Dear readers, welcome to Basement
Talk, Leasing Life’s monthly diary page, filled with the
latest gossip and insight on the less visible aspects of the asset
finance industry


Sorry, forgot to say, you’re

Leasing companies are coming up with
ever more imaginative ways of telling their staff that they’ve been
fired. Last month we heard that one well-known asset finance
company had simply left out those they were making redundant from a
new staff seating plan.

Apparently they hadn’t bothered to
tell staff in advance that they were out of a job. No doubt
managers are busily clearing up the HR mess that ensued.


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Everything actually is

Last month a very concerned
Leasing Life reported that phone lines were down at GE
Capital’s Bristol office, its principal leasing hub. We made clear
that despite this, GE Capital is absolutely confident that it has
no intention of closing down that office.

Similarly, when we called the deputy
head of securitisation at Deutsche Bank in Europe last month, only
to discover that he wasn’t picking up his phone, that also was
simply because he was busy doing business, and not because he had
gone home early for lack of work.


LPM’s 21st

“Satanic verses”, “mutant turtles”,
“lesbian protestors” and “outsourcing solutions” – four concepts
that one might not expect to find linked together into one train of

These were, however, all phrases that made it
into the first 60 seconds of a speech by Five Arrows chief Sam
Geneen, as he marked 21 years of LPM Outsourcing at the back office
specialist’s birthday celebration last month.

The event, which filled the function room at
London landmark The Ivy, was well attended by a good portion of the
UK’s leasing aristocracy, not to mention a sizeable press
delegation (ahem), and came hot on the heels of LPM’s recent
agreement with Triplepoint.

The event was widely remarked to have
generated the closest thing to a relaxed atmosphere that the
industry has seen in months, and as such offered a subtle sales
opportunity for LPM – as Geneen mentioned shrewdly in his

We look forward to another 21 years, so long
as we can come to the next bash.


Who’s my employer

Charles Peugeot has been appointed
as head of sales for new commercial vehicles at, er, Citroën UK. No
chance he’ll forget which company he works for then!


On and off the menu

The BVRLA dinner at the London
Hilton was a marvellous evening, as ever, with great food, great
company and a great after-dinner speaker in the shape of William
Hague, who was (by quite some way) more entertaining than the
comedian Dominic Holland.

Chairman Nigel Stead (whose day job
is, of course, running the largest fleet company in the UK)
acknowledged the tough times facing the industry, with attendance
at the dinner “a couple of hundred down” on last year; his own
Lloyds TSB Autolease took one table rather than its customary

And one major lessor was notable by
its absence, with not a single representative from Lombard Vehicle
Management, the UK’s fourth-largest lessor, present.

It must have been deemed bad PR for
Lombard staff to attend the dinner, what with their parent Royal
Bank of Scotland having had to accept untold billions in state
bailout funds and all.


The way things were

OK, we realise we’re quite late with
this (about 19 years too late) but the excellent book
Barbarians at the Gate, about the epic 1988 takeover
battle which engulfed US food and tobacco giant RJR Nabisco,
contains an illuminating anecdote for the leasing industry.

Henry Kravis, boss of leveraged
buyout specialist Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, called CFO of RJR
Nabisco, Ed Robinson, into a meeting as part of the due diligence
process; Robinson was less than keen to co-operate (“Hostility
radiated from [him] like summer heat from a city street”).

KKR partner Paul Raether asks
Robinson about RJR Nabisco’s leasing subsidiary, “whose existence
[Raether] had learned of only through an unsolicited letter to
Kravis offering to buy it.”

Robinson’s reply – “what leasing
company?” – was not exactly helpful, and perhaps illustrates the
low esteem in which leasing was held at the time.

Of course, we all know it is a far
more prestigious industry nowadays, as even KKR has acknowledged,
with its recent (albeit reportedly abandoned) bid to buy fallen
insurance titan AIG’s aircraft leasing business International Lease
Finance Corp.


The end of pot and plant

While plant leasing is generally
seen as a dependable business for banks, it would seem that Bank of
America has had a different experience of finance in the plant

BoA’s London offices are said to have foregone
renewal of contracts for the leasing and maintenance of potted
plants, offering the maintenance duties to staff instead –
according to a memo sent out to the bank’s Bromley and Croydon

With resale hardly an opportunity for BoA’s
foliage portfolio, the units have been left to the mercies of
employees under an “adopt-a-plant” scheme, with any distressed
assets to be disposed of when looking “a little sad”, to use the
bank’s words.


The caring leasing

It has emerged that leasing
companies are more caring than one might have originally thought
them to be. It has emerged, for instance, that kindly Daimler
Financial Services, during its “day of care” which it treats its
staff to annually, there is a focus session on corporate social

How kind.

Also, gentlemanly Natixis has
pronounced to the world that it will no longer finance or invest in
companies involved in, er, the anti-personnel land mines or cluster
bomb industries.

What generous souls.