Stephen Haddrill, director-general of the Finance & Leasing Association, addressed members and guests during the FLA’s virtual Christmas drinks reception last week. What follows is a transcript of what he had to say:

I joined the FLA exactly a year ago, but it was a different age – when we could take so much for granted, that has now radically changed.

The last nine months have brought tragedy to tens of thousands of families, inflicted untold damage to the livelihoods and well-being of millions of people, and caused the demise of thousands of previously healthy businesses. And we’re ending 2020 with no certainty on the impact of Brexit.

But in adversity, we have also found incredible strength and achieved what would have previously seemed impossible. 

Vaccines have been developed at an unprecedented rate. The NHS and its people have responded magnificently. Millions of people have shown extraordinary fortitude and put their lives on hold.

And to come closer to home, you as an industry have done amazing work to support and sustain nearly 2 million people in trouble. You started granting payment deferrals immediately, re-organising your customer services in days. 

And you maintained the flow of help and continue to do so. It has been an amazing effort. One that has been recognised by borrowers, government and the public at large.

At the FLA we have done everything possible to help you through this time, and I want to thank our teams for their dedication. We have sometimes surprised ourselves in adopting new technology and in how extensively we have been able to communicate. We have learned lessons about reaching out to members and will continue to apply these in the future.

We have worked closely with the FCA on its guidance on forbearance and on the reform of regulation and with the Government, the Bank of England and the British Business Bank on improving support schemes for business and liquidity for lenders. 

At the same time, we have forged stronger links with other trade associations, with consumer groups and with Parliamentarians, making a reality of our commitment to building trust and to collaboration. And to the journalists who are here tonight, I would also like to extend my thanks for the support you have shown to us and our members throughout this time.

I have been particularly pleased that we have been able to collaborate more closely with the Leasing Foundation in its work on inclusion and diversity. Our industry is not diverse and we will work with you to put this right.

None of this would have been possible without your support. You have all given of your time, your experience, and your ideas with extraordinary generosity in the most difficult of circumstances. Whether you are from a large or small institution, a bank or a non-bank, a captive or an associate you have been on the calls, always constructive and open. You have achieved so much.

Now we look forward. We agreed our plan for 2021 with the Board last week and we’ll publish it on your section of the website next week. But just to give you a quick flavour of our priorities, we will campaign on net-zero and electric vehicles to make sure you and your customers are involved in that transformation. 

We will push for regulatory reform to support that transformation, which will allow for more innovation and better market access for consumers. We will champion the contribution of asset finance to the economy and the importance of this type of lending to the recovery. 

While we have not achieved everything that we wanted this year, we remain ambitious for next year and will press for reform of the Consumer Credit Act, reform of the Financial Ombudsman Service, and better support for liquidity in a crisis from the Bank of England and British Business Bank. 

With your help, we can look forward with confidence.

Stephen Haddrill is the director-general of the Finance & Leasing Association 

The event sponsors were GMG and the FLA’s charity is DePaul UK