Young customers and how their needs should shape innovation in the leasing industry were at the heart of the debate at the first meeting of the Leasing Foundation Catalysts.

The Catalysts – Artti Aurasmaa, chief executive of 3 Step IT, Nick Gallop, marketing director for Dell Financial Services, and Roger Skinner, chief executive of Maxxia – were hosted by Andrew Denton, chief executive of Leasing Foundation, at CHP Consulting’s London office on 19 March.

The group discussed how industry-wide innovation can be achieved and embedded in the industry’s culture, and, from the opening of the meeting, the customers’ needs were identified as the fundamental guiding principal.

Introducing the Catalysts, Denton said the leasing industry was innovative – in its approach to deal structures, products and services – yet there was no framework for innovation within the industry.

The Catalysts, he said, aimed to start creating such a framework.

Denton opened the debate with a short video clip of Steve Jobs, the late Apple founder and chief executive, explaining how Apple product development always started with what a customer wanted rather than a new piece of technology.

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Aurasmaa, summarising his whitepaper on leasing’s role in a more sustainable economy, said customers, particularly in younger generations, no longer want to own things, requiring instead only access to the right goods. Leasing, therefore, was perfectly placed to satisfy this changing attitude and take an even greater role in managing business assets in a resource-scarce world.

"A sharing economy is inevitable and leasing has the tools to facilitate this," he said.

Skinner added the younger generation live in a "more transparent world" and want greater transparency in their business dealings. The leasing industry should reflect this and become more open and transparent in how it structures deals, he said.

Denton added the values of Generation Y – those born between 1980 and 2000 – need to be taken into account when recruiting younger people into the industry. He said they prioritise social responsibility and work environment over which industry they work in and the industry needs to communicate those values to young recruits.

The Catalysts also discussed the extent to which research and development can be used to drive innovation and Gallop said Dell FS had canvassed feedback from its end-user customers, both those that chose to finance and those that did not, and the manufacturer’s sales team to understand what customers really required from finance.

All the Catalysts agreed the leasing industry had a habit of asking lessees what they thought of leasing rather than those that don’t use finance. Roughly 80% of fixed capital investment in Europe is not financed, the group said, and if innovation was based on the needs of those customers, the leasing industry could see dramatic growth.

"We could double or triple the size of the industry if we knew about those who don’t finance," said Aurasmaa.

The Catalysts meeting was broadcast live online and is available as a sound recording.