“If you have always done it that way, it was probably wrong.” — Charles Kettering

When an opportunity arises to attend an event with hundreds of like-minded commercial finance professionals, I make every effort to attend. In March, the National Equipment Finance Association (NEFA) 2019 Summit was held in Newport Beach, California, and I am honored to have been able to moderate a panel and share insights on technology and innovation within commercial finance. Sometimes, busy professionals get lost in the day-to-day functionality and don’t take time to question how technology has advanced in ways that might be helpful or necessary. If we aren’t innovating, we aren’t progressing.

At the pace technology is accelerating, there are near-constant new ideas and improvements to learn about; it can feel exhausting to stay informed. In most areas of life, we see progress as either linear or incremental. However, technology is progressing at an exponential pace — which continues to accelerate. As it continues to build momentum, we should consider the possibilities that technology could bring to commercial finance in the near future, and the impacts they could have on the way we do business.

I explored some of these ideas in an engaging panel discussion I lead, on the future implications of Ai, Blockchain, 5G connectivity, Cloud technology, and more. Panelists Bob Rinaldi of Bob Rinaldi, LLC, Scott Shepherd of e-Original, and Doug Houlahan of Clicklease joined me, each sharing their perspective on innovation in equipment finance and the trends they are watching closely.

Doug Houlahan shared how his company, ClickLease, partnered with Data Robot (a company that uses automation to enable machine learning) to build machine learning algorithms that streamline and accelerate the credit process: empowering ClickLease to leverage non-traditional data points into their score. ClickLease’s ability to automate with agility enables their customers to go from app, to funding, in minutes. Using a cloud platform has accelerated their ability to create a new customer experience in equipment finance.

Scott Shephard, Director of Marketing at eOriginal, discussed Carvana’s success, as an example of innovation in online car purchasing. This is an important trend to watch, considering consumers’ growing comfort with buying larger ticket items online or via their mobile device — when a sensible return policy is in place.

For organizations who strive to keep up with trends, Bob Rinaldi gave great advice, recommending new experiences and expanding reading sources to include learning about technology trends. Amongst his go-to sources for technology updates, Medium is one of the platforms he prefers the most.

As the panel explored the various technology innovations and trends to watch in the industry, our discussion came alive, with interaction from many members of the audience joining in. One of the audience members asked, “Are there really any practical use cases of AI in equipment finance now?” to which, a panelist answered, “Deb just showed 7 she is using daily” — referring to the presentation on Everyday AI that I shared the previous day (learn more about my adventures in AI, by reading my Everyday AI blog series).

My key takeaways from this lively discussion:

  1. We need to keep up with trends and understand where technology is going so that we can bring long-term thinking into the decisions we make today.
  2. In the face of accelerating change, we can’t afford not to take some time away from our day-to-day in order to think about the future.
  3. Mindset matters. Are we ready to embrace innovation? What do we need to change?
    Many topics were discussed by the panelists and audience members. Overall, the most frequently asked question was, “How do you stay on top of the trends?” Some fantastic tips shared included:

    1. Medium.com — a great source for following topics of your choosing.
    2. Podcasts
    3. Conferences and meetups in and outside of your industry.
    4. Reading
    5. Experimentation

How ever you do it, it’s important for all professionals to gain exposure to what is possible: to expand your thinking about the future and generate new ideas for today.

One way to stay on top of trends is to use the TomorrowZone™ framework to create your personalized plan for trend watching and reflection.