For 30 years, VR Leasing has
quietly grown to become one of Europe’s top lessors. As its
long-standing head, Reinhard Goedel, prepares to step down and the
company gears up for a year of profit making, Antonio Fabrizio goes
behind the scenes with Germany’s second-largest


Reinhard Goedel, VR LeasingFew people can boast as much knowledge of the German
leasing market as Reinhard Goedel. The CEO of leasing giant VR Leasing – Germany’s largest
leasing company by number of contracts and the second-largest by
business volume – has held numerous roles in leasing over a career
spanning 30 years, many of which were with VR Leasing.

Goedel, who recently announced he will retire
at the end of 2010 (and will be replaced by
Theophil Graband
), has been with VR Leasing – part of the DZ
Bank Group – since 1982, and has overseen many of the changes that
turned the lessor from a local player into a major leasing company
in Germany and the CEE region.

When he first joined the company, VR Leasing –
which, at the time, was called Deutsche Genossenschafts-Leasing –
was only a small company with around 100 employees. He started as a
controller, became general manager in 1986, and CEO in 1994.

Under his management, the lessor has gone
through a number of mergers – including bringing together 16
smaller leasing companies that were part of DZ Group under VR
Leasing’s control between 1988 and 1994.

He was also in charge when the company changed
its name to VR Leasing  and changed its legal entity status –
from GmbH to AG, the equivalent of plc in the UK.

VR Leasing chairman Hans-Theo Macke has
credited Goedel with turning the lessor into one of “Europe’s most
successful leasing providers”.

Indeed, the company today employs 3,000 people,
is active in 11 countries including Germany and, because it
specialised in small ticket, has 500,000 contracts in its portfolio
– more than any other German competitor.

In an exclusive interview with Leasing
, Goedel explained that it has not always been easy
running the company over the years, especially because of the
challenges that arose from the financial crisis.

Indeed, last year, VR Leasing for the first
time reported an after-tax loss of €18.8m,
because of the increased risk cost

“My target for the remaining six months that I
am in charge of VR Leasing is to reduce the risk cost to a normal
level and that means decreasing the level of business if
necessary,” Goedel said.

Last year, its volumes dropped year on year by
50% in the Central and Eastern European (CEE) region, where VR
Leasing has a well-established presence. In Germany, it posted a
3.4% volume drop to €2.24bn.

Goedel said: “We still see at the moment that
the German market is not as good as it used to be, with customers
still under pressure, so for us, it is a challenging time to make
the right credit decisions.”

One of his most challenging tasks in this
respect has been to find a balance between credit risk and the need
to provide finance for business partners – particularly in the case
of dealers, whose priority is to sell vehicles rather than checking
the credit profile of the customers.

“We didn’t have an easy time. Here, too, we
have to carefully weigh the pros and cons which a new contract
bears. But I think that keeping the dealer connection has been for
us the right thing to do,” Goedel said.

Equally difficult was the decision on whether
or not to take over Banca Italease, the Italian lessor that VR
Leasing was about to acquire last year. Goedel eventually decided
not to go ahead with it, as the market situation worsened.

He said: “It’s good news we didn’t finalise the
deal. The Italian market is very interesting to us, but due to the
economic crisis, we started too late and weren’t ready to take
additional risk.

“If we had started one or two years before, I
am absolutely sure we would have now taken over that company.”

Alongside his role at VR Leasing, Goedel is
well-known in the industry for his involvement with Germany’s
leasing association BDL, where he has held positions for the past
10 years, including a chairman role which he left earlier this

His main work at BDL was helping shape the new
regulations for the leasing sector. Although German authorities
were pushing for lessors to have a bank licence, Goedel and BDL
worked hard in order to have “lighter bank regulation”

He said: “That was one of my biggest
achievements at BDL, to give us a good role in shaping the new
regulations so that we now have a light bank licence – we are now
regulated like small banks, and our lobbying has meant that the
government understood that leasing is not banking.”

Even though he is leaving his CEO position, he
will remain an adviser of the bank for another two years.

He said: “After all these years, it is time
another colleague took over my job. But I’ll remain as adviser for
the next two years to help my colleagues – the German and European
markets are having a busy time now and I still want to help the

He might be less involved than he used to be
therefore, but leaving his CEO position will not mean leaving the
asset finance world behind completely.