingenuity, it can elevate the quality and efficiency of our work. Like a hammer requires a hand to wield it, AI needs human direction and insight to be effective. I like to think of AI as an “exo-brain,” an external enhancement that amplifies our own cognitive abilities, making us even more capable of tackling complex challenges.

REUBEN: For those who find AI a bit elusive, how would you define it?

ROSATO: Remember how we used to use the Encyclopedia Britannica as kids? It was our go-to source for information, helping us understand new concepts or complete school reports. I see AI in a similar light — a modern tool designed to enhance our understanding, provide insights and support our curiosity about improving processes or solving problems.

AI excels at analyzing vast amounts of data at speeds far beyond human capability. It can offer perspectives and solutions we might not have considered. It’s about leveraging this capacity for both significant, strategic decisions and everyday choices. AI can serve as an advanced partner in our quest for knowledge and improvement, acting as a catalyst for innovation across all levels of an organization.

REUBEN: Can you share your thoughts on how we can integrate AI into our daily operations?

ROSATO: Absolutely. It’s crucial to recognize that while executives make significant decisions, the real power lies in the thousands of decisions made by team members daily. Imagine the impact of enhancing those
decisions by just 10% with AI. This isn’t about fearing AI; it’s about leveraging it as a tool to amplify our curiosity and decision-making capabilities.

For example, the debate about smartphones in classrooms or meetings misses the point. To me, these devices — and by extension, AI — are not distractions but tools that, when used effectively, can compete for our attention by providing value. Just as I once relied on physical maps for directions and now trust apps like Waze to guide me, we should view AI as a resource that offers insights beyond our immediate knowledge.

As a sales rep, I used a Rand McNally map to get from A to B. Now, I just say, “Hey, Waze, tell me how to get to point B.” And then I surrender to whatever it tells me to do because it knows things I don’t know.

It’s about harnessing technology to improve outcomes, whether for navigating the roads or enhancing business decisions.

REUBEN: What are your thoughts on AI as a productivity enhancer?

ROSATO: I see AI as an essential tool for augmenting human productivity. We all experience fluctuations in our energy and focus throughout the day. Personally, I hit a slump around 3 p.m., a time when my productivity dips. However, AI operates without such downtimes, offering consistent performance that can compensate for our natural ebbs and flows.

AI can mean maintaining high productivity levels even during our “off” times. It’s about leveraging AI as an “exo-brain” that kicks into gear when we need it most, ensuring decisions and work continue at an optimal pace regardless of personal fatigue.

Looking at the broader picture, AI’s role in enhancing productivity isn’t just about individual performance. It has the potential to transform industries. For example, automation in farming has drastically reduced the need for manual labor while increasing efficiency and output, benefiting both the business and the welfare of animals.

This shift doesn’t mean job loss but rather a transition where workers can upskill or shift focus to higher-value tasks. This perspective aligns with the athlete’s mindset of relentless improvement and humility to accept and leverage feedback for better performance.

AI, coupled with the right processes and human oversight, forms a strong foundation for any organization aiming for excellence. It’s not about longing for the past but embracing the tools available today to improve and compete at our best every day.

REUBEN: TomorrowZone is using AI as a team member tasked with notetaking. How are you approaching experimentation with AI?

ROSATO: We’re also exploring how AI can streamline tasks and enhance productivity. In my experience, assigning note-taking roles was always a chore, often seen as tedious or beneath the skill level of highly-educated team members. Yet, the value of having detailed, accurate notes is undisputed — it’s the process of taking them that’s burdensome.

In one instance, the responsibility of notetaking was rotated among team members, leading to inconsistent quality and timing of the minutes. Some were detailed but late, while others were timely but lacked depth or context.

Integrating an AI like transforms this dynamic. It removes the drudgery of notetaking while preserving the essential function: capturing and contextualizing discussions. This allows team members to focus on the conversation, knowing that the documentation is handled efficiently and effectively.

The key, however, lies in our role as humans to provide context and refine the outputs. AI excels in capturing dialogue but understanding the nuances and implications of those discussions requires human insight. We’re guiding AI, teaching it to recognize and replicate the patterns of our reasoning and decision-making processes.

Seeing AI as a member of the team, albeit in a non-traditional sense, underscores its evolving role. It’s not just a tool but a repository of collective knowledge that grows and learns from each interaction. This perspective not only enhances our approach to AI but also how we envision its future integration into our workflows.

REUBEN: How can curiosity help us leverage AI more effectively?

ROSATO: Curiosity is the heart of innovation. Think of it through the lens of a child’s curiosity. Unrestrained. Fearless. Constantly exploring. As adults, we’re naturally inclined to see the risks (like the sharp corners for a toddler), but it’s this very exploration that drives learning and mastery, transitioning us from being novices to unconsciously skilled experts in our domains.

Yet, as we grow, the comfort of routine can stifle our willingness to explore and experiment, especially with emerging technologies like AI. Hesitancy is often rooted in fear — fear of the unknown, of failure or of obsolescence. Questions like “Will AI replace me?” stem from a deeply human concern over losing one’s identity and purpose.

Leadership and societal roles must encourage a return to that childlike curiosity. Push past the fear to embrace experimentation with AI. It’s not just about personal growth but a necessity at a macro level. With the global population increasing, leveraging technologies like AI is not optional; it’s imperative to address the challenges of our time.

AI, like any tool from history, such as the sextant for sailors, is meant to extend our capabilities and enable us to achieve what was previously unimaginable. It’s through nurturing curiosity and embracing the unknown that we can truly unlock the potential of AI to transform our world.

REUBEN: What can leaders do today to shape a better tomorrow?

ROSATO: Leadership’s role is to cultivate a culture where innovation thrives. Set the groundwork for experimentation and learning from mistakes to be encouraged, not just accepted. Aim to create a culture that celebrates exploration and acknowledges that failure is a step towards mastery.

To effectively integrate AI into our operations, leaders must demonstrate that it’s a tool to enhance, not replace, human capabilities. Make it clear that taking risks is safe and there’s a support system to learn from any missteps. It’s like teaching someone to walk a tightrope close to the ground before they can perform without a net — providing a safe space to experiment and grow.

In practice, this means recognizing and rewarding the use of AI in everyday tasks. We can apply AI in so many ways in equipment finance, from personal productivity to cash application or customer service. Understand the significant impact of even a 1% improvement in efficiency or customer satisfaction daily.

In this era of rapid technological advancement, the essence of leadership is fostering a mindset of curiosity and resilience, encouraging team members to embrace new technologies, learn from their experiences and continuously seek ways to improve. It’s about building a culture where innovation is part of the DNA, ensuring a sustainable and successful future for the organization. •

Rafe Rosato is senior vice president and managing director of the financial institutions group at Auxilior Capital Partners, a Monitor 100 company and one of the fastest-growing independent equipment leasing and finance companies in North America. Learn more at

Deborah Reuben, CLFP is CEO and founder of TomorrowZone, an innovative consulting firm bringing forward-thinking insights and original ideas to help companies adopt digital, gain efficiencies and design roadmaps for the future. She holds many industry leadership positions and authored The Certified Lease & Finance Professionals’ Handbook 6th-9th editions. Learn more at