Basment talkFLA dinner keeps industry on its toes

Shoes were worn down at the FLA
dinner, as guests quickly cantered between the numerous pre- and
post-dinner knees-ups organised by the high and mighty of the
English legal profession and UK lease consultancies. The Red Bar
upstairs was still heaving at 2am, when one Basement Talk
correspondent flaked out and went home.

We imagine the talking – and the drinking –
continued for hours after that, since there is nothing the leasing
and finance industry likes more than a good chin-wag.

Attendance was even better than last year,
despite the recession, at a shade over 1,300.

As one industry veteran remarked: “They come
in great numbers in the good times to party like there is no
tomorrow, and they come in even greater numbers in the bad times to
try and sniff out where their next job is coming from.”

The attendance figure was upped another
fraction of a shade as one Leasing Life ticketless correspondent,
believed to have entered after loitering behind a column on the
balcony of the Grosvenor’s Great Room, crept in to enjoy the
untouched dinner of a high-ranking no-show from HM Treasury.

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Having recently shaved, he appeared reputable
enough to enjoy the mercy of the FLA, which kindly allowed him to
stay and enjoy dessert.

Sadly – or luckily? – due to the relatively
early closure of the bars at the post-dinner events, there were not
too many casualties, although one middle manager did manage to
confuse a conversation between FLA employees with a queue for the

We extend our sympathies to anyone who had a
9am board meeting with high-flying Japanese businessmen the next
day, or rather later the same day, as several people we spoke to

The general consensus on guest speaker Tory MP
Peter Luff, chairman of the Business, Innovation and Skills
committee, was that he started well – with some sharp comments and
genuinely funny lines at the current government’s expense – but
quickly collapsed into party political waffle.

“Politicians – they are all the same, aren’t
they?” remarked one industry veteran. It was hard to disagree.

A shame and a missed opportunity for Luff to
impress the key players in leasing, although he at least appeared
to understand the general concept of asset finance.

The keynote speaker for the evening, Clive
Anderson, was received with mixed feelings, particularly from
representatives of UK banks. The Lombard attendees, for instance,
showed great disdain as one crack after another was made at their

One was overheard moaning: “Don’t they want us
to have an economy?” However, when HBOS became the brunt of the
funny man’s jokes they suddenly began to grin like Cheshire cats.
Funny that.

Murky BISiness

The Consumer Credit Directive will
be published in its final form in March, and up until recently, the
Department for Business, Innovation and Skills had told the finance
industry that it would only have until June to ensure

Such a short timetable was causing a lot of
alarm to finance companies, given the costs involved in changing IT
systems and training staff and rewording contracts and so on, so
when word came that BIS has relented and will give lenders until 31
January 2011 to ensure compliance, there was a general sigh of
relief. Big news, don’t you think?

Well, BIS didn’t: when asked for a statement
or a press release, a BIS press officer said: “Why on earth would
we put out a press release about that?” Er, well, because it’s
going to affect thousands of companies and millions of
transactions, maybe?

Revealed: London’s deputy mayor does
too much leasing

London’s deputy mayor for policing,
Kit Malthouse, just can’t get enough asset finance. Despite missing
more than 40 Metropolitan Police Authority committee meetings due
to his leasing habit, he insisted that his directorship of County
Asset Finance (as well as a plant sales company, an investment firm
and a record label) had in fact made him a “better politician”.

At a time when so many column inches are
devoted to urging the commercial finance industry to lend its heart
out, it seems somewhat mean-spirited for The Guardian to have
highlighted criticisms of Malthouse for doing just too much

Leasing muddied again

The leasing industry took a brutal
smear from the national papers last month, from no less than Sunday
Times veteran columnist AA Gill.

While trashing American police drama Life, he
described the show’s back story as being “clear as the small print
on a leasing agreement”, leading us to wonder which company gave
him such a harrowing experience of contractual confusion.

Santander gets out the

The after-dinner drinks at the FLA’s
annual dinner were kindly sponsored by Santander Consumer, the
Spanish bank’s motor finance division.

When asked why the lender was paying to
advertise to its competitors, answer came there none, although UK
MD Vik Hill insisted that it had taken him ages, simply ages to cut
out the Santander-branded red cardboard tags, which adorned every
wine bottle on every table at the dinner. We think he might have
been joking…