Finance and Leasing Association (FLA) chair Nigel Clibbens is to stand down in May this year. In his speech at the FLA dinner in London on 28 February, reproduced here in Leasing Life, he reflects on the challenges the UK leasing market has faced, and the FLA’s future role in the industry

My term as chairman will come to an end in May – so I’ve been reflecting on the impact the FLA has made during the last three years of immense change in the UK’s economic, political and regulatory scene.

On that first point, I think we have demonstrated the resilience of our markets if our performance is anything to go by:
In 2014, we provided £100bn of new finance. In 2015 it was £110bn. And in 2016, despite all those uncertainties, it was £118bn – and the momentum continues into 2017.

January’s figures are out next week, and they will show new business growth in each of the three main divisions: asset, motor and consumer.

As for the political dimension, we live in interesting times.  The EU referendum result ushered in a new Prime Minister, a new government, a new relationship with Europe, and sporadic bouts of economic uncertainty – now referred to in the press as the new normal.

To a pragmatist, it kind of feels like the old normal – because the business imperative in any situation is to find the opportunities and make them work.

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The FLA has been on the Brexit case since 24 June last year. While meeting with numerous government officials, writing to ministers and briefing Number 10 on our members’ priorities and needs, we also reminded the government of the significant contribution we make each year to the economy.  

And just look at the seismic changes we have seen in the regulatory environment.

Back in April 2014, when the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) was just a year old and still grappling with an entirely new remit, it was handed regulatory responsibility for the consumer credit sector.

Overnight, conduct supervision for at least an additional 35,000 firms passed to a body that was still writing the new regulatory regime, still creating a new authorisation process and still discussing a proportionate regulatory approach that would serve consumers borrowing anything from a few hundred to many thousands of pounds. And the people they were discussing it with? The FLA.

I am very proud of the relationship we have developed with the FCA – it is constructive and candid. We do not always get what we want, but neither does the regulator.

And that is thanks to you, our members. Your expertise and advice makes the FLA a formidable advocate, and the FLA’s services help improve the environment in which we all do business.

Our sphere of influence is growing – be it the FLA specialist working alongside the regulator, the FLA lobbyist working alongside the policymaker, or the FLA convenor working to help educators and members design training, qualifications and apprenticeships that will transform the career prospects of those entering or building careers in the asset and motor finance sectors.

Our achievements in 2016 were considerable, many and varied. So, what will this year bring?

There will be opportunities aplenty, and the challenges, though inevitable, are not insurmountable.

The FLA will be out there promoting our sectors to politicians and policymakers, representing your interests in Whitehall and Canary Wharf, and helping to build a business environment that supports our industry. I would urge each of you to continue to contribute to that effort.

Please continue to share your thoughts at the FLA’s conferences, share your expertise at our seminars, and give your staff the best possible grounding in sector and regulatory knowledge by ensuring that FLA training is part of your business strategy.

In short, be ready for the opportunities and prepared for the challenges. With the FLA in our corner, I think we’re well placed to do both.

Membership is growing year-on-year. We now represent upwards of 90% of both the asset and motor finance markets, and in the consumer finance market, our members provide over a third of new business written in the UK. We have a big voice, and the more of us there are, the greater our influence.

As a brief aside, 2017 is of course the FLA’s 25th anniversary year. I just want to pay tribute to our past chairmen, many of whom are here tonight. Their sure-footed guidance set the FLA on a path that, for two and a half decades, has been helping its members do business. Gentlemen, thank you.

Can I also just say that I believe our longevity, financial robustness and numerous achievements are down to the unwavering leadership of Stephen, and the dedication of his team at Kingsway.

The continually high satisfaction rates achieved in the annual members’ survey show how much you appreciate their support. Each request or challenge is taken in their stride: from promotion, to lobbying, to benchmarking, and to organising events like this one.

We should be eternally grateful that we declined the option to join the new banking trade body, but we look forward to working with Bob Wigley’s team to build a strong, and constructive relationship.

And I think we need to keep moving with the times, by adapting our offering to reflect the expectations of new generations of customers and potential members. I would therefore urge my successor, whoever that may be, to keep their eye on the future so that the FLA can continue to thrive.   

I would like to thank you all for coming along tonight, and my board colleagues for their support and encouragement over the past three year.

Finally, I have been very proud to represent our great industry over the past three years and I look forward to working with my successor to keep us moving forward.