Figures released by the Finance & Leasing Association (FLA) show that total asset finance new business (primarily leasing and hire purchase) fell by 7% in February 2020 compared with the same month in 2019.

The IT equipment finance and plant and machinery finance sectors reported new business up in February 2020 by 10% and 1% respectively, compared with the same month in 2019.

But both the commercial vehicle finance and business car finance sectors reported falls in new business of 13% over the same period.

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Geraldine Kilkelly, head of research and chief economist at the FLA, said: “The asset finance market had made a slow start to 2020 and the coming months will see a significant slowdown in new business as the economic impact of the coronavirus is set to be greater than that experienced during the financial crisis.

“The asset finance market, as in previous crises, will play a vital role in helping SMEs and larger businesses recover. The FLA is calling for urgent action by the government to open up financial support schemes to non-bank lenders so that they can continue to provide new lending and at the same time meet the huge demand for forbearance.

“We believe the best way to do this is to create a Rapid Access Term Funding like Scheme that would be administered by the British Business Bank.”