Acquis responds to Arena Television scandal
Acquis Data Services, a newly incorporated entity, has launched Acquis Lumia, a register of asset finance borrowing that will provide a snapshot of a company’s current asset finance arrangements in a bid to support lending decisions, Acquis Insurance said in a press release.
The data hosting and processing company, which has four Acquis Insurance executives as its directors, has been developed with the cooperation of lessors from across the industry but will require sector-wide adoption if its benefits for lenders are to be realised.
“Acquis Lumia will assist asset finance providers to identify suspicious or irregular balance-sheet borrowing on a large scale. This provides a clear insight into a customer’s lending exposure, alerting the lender to possible fraudulent activity,” the press release said.
The asset register will benefit from Acquis’ “market and data expertise gained from working with over 120 leasing companies,” according to a statement.
Acquis said the platform will be available to lenders in the leasing industry “for a modest subscription fee, with no charge during 2022 and until Acquis Lumia has sufficient reach to deliver real value,” the company said.
Acquis began talks about its asset register proposal in the wake of the Arena Television scandal which broke in November 2021 when the outside broadcaster’s two directors suddenly closed the company and absconded, leaving behind unpaid debts of around £280m, owned predominantly to leasing companies.
The scandal has been described by the Sunday Times as one of the biggest alleged frauds in the history of asset-backed lending in the UK.
The investigation into the events at Arena Television has broadened from the initial review by Kroll, Arena’s court-appointed administrators, to the Serious Fraud Office, which is ongoing.
Acquis Data Services has four directors: Acquis Insurance’s Sam Farrar, EU finance director, Jeremy Miles, chief technology officer, James Rudolf, chief commercial officer, and Nick Leader, CEO.
Leader said: “Recent high profile fraud investigations have underlined what we all know is an unfortunate reality in the asset finance industry. Fraud is an ever-present threat. It’s estimated that as many as 50 asset finance lenders recently fell victim to a major financial crime of this nature, with many now facing significant financial losses. There are tools and processes in existence to help avoid and reduce fraudulent activity, but the reality is none of them provide a wide enough view across the asset finance lending market. More needs to be done to tackle the issues and offer asset finance lenders better insight and visibility to counter it.”
“There are at least six credit reference agencies being used by the industry to try to spot suspicious activity, but the reality is no single agency possesses enough market share to provide the level of oversight needed. By looking at a borrower’s overall asset finance exposure we can provide early warnings for potentially suspicious behaviour based on borrowers’ balance sheets.”
Leader added: “We have been partnering with an industry working party to deliver what will be an effective tool to lenders. The solution is simple, deliverable and will provide value quickly if the industry comes together and adopts it on a large enough scale. We are very sensitive to the impact of fraud on our clients. We are looking forward to unveiling the details and getting started on the rollout very soon.”