Ask a Leader: Interview with Michael DiCecco


Learning from a Leader: Career Development Advice

Interview with Michael DiCecco, Executive Managing Director of Huntington Asset Finance



Interview conducted by Jon Gerson, President of Executive Solutions for Leasing & Finance, Inc. and edited by Lexie Dressman, Assistant Vice President, Huntington Equipment Finance. Both are members of the ELFA Emerging Talent Advisory Council. Learn more about this interview series.

When did you first join the equipment financing industry and what has been the trajectory of your career?

I joined the equipment finance industry in 1992. I started out in a credit underwriting role, and then went into sales, sales management and product line management. In 2015, I accepted a lateral position in another area of the bank, where I led commercial banking for a region of the bank for a few years, and then rejoined the equipment finance business in 2008. At that point in time, I was Chief Commercial Officer, overseeing all the lines of business we had, and a few years later, I ended up taking the lead role. I started my career with what is now known as US Bank. I joined Huntington in 2001 when myself and eight others started the group from scratch.

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your own professional development? How did you overcome it?

I think my biggest challenge has probably been being viewed as a “one trick pony” for lack of a better way to describe it. People assume since I spent the beginning of my career as an equipment finance specialist, that’s all I really know. I overcame this assumption by gaining experience in other areas of the bank, by starting businesses that aren’t equipment finance oriented, and by expanding my experience base, and people’s view of me broadened along the way.

When did you first get involved with ELFA and how have you been engaged as a Member thus far? How has being in ELFA helped your career?

I got involved with ELFA on a regular, consistent basis somewhere around 2009. I had attended events prior to that periodically but not consistently. In 2010, I joined the Financial Institutions Business Council Steering Committee (BCSC). I was on the BCSC for a few years, then I joined the Board in 2015 for the first time. My term went from 2015 to 2017 and I rotated off for a year and then I rejoined the Board as an officer in 2018. It’s been tremendous. First of all, it has provided me a network of really smart, engaged leaders that have helped me make our business stronger. I am not on an island running a company without a great network of friends. That’s foremost. Second, ELFA provides a lot of data and market research that helps us determine feasibility studies and new businesses that we’ve wanted to go into, such as rail, business aviation, etc. The research provided by ELFA and the Equipment Leasing & Finance Foundation has been a cornerstone for our internal research.

What is the most rewarding risk of your career?

I would say it was the risk of not leaving the company when I didn’t get the lead role at first. I stayed because I was committed to the team and the business and I believed in the future, when a lot of people would probably have chosen to go elsewhere. I took the risk that it would pay off in the long term, and the long term turned into a fast, two-year window. Leading this talented group of colleagues for the last seven years has been truly the joy of my career.

If you had to pick one, which is more important when considering a hire—a soft or technical background? You can’t pick both, and please include which soft or technical skill is most beneficial to success.

For me, it’s always the soft skills and, most important in my mind, probably whether the person is a strong team player and the right cultural fit. If you don’t have that, it’s usually something that doesn’t last very long. But when you do have that, technical skills can be learned. It’s a lot easier than changing soft skills.

What are the top 3 pieces of advice you would give to someone just entering the industry?

Work hard, learn outside your lane and get connected to ELFA.

Given that the ELFA recently updated its mission statement and strategic plan to affirm its commitment to diversity and inclusion, can you give some perspective on what your organization has done or is doing to promote diversity and inclusion?

For us, building an inclusive environment comes from how all of us interact with one another and treat one another. So, it’s the interpersonal relationships that we build. In building a diverse company, there’s a lot of focus on how we recruit, specifically how we build recruitment slates of candidates, how we write job descriptions, and the interview process that we use when we’re selecting colleagues. We make sure that the interviewers are diverse as well so we get a broad perspective.