It hardly seems like 12 months have passed since I sat down to write a reflective ed’s letter at the close of 2011, but time has, as it is prone to doing, marched relentlessly on.
Partly, I suppose, the impression that the year has gone around quickly has been helped along by a strong sense of déjà vu. Last year I wrote about eurozone debt crises and lease accounting; even the briefest look at the month’s news section will show these issues still dominate the European leasing agenda.
The wrangling over the latter especially has continued over the previous 12 months and, as we await the next exposure draft early in the new year, is likely to continue into 2013. A very familiar state of affairs.
While the political squabbling in Brussels, and Athens, Madrid, Rome and Lisbon too, has continued to depress the leasing markets in Mediterranean Europe, 2012 has been a more optimistic year for European leasing as a whole.
Despite the contraction in several Southern markets, business volumes have continued to climb across Europe, buoyed particularly by growth in Eastern countries such as Russia, Poland and the Baltic States, but also with modest but consistent growth in Western Europe’s major markets – leasing in the UK, for example, returned to that crucial pre-crisis business level before the year’s midway point.
It was against this backdrop of cautious optimism that the market was hit by news, first broken on leasinglife.com in October, that ING Lease would cap off a campaign of consolidation by putting its very large UK business into runoff.
The news was not entirely surprising but has served as a wake-up call to anyone who may have been lulled into believing that comfortable, steady, business-as-normal conditions had returned.
The move has, naturally, renewed the debate about how Europe’s banks view the viability of their leasing businesses in light of that other perennial regulatory issue – Basel III – and therefore what the future landscape of European leasing will look like.
In light of this situation, it is heartening to have such a close community.
Last year’s December issue focused on our conference and awards, which will be over for another year by the time you are reading this (a round-up of both events will appear in January’s Leasing Life for those who cannot attend) and I have no doubt the impact of the ING announcement will be a common topic both on stage and over dinner.
When lessors and those who work around the leasing profession talk of "the industry" it seems safe to me, as I look forward to another lively day and celebratory evening in Barcelona, to assume they are referring to a more substantial community than just a group of businesses offering similar products.
Instead, the leasing industry, for many, is a network of people who, outside natural commercial competitiveness, share mutual professional goals. This much is evidenced by the individuals nominated by their peers in the Leasing Life Power 50 list (page 16).
This year saw the 40th anniversary of one organisation which embodies this sense of community, Leaseurope, while 2012 also saw the formal establishment of another organisation, the Leasing Foundation.
The continued strength of this first body and the enthusiasm which greeted the birth of the latter, as well as the ambitious aims its members have set, is indicative of the strength of character displayed by the industry as a whole.
This is why I am confident the lessons of 2012 will be learnt and the positives taken on board in time to face the challenges 2013 will bring. On that note, I’d like to thank all those who have contributed to Leasing Life this year and those who joined in the debate both online and in person at industry events. It has been, as it always seems to be, a tumultuous 12 months, and I look forward to seeing what the next 12 will bring to us all.
Merry Christmas and a joyful, prosperous and cooperative New Year from all at Leasing Life.