Philip Knight, credit and risk director at Asset Advantage, stretches his football analogies beyond breaking point as he describes how teamwork at an SME lender leads to success.
Up front we have a sale and marketing effort that really does lead the line. It does this in two ways.
Firstly, by ensuring that we only come in contact with the very best introducers. Or as we like to say in football, the best-delivered balls into the box. Bad introducers bring bad deals, whether it be deliberately or simply through incompetence, therefore it is essential that the quality of the crosses is high.
Secondly the marketing effort ensures that our introducers know exactly what type of proposals we want to see and that our credit decisions and conditions are what they expect. It is no good sending in a high ball expecting a five-foot-six striker to head it.
In the midfield, orchestrating the play we have credit. The engine room of the lender, its contributes to both attack and defence.
Protecting the business is perhaps the more obvious part of its role. Fraudsters are an obvious one to defend against. The nippy little striker full of tricks and more than a few dirty tactics.
Credit gate-keeps (not goalkeeping – that comes later), spotting fake sets of accounts, inconsistent stories, inaccurate statements and downright lies about past businesses. Our approach to underwriting makes it nigh-on impossible to nutmeg us.
Going forward, our particular approach to underwriting requires our credit team to lead from the front.
By this I mean taking a genuine commercial approach to reviewing deals. Sometimes accepting that we have to make decisions with an imperfect set of information, because to obtain it risks the customer losing interest and both us and the broker losing the deal.
It means going toe-to-toe with the customer, straying out of the comfort zone of the centre circle that is the office and seeing them in their own half. Or as we like to say in Asset Advantage, on-site at their office or factory.
Of course being a striker often involves taking calculated risks. Whether it be a diving header or playing for the foul in the box – albeit I am not condoning simulation!
Likewise, Credit sometimes has to act on imperfect information and leverage its experience in the absence of the normal supporting data. At Asset Advantage, it is all about timing the run and avoiding being caught offside.
On the wings we have two critical team players. On the right our New Business team supports both the strikers going forward with documentation and deal structure advice.
Getting this right plays a critical part in the process of goal-scoring. Speed and efficiency is what we get here, with plenty of opportunity to show those subtle skills in people and paper handling. Think Eden Hazard on a keyboard.
On the other wing, Asset Advantage has our Inspection team, which has a roving remit to stray all over the pitch, inspecting and ownership-tagging equipment before payout.
Whether it is generators on the Isle of Wight or servers in Docklands, you just never know where they are going to pop up. Think Harry Kane.
In defence we have Collections and Recoveries. Picking up the pieces that slip through our defensive midfield line.
What are the skills needed here? Anticipation, determination, grit, fearlessness and above all discipline. With evasive customers running at you, seeing through the information being thrown at you and making the right decision is its key strength.
Whether to pull the plug on the customer now – the sliding take them and the ball tackle – or to give them some breathing space, by shepherding them towards the corner flag. The right decision at the right time.
And of course it is not just about the on-field team. Where would we be without a Finance Department, compliance and office management?
Without a pitch there can be no football, the kit needs to be kept clean and the team needs to be organised to turn up for the matches. And of course the HR team, like the physio, keeps all the players in the best possible condition.
Despite his ‘tinkerman’ history, Ranieri’s Leicester City fielded the most consistent team throughout the season. At Asset Advantage we have the most consistent and experienced team in the asset finance industry.
The first is fact and the latter is complete football hyperbole – Spurs supporters I am thinking of you as I write the word ‘hyperbole’! – as I do not obviously know if it is true.
But I do know that the team we have built has long service at its core and team building as central to the recruitment decisions we make.
Oh! I nearly forgot, who is in goal?
I am not sure. It is probably one of the three player-manager directors, captains armband on, cajoling and encouraging from the back and occasionally making useful interventions in the form of an unnecessarily theatrical save.
Unnecessarily theatrical? More than likely, because in truth while there is glory to be had in making a penalty save, it is really all about the team.