BNP Paribas Leasing Solutions brought Charlotte Dennery across from its insurance business in May 2015. By October Dennery was chief executive officer for BNP Leasing Solutions. By Brian Cantwell
Last October BNP Paribas Leasing Solutions brought Charlotte Dennery across from its insurance business as chief executive officer for BNP Paribas Leasing Solutions, replacing Didier Chappet who became a senior advisor for BNP Paribas’ general management committee.
At the time, BNP Paribas said that Dennery would be committed to pursuing the development of the business, and growing the pace of digital transformation and internationalisation of BNP Paribas Leasing Solutions.
"It has been very challenging and interesting. There have been a lot of new things to learn and people to meet, but that’s the kind of thing I like.
"I’ve worked in lots of different parts of BNP Paribas, in developing strategies, in insurance and in asset management, so now I’m in leasing. I arrived in the leasing busi¬ness in May, and I was appointed chief executive in October.
"I had about four months to see all the corporate teams in Paris, and across all of the countries that BNP Paribas operates in. I went to the UK, to Germany, to Italy, to Turkey, to Poland…
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"There is no uniformity in terms of regulation and tax, so in each country you will find some specificity that is interesting to get to understand, and from the type of product which may be in one country but not in all the countries, gives you a broad view of the complexity of the market.
"I discovered when I arrived in Leasing Solutions that there were a lot of experts who had spent the majority of their career in the leasing industry.
"I was chosen for managerial competencies and skills and the group chief executive knew that I would easily learn about leasing."
BNP Paribas Leasing Solutions finances rolling equipment, agriculture, machinery, construction, engineering, transport and material-handling, among other assets.
"These assets are what we put under the banner of equipment logistics solutions (ELS), and we finance tech equipment, including classical IT equipment, communications equipment and specialised technologies," said Dennery.
"We have three channels of distribution: one is the vendor programme, then the customers of the group, with all the networks of BNP Paribas (France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Germany for CIB clients), and although the customers are not only financial or tech equipment customers, but we also offer real estate leasing.
"We have a very small activity of direct leasing, straight through to the client."
Assessing 2015 and building for 2016
Part of Dennery’s assessments involve growing a medium-term ‘2020’ plan for BNP Paribas Leas¬ing Solutions, which involves questions on what assets to finance, which partners to take, an assessment of the previous year’s business, and where Dennery wants to take the company.
"2015 was a very good year for growth of volumes, because the new production grew by around 10%, and if I look for what the competition is doing, they too are around the same 10% mark," says Dennery.
"The difference is not made on the volumes, but more on the margins and also the other types of product and service that are keeping this additional margin.
"We have been able to grow our global margin between 2015 and 2014 because our growth rate was 9% – a significant figure."
BNP Paribas is confident that a lacklustre year for the agricultural sector in 2015 can be addressed this year, with the office equipment sector equally difficult, but that the development of new sectors offers hope for growth.
"Agriculture was quite a flat market last year, although we have been able to grow our activity significantly since then. We all know the office equipment business is a tough market, and we have registered the same kinds of decrease in office equipment," says Dennery.
"We are looking at new asset classes: office equipment is in decline; it’s suffering. But at the same time, there are new asset classes emerging, like 3D printers, and software as a service, that are solutions entering the market."
Dennery says that BNP Paribas is present in 15 countries, with an additional seven country presences on servicing basis (and as advisory for BNP Paribas banking networks) – BNP’s intention is to maintain these presences and expand their partnerships.
"If we talk about 2016, my strategy is clearly to continue to be the European leader in leasing, and continue to accompany our partners to wherever they want to expand geographically, and that’s very important – the strategy of leasing solutions has been to serve our partners globally."
Dennery also highlighted recent market exits as creating opportunities within the asset classes.
"There were markets in which there was a lot of competition and we were not very present, on which we want to expand, like the medical sector.
"GE was very present, but after the changes to that business there are opportunities in the medical equipment market, and we should be more present."
"We put out our budgets based on the continuing use and activity with vendors. We talked a lot with our partners, and this is also the trend that they are seeing with their partners."
Dennery identifies insurance as a product that could be worked more effectively into the service offering of BNP Paribas Leasing Solutions’ business lines.
"Insurance is included in some countries but not in all countries. We believe that this is a win-win model for both clients and leasing solutions.
"Our goal is to expand the insurance product to all the countries where we can apply. This is one option, as are other types of service; our partners provide are very interested in digital solutions.
"There are some talks between us and our partners to make sure that these are meeting expectations, and clearly the digital solutions are one of the key solutions that they are looking for, as is prioritising the vendor academy, where we have developed training for the clients, partners and commercial people in the sectors and assets."
Dennery is divided on the issue of the lack of a pan-European regulator, and whether a fragmented regulatory environment is holding the industry back.
"When you talk about a pan-European approach, it’s both about regulation and tax system. And there are some pros and cons. If there was a pan-European regulatory approach it would mutualise the different processes, and would help when building products that are appropriate for a larger scope of clients.
"Not having a common tax regulation and scheme means that you have some specificity in each country so you have to adapt, using transferable skills, and that means there are more barriers to entry than if everything was uniform.
"I wouldn’t say one was better than the other, I would just say that we just have to follow what is going on in the market and in the regulation."
The SME market is a growth market for BNP Paribas Leasing Solutions, which Dennery sees as continuing to be bullish throughout 2016.
"At the minute we don’t see any slowdown of SME activity; in fact I rather see an increase of the leasing as a very relevant investment solution for especially the SME in Europe, with the numbers of SMEs looking to lease up over the small business looking to use the classical credit loan.
"I do believe that there is an opportunity for both the SMEs and lessors to get closer," adds Dennery.
"There is a lot of work which is done by the industry in order to explain more and more the type product that leasing is and the advantages of it over simple credit. Lessors can always do more, especially in terms of education and what helps is putting forward as often as possible the strengths they have and how they can help SMEs."
Captive lessors may present interesting opportunities for BNP Paribas Leasing Solutions based on changes to the economy and to their strategies, says Dennery.
"We see two moves, with regards to captives. On one side, there are some companies who are focusing on retreating on their captive activities and GE said that they would continue to finance their medical activities but there are many who are exiting, like CIT, and there are many who are looking for an exit."
Many lessors have been considering how to access their markets and clients more successfully online, from front of house access to backroom platforms and processes.
Most recently BNP Paribas partnered with French software firm Cassiopae to develop a credit decision app for vendors, with the drive to push the processes online to improve efficiency.
"Digital is something we have worked on very seriously and we have built a transformation plan which covers three domains," says Dennery.
"There are the classical domains of what is called digital working, which is about giving our employees the ability to align their professional usage with their personal usage. We’re able to provide a last generation smartphone to nearly all the staff.
"The two other pillars which are more important for leasing volume growth, involve sales: to modernise our tools with mobility as a driver, to be able to deliver the right information at the right time, and in reality to be much faster than what we used to have, so we build some new tools that are available on all kinds of tablets and smartphones, and that provides our partners’ sales people with the right tools to give information and quotes and the state of their contract. It’s help a lot in accelerating the processes. In leasing it’s not just the quote but also all the services that are related to the financial activity," says Dennery.
"The third pillar is operational efficiency. We are continuously working on our processes, the digitilisation of our platform, zero paper objectives, in order to be as lean as possible in our processes."
BNP Paribas Leasing Solutions is taking its responsibilities to the environment and becoming a sustainable business seriously, both internally and externally, says Dennery.
"We have an internal team that works on our corporate social responsibility. There are several elements involved in looking after the environment while we try to master the environmental impact of our operations and activities. We are committed to a zero paper policy, but also trying to reduce our CO2 emissions through the way we use our facilities in the businesses’ premises. We have to look at the way that we deliver our products to customers and partners, in order to be at first ethical and then also help them to finance their own energy transition. Most of our sustainability policy is made through our relationship with partners. If we study our sustainability policy, it relates very much to the way we work with them."