The Certified Lease & Finance Professional (CLFP) designation is a professional certification program for equipment leasing and financing professionals in the U.S. and abroad.
Like many leasing professionals, Reid Raykovich had a serendipitous launch into her long-running leasing and finance career. Since starting at Great America Insurance (formerly Premier Lease and Loan Services) and getting her CLFP designation in 2005, Raykovich has grown into an industry leader. She calls her current position as the Executive Director of the Certified Lease and Finance Professional (CLFP) Foundation a culmination of her experience in, and passion for, the industry. This past September, I was able to catch up with Raykovich who shed light on her background in the leasing industry, CLFP’s growing diversity, and her recommendations for professionals considering the certification.
Odessa: Tell me a little bit about yourself. How did you come to your current role at CLFP?
RR: I started as a relationship manager for a vendor in the industry. I landed the job but really, I had no idea it was in the commercial equipment finance division or what that meant. About six months after starting I learned about the CLFP designation. I wanted to learn everything my customers knew, so I sat for the designation and passed! Since then, I have worked at a bank, an independent lessor and at a broker. After having Milla, my daughter, I left the industry and thought I would stay home for a while – that’s when the foundation called and asked me if I would take over as the Executive Director.
Odessa: How long have you been in your current role?
RR: I’ve been here for 6 years.
Odessa: You’ve done a lot to advance the mission of the organization and make it more progressive, appealing to people in all cross-sections of the industry. Can you give me an overview of how you’ve accomplished this?
RR: When I took on this role, I knew this was an area we had not tapped into. Getting the younger generation excited about the industry has really changed us. The day I started, there were about 150 CLFP Associate’s. Today there are over 630. Much of this momentum can also be attributed to the ELFA endorsing us which really got the program well publicized.
Odessa: What does the certification mean to service providers?
RR: As a service provider, we have a duty to our customers to understand what keeps them up at night - I don’t think we can fully provide solutions to them until we know what they are dealing with. As a salesperson, you can nod and say you understand – but do you really? By going through this certification, it brings you from knowing maybe a little about it to knowing a whole lot and being able to not only interact better with your customers but provide potential solutions for your customers.
Odessa: What does it mean to an individual to be certified?
RR: If you ask all 630+ members, you are going to get 630 different answers – but we did survey our base, and the primary reason people go through it is for the professional benefit. They want to stand out from their peers. I am sure everyone knows the equipment finance world is fairly niche, and having those letters after your name shows that you are dedicated to the industry. I mean, how many people sit for an 8-hour exam for your industry? That is serious commitment.
Odessa: Right, that’s commitment.
RR: Yes, it is commitment. Or craziness?
Odessa: Maybe a little of both.
Odessa: As far as the certification curriculum, I’m interested to understand how you develop it. As a technology company, we recognize a lot of transformative forces impacting leasing right now – as well as the new accounting standards. How does CLFP identify, and keep up-to-date, the core competencies that go into the certification process?
RR: I would say this is more of a living process. At least once a year we gather industry representatives in senior, mid-level and entry level roles across different segments to identify what a CLFP needs to know, and what legal and economic shifts impact the industry. After building out this knowledge base, we update the handbook, exam and academy.
In 2018, we have a brand-new body of knowledge and that’s the driving force for our new handbook which we’re really proud of. Over 40 experts contributed to it, and Deb Reuben was the primary author.
Odessa: How does your organization help a more diverse cross-section of professionals get certified?
RR: While we have done a lot, we are always looking to diversify the field. As far as our gender makeup, we are now at about 35-40% female which is relatively high for the industry. When I first started, my first conference was 300 people and I was one of 3 women, and the only one under the age of 40. So, we’ve come leaps and bounds. In terms of diversity in race, that is something we really want to address. For us it’s a little bit harder because there is an experience requirement to become a CLFP, so we rely on ETAC and diversity councils to build a pipeline we can tap into.
Odessa: For anyone considering going through certification, what would you say to them?
RR: In all honesty, I do not believe you should do it unless you feel it will benefit you in some way. You cannot float through the class and pass the exam – you need to put substantial work into it. If you are passionate about the industry and you want to move up in your career, and particularly if your employer is supportive of the program, then it makes sense. I have yet to have anyone tell me that they regretted getting their CLFP. I have had people say they had no idea how hard it was going be, but never that they regretted it.
And I do want to touch on the cost of the certification. I think that we could do a better job of letting people know that there is [assistance available through the] Chris Walker Education Fund. Chris Walker was the President of our Board of Directors, and he was very big into education. NEFA has created a scholarship fund in his name, and you can apply to get the academy fees, travel expenses – all of that covered. It’s not well-known but it is out there, and we want people to take advantage of that.
It was great to speak candidly with CLFP’s Executive Director Reid Raykovich about her experience leading CLFP, diversity standards, and the value of the certification. If you or your employer are interested in learning more about becoming a CLFP, check out their website.
At Odessa, we are pleased to celebrate three of our team members recently achieving the CLFP certification – congratulations to Samantha Lardi, Delroy Stauffer, and Kamal Shivnani on your achievement!