Fred Crawley’s editor’s letter (Let’s get together LL 227 August) noted that leasing organisations are a bit like buses; you wait for one and then two come along at once. Fred welcomed the new Leasing Foundation and the possibility that a new membership organisation would be formed in the UK to build on the successful Cordoba Group lunches. There was a danger that with too many voices representing the sector, the right voices could get drowned out in the resulting cacophony, he noted. However so long as cooperation and a strong sense of community is maintained between the two new groups and the established trade associations, including the FLA, there would be a golden opportunity for the industry, he concluded.
Fred is right and there are several ways in which we can ensure that the cooperation is successful. The FLA’s role is to promote the business interests of our members, the UK’s asset finance and leasing companies. The new organisations are focused on areas including research, fundraising, leadership development and networking. So there are several areas for possible cooperation.
The FLA organises networking events, including our annual dinner at the Grosvenor House that attracts 1,400 members and many parliamentary and other official guests. Whether it’s the annual dinner or our drinks receptions or our bi-annual asset finance senior executives’ dinners, we always take the opportunity to discuss policy issues.
A new organisation grounded in philanthropy would be entirely complementary to our role of promoting the business interests of the industry and should be welcomed. Indeed, other organisations also help to bring the different parts of our industry together for networking and we support these wholeheartedly and welcome any more.
To represent the industry effectively it is vital that our lobbying for the business interests of members is supported by solid evidence that will carry weight in Whitehall, Brussels or elsewhere. That’s why we prepare industry statistics and commission top quality research both here in the UK and working with Leaseurope, which last year established a fund to support major policy-based European research projects. The prospect of additional research – perhaps to help companies to work more efficiently or to develop new opportunities – being freely available across the industry is very welcome. If there is a word of caution in this area then it would be with regard to ensuring that any research activity is not duplicated.
We also run occasional seminars to help develop the industry’s policy on various matters. Our Secondary Market seminars helped us to successfully lobby the Government to include leasing in its Business Finance Partnership scheme, and our Low Carbon seminars helped us to get leasing included in the Carbon Trust’s loan scheme as well as opening the door to a potential new Green Investment Bank scheme. Meanwhile Leaseurope’s Annual Convention attracts hundreds of board-level participants for a serious debate about the future of the industry as well as unrivalled networking opportunities. Leasing Life and others also organise very successful events and we welcome any additions to the calendar.
We are also about to launch a new professional qualification for the asset finance industry that will be offered in conjunction with a top financial services chartered body. It would be ideal if the Foundation was to put its weight behind this and help to ensure that the students benefit from their trustees’ expertise. For example, a good use of charitable monies could be to support academic achievement among students who, for whatever reason, were unable to financially support themselves or be sponsored by employers.
Knowing many of those involved in the new organisations I’m confident that we will form the right working relationships, in the areas set out above and indeed in the many other aspects of the FLA’s work and that of the other existing associations. We look forward to collaborating with the new organisations.
George AshworthManaging Director, Asset Finance, Aldermore Bank Chair, Asset Finance Division, Finance and Leasing Association
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