The lessons learned from Covid-19 by the financial software industry fed directly into the creation of a contract management system (CMS) just launched by HPD Lendscape, a global provider of secured finance technology.
Addressing a gathering at the Groucho Club in London’s Soho last week, Steve Taplin, HPD Lendscape’s managing director, described how the hard lessons from the Covid pandemic offered fresh material on which to base his back-office platform which he is targeting at the UK B2B space.
“No one could have foreseen the impact that the pandemic would have on the day-to-day needs of the asset finance providers. The sheer scale at which changes needed to be made meant that even the most sophisticated systems were stretched almost to breaking point.
“The past two years may have helped to shine a light on the weaknesses in existing asset finance platforms, but the issues themselves date back much further.
“That realisation has been a wake-up call to system providers – ourselves included. Much of the sentiment we see here has played an instrumental role in shaping the direction of our own next-generation asset finance platform, and many of the features of that system have been designed to tackle these issues head-on,” according to HPD Lendscape.
Issues with platforms
Current UK asset finance platforms were described as “too rigid” and “unable to handle the fluid contract environment created by the pandemic” or offering an “overly complex user experience” and “leaving too much room for error”.
The pandemic also exposed the need for greater automation by platforms, with staff being called on to manually make adjustments to customer payment holidays and re-pricing. Current back-office systems were also criticised for “restricting the accessibility and discoverability of funders’ data”.
Taplin attributed the original research into the industry’s assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of existing UK CMS platforms to Peter Hunt and his GrowCap consultancy.
Armed with this market knowledge, Taplin said he built a team, consisting of 20 to 30 people on the asset finance side, and then a product, to overcome the new tech needs thrown up by the pandemic.
“The brains” behind the asset finance back-office software, said Taplin, is product manager Ralph Neuff, whose financial software industry know-how – like Taplin’s – is built on 20-odd-years of experience each with Alfa Financial Software, their former employer and industry rival.
Taplin and Neuff, along with HPD Lendscape’s other managing director, Michael Mayes, left Alfa in 2019 and co-founded software implementation consultancy Finaptix, before it was bought out by HPD Lendscape later that year.
Taplin said the software’s key innovation at launch is that “everything is available as an API,” which he explained as “allowing users to take part in digitalisation instantly”.
APIs, or application programming interfaces, allow developers to write code that can access data and interact with software that is external to the system.
Also present at the launch was Mark Nelson, director of Compass Business Finance, an independent provider of asset finance with a focus on the print, packaging and engineering sectors.
Nelson told the gathering that after exhausting in-house efforts for a back-office system and following encouragement from his funders to find a suitable platform, Compass approached Taplin about implementing a CMS for the business, just as the UK went into its first lockdown.
Concurrently, through the British Business Bank, Compass was accredited to offer the Enterprise Finance Guarantee which subsequently evolved into the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS). Nelson explained that thanks to Taplin’s support at this time, Compass was both able to meet the BBB’s reporting requirements as well as carry on with its day-to-day lending commitments.
On the back of this experience, Compass entered talks with Taplin in 2020 and subsequently became HPD Lendscape’s first client to run live with the platform in the second half of 2021, an experience that has been mutually beneficial and was underscored on the night by the beaming smiles and firm handshakes shared by the two groups.
HPD Lendscape offers supply chain finance, invoice finance and factoring, and asset finance software, and Lendscape is currently operated by over 150 lenders across the UK, EMEA, North America, APAC, and Sub-Saharan Africa.