As yet another busy 12 months for the leasing and asset finance industry draw to a close, Leasing Life picks out the 12 top stories of the year, based on the most popular articles published on our website.

1. Santander to exit UK asset finance market

In September, it was revealed that Santander plans to exit the asset finance market at the end of the year.

Sources close to the bank said interest rates, UK regulation and Santander’s position behind the “Big Four” had made competition difficult. In June it was reported that Santander was to cut costs by £1.1bn globally, and as a result close around 1,150 retail bank branches with the loss of 3,700 jobs.

Santander’s asset finance business in the UK is said to be worth an estimated £800m. The business said it would continue to support core clients through the provision of different types of lending.

2. Amicus Asset Finance re-enters private ownership

Amicus Asset Finance Group announced it would go back into private ownership in January, after three years under the ownership of Amicus Finance.

It was reported in December 2018 that Amicus went into administration following a failure to find an investor to fund and maintain the business, according to reports.

Robert Keep, managing director at Amicus Asset Finance, said the company was considering a name change to underline its independent status.

3. Carillion-disrupted Hawk Plant Hire goes into administration

Independent plant hire group Hawk Plant announced in February that it was going into administration, with 83 jobs lost as a result.

The group was one of the largest independent plant hire companies in the UK, and recorded a turnover of £93.5m (€109m) for the financial year to the end of December 2017. In its 2017 results, Hawk Plant managing director and majority shareholder Mike Hawkins said the liquidation of Carillion had disrupted the business’s contract pipeline.

Previous lenders to the business included NatWest, RBS Invoice Finance, Commercial Finance, HSBC Equipment Finance, HSBC Asset Finance and HSBC Invoice Finance.

4. BCR announces results of Incentivised Switching Scheme applications

The Board of Banking Competition Remedies (BCR) announced in January the 11 organisations that met the eligibility criteria for the Incentivised Switching Scheme.

The purpose of the scheme is to provide funding of up to a maximum total of £275m to SME customers of the business previously described as Williams & Glyn, to switch their business current accounts and loans to challenger institutions.

Eligible applicants were named as Arbuthnot Latham & Co, Clydesdale Bank, Co-operative Bank, Hampden & Co., Metro Bank, Monzo Bank, Nationwide Building Society, Santander UK, Starling Bank, Svenska Handelsbanken and TSB Bank.

5. BNP Paribas LS appoints head of broker division

In May, BNP Paribas Leasing Solutions UK appointed Tim Pulleyn as leader of its broker team, in a series of promotions.

Pulleyn took responsibility for managing BNP Paribas LS’s network of brokers across multiple sectors. He previously held the position of head of structured finance and asset management at Metro Bank.

Paul Baker was also promoted to head of food and agriculture and Alun Davies to head of construction and logistics. Baker has over 32 years’ experience in the agriculture sector with 12 years at BNP Paribas LS.

6. Hawk Plant equipment sales make £29m at auction

The administration disposal sale in March of all Hawk Plant Hire assets raised just under £29m, according to the auctioneers.

Hawk Plant Hire announced it was going into administration in February. Euro Auctions said over 2,000 pieces of plant and machinery made a final hammer total of £28,967,840.

The sale consisted of a large complement of well-maintained new machinery, including the largest collection of John Deere tractors and agricultural machinery to be auctioned in the UK.

7. BNP Paribas Leasing Solutions and 3 Step IT launch alliance

The BNP Paribas 3 Step IT joint venture was announced in November, with existing BNP Paribas LS branches in France and Italy to operate under the new title.

Nine more countries are scheduled to follow by mid-2020, with the new entity offering a more sustainable way to manage technology life cycles by delivering a service based on circular economy principles.

The service anticipates the need of companies looking for more flexible and sustainable “product as a service” financing solution, and provides a complete service to companies to help them manage technology investments – primarily smartphones, tablets, PCs and laptops.

8. Hampshire Trust Bank names asset finance managing director

Hampshire Trust Bank appointed Paul Bartley as managing director of its asset finance division in May.

Bartley’s most notable career point was as founder director and shareholder of Close Leasing between 2007 and 2017. He also founded and built, a digital platform in the retail car sales and finance market.

In April, Hampshire Trust Bank’s specialist business finance branch also completed a £990,000 asset refinancing facility for a South Wales group of marine companies.

9. Bibby FS client Paragon Interiors Group goes into administration

Midlands business Paragon Interiors Group went into administration in March, a year after Bibby Financial Services began providing it with invoice finance. Over the course of 2018, Bibby provided Paragon Interiors with a total of £3m throughout a construction finance facility.

Leasing Life reported that Bibby Financial Services started working with Paragon Interiors in February 2018, and had worked with its executive team to overcome its challenges. Despite this, Paragon’s losses continued to mount as it faced increasingly difficult trading conditions.

As losses continued to mount and as the only qualifying charge holder, Bibby Financial Services was left with no option but to place the business into administration.

10. Funding Options partners with Metro Bank

In October, Funding Options partnered with Metro Bank to provide more businesses with greater access to funding.

Customers at Metro Bank will be able to access Funding Options’ business lending marketplace to compare financing options from over 70 lenders; if the bank is unable to support the customers’ financing needs, Funding Options provides another option.

The move was part of Metro Bank’s announcement of a trio of fintech and SME partnerships to support SMEs across the UK. As part of the expansion drive, Funding Options is looking to offer services beyond lending to credit cards and wider business services.

11. White Oak acquires Growcap Finance

In May, SME finance provider WhiteOak UK acquired GrowCap Finance, a Dublin-based provider to the SME market in the UK and Ireland.

GrowCap Finance provides trade and supply-chain finance to the SME sector. It also offers purchase-order funding solutions for assets in domestic and international markets. The acquisition was intended to provide White Oak UK with a platform to develop a significant presence in Ireland.

12. Interserve’s largest shareholder dismisses rescue plan

In February, Interserve’s largest shareholder Coltrane dismissed the rescue plan offered for the highly indebted outsourcing company. Interserve had a debt of £827.9m and had hundreds of public sector contracts in the UK.

Interserve’s accounts posted a £111m pre-tax loss for 2018 and in 2017 the company reported operating losses of £220m – which was attributable to spiralling costs and delays in its ‘energy for waste’ products. Frustration at the rescue plan stemmed from its provisions leaving shareholders with 5% of the company. They would have the right to buy new shares back from the lenders, but only up to 33.3%.