QuoteECS, Valentine’s Day and
Mills & Boon

Heart-breaking news this month as
the UK division of IT finance group ECS prepares to move from its
office in Richmond, after a quarter of a century in residence.

Appropriately enough for a group
founded on Valentine’s Day, ECS shares a building with Harlequin,
the publisher of the romantic Mills & Boon series of books, of
which the eminent readership of Leasing Life is doubtless
blissfully ignorant.

Its 25 year co-residence is
speculated to have inspired such M&B titles as The
Underwriter’s Bride
, Middle Ticket Liaison and
Sale and Loveback, as well as the racy To Kiss a

Still, this magical link between
the worlds of equipment finance and romantic fiction is not
entirely broken, as the new ECS office is understood to be only a
couple of streets away.


Communing with

Employees at fleet management and
leasing company Arval, part of the BNP Paribas group, are keen on
the great outdoors, Basement Talk has learnt.

At the fleet firm’s UK HQ in
Swindon, Wiltshire, there is an in-house wildlife team which has
tasked themselves with keeping log books of wild animal and bird
sightings, as well as organising nature rambles for other staff

The Arval office is located on the
edge of an industrial estate, bordering onto fields and copses, and
we are told the local wildlife is varied and abundant.

One senior staffer recounts how he
can sit and watch deer from his office window, while there was
apparently great excitement when employees of the car and van
lessor watched through the window as a sparrowhawk swooped on a
luckless sparrow.

Presumably, though, in between
these bouts of excitement, some actual work is being done.


Arval HQ



Privin’ on a

We will make this clear first –
BMW’s financial services division Alphera is one of the most
generous companies a trade magazine could hope to come across,
providing an exception to the industry-wide recessionary clampdown
on corporate hospitality offered to the press.

But even so, LL’s sister
publication Motor Finance was intrigued by the financier’s
recent invitation to join it at a performance by curiously spelled
stadium rock legend Bon Jon Bovi.

Whether this was a typo or an offer
to see a cunningly named tribute act, MF cannot wait to
see Mr Bovi perform such hits as Mad Bedicine, Glaze
of Bory
and Hay Your Lands On Me.


Nul points to

The editor of Leasing
sister title Motor Finance was surprised and
not a little concerned upon receipt of a letter of claim, sent by
Butterworths Solicitors of Bolton. Was someone threatening to sue

However, upon further reading any
fears were quickly allayed, as the letter made clear it was seeking
a claim in connection to a Payment Protection Insurance (PPI)
policy sold alongside a loan.

Now, MF may be many
things, but it is not a provider of either finance or PPI policies.
One would have thought that Butterworths would have worked that out
before firing off their letter.

For the record, it is the opinion
of the editor of MF that the claimant in question has a
strong case, given the circumstances under which the policy was
reportedly sold. The letter states the claimant was told he would
get a better interest rate with the cover, but he was not told the
costs of the premiums, nor was he told the cover was optional;
crucially, the policy was not suited to his work circumstances.


No stone left

While Leasing Life has
identified a huge move by the broker community towards supplying
extensive and honest customer and supplier information to lessors,
it is worth remembering that plenty of well-trusted introducers
have passed on their share of ropey business in happier years.

LL was particularly
surprised to learn of one intermediary which, despite enjoying
solid success in 2009, was once known for cheerily supplying
nothing but companies house numbers along with funding applications
in the boom years.


…What do you

A member of the Leasing
team was highly amused to see an electric van bearing the
legend “I don’t drink and I don’t smoke” outside our very glam West
London offices. A sign of a new spirit of Puritanism sweeping the
vehicular world, perhaps?


The ‘c’ word banned at
BVRLA dinner

The annual BVRLA dinner, held at
the Hilton Park Lane, was a cheery event this year. Guest numbers
were up by a third on last year, with 800 attendees, showing that a
measure of confidence has returned to the fleet rental and leasing

After-dinner speaker Michael
Portillo certainly earned his fee, with the right mix of humour,
self-deprecation and anecdote, without too much party political
campaigning. Comedian Frankie Boyle, meanwhile, was scabrous and
quick-fire, and well-received by the audience, but he appeared to
be holding back somewhat on the really offensive material.

“We told him he could say anything
except the ‘c’ word – ‘credit’, that is,” quipped a BVRLA

Indeed, chairman Kevin McNally’s
speech made mention of the continuing squeeze on credit for fleet

“There is a chronic shortage of
funding,” said McNally, whose day job is managing director of
LeasePlan UK.

He also made cryptic reference to
dark forces threatening the leasing industry, with new competitors
trying to muscle in.

It is understood he was referring
to the fleet departments of certain manufacturers, and one German
manufacturer in particular, which had attempted to introduce new
direct supply models which could have threatened lessors’ relations
with their preferred dealers.

It seems the BVRLA has persuaded
the manufacturer in question to modify its supply model to mollify
lessors, showing the benefit of industry associations.

In a sea of penguin suits – it is
fair to say that gender representation at the awards was hardly
50:50, and that men greatly outnumbered women among the attendees –
it was highly striking that, of the seven awards presented on the
night to upcoming and outstanding employees of fleet leasing and
rental companies, six out of seven were won by women. Indeed, all
three of the BVRLA’s ‘heroes’ awards – given to frontline staff who
have performed outstandingly over the past year – were awarded to

A sign of changes ahead for the
fleet industry?


How to set up a fleet

Imagine you are a huge UK company
in the telecommunications arena, with a very large fleet of
vehicles – everything from cars to vans to heavier trucks.

You decide to outsource the
management of your fleet and put out an invitation to tender.

It naturally excites great interest
from fleet providers, who salivate at the prospect of taking on
your 40,000-plus unit fleet.

Said fleet providers invest a great
deal of staff time and effort in producing detailed bids, setting
out pricing, supply terms, proposed maintenance arrangements,
driver management strategies and so on and so on.

You, the large company in question,
receive these bids gratefully – and promptly announce that you
will, in fact, manage your fleet in-house; but thank you very much
for those highly interesting folders full of information on how
best to run a fleet that you sent in, in any case – we are sure
they will come in very handy. You then set up a fleet management
division which looks for external clients, to add insult to

This (not so?) apocryphal tale may or may not have taken place
nearly a decade ago, allegedly, but the memory still presumably
rankles in some quarters.


zebra cartoon