I’ve often spoken, here and elsewhere, of how the leasing industry can better position itself as a vital product within the public consciousness.
As anyone can tell from the undercurrent of discussion when lessors compare notes, asset finance organisations across the continent are being weighed up against other lending businesses by shareholders, and compared against other means of commercial finance by potential customers. They must work hard to convince both of their value.
One way the strength of the asset finance product can be bolstered is for it to become an integral part of the industries of which vendor customers, in particular, are a part.
The march of progress in the field of IT, highlighted in this month’s asset feature (Life in transition page 16-17), shows huge developments in the way companies use software which will – if they have not done so already – change the world.
Finance plays a vital part in enabling companies to adapt to these changes and ultimately improves what they can do to the benefit of their customers. As GE Capital’s Christian Bernhard says in the piece, “nobody can pay cash for that”; quite simply, finance is a vital component in the software models that are emerging.
At last year’s Leasing Life conference, Lindsay Town suggested leasing could well be described as a service rather than a financial product and the idea is far from radically new.
The fleet sector, for example, has for some time aligned itself under the concept of ‘mobility’ as a service. It is not about financing vehicles, it is about providing mobility for businesses – and ultimately people – at a given rate.
The near-ubiquity of the term ‘solution’ shows us that lessors see their offering as more than just a way of paying for something or lending money. If they can convince customers and shareholders alike of the same thing, their prosperity will be assured for some time.
As a journalist reporting on the industry, it is not for me to dictate these sort of changes, but I will stress that Leasing Life is a platform for you, the members of the industry, to discuss these and other ideas.
I’ve made a lot of noise previously about what a good idea it is for readers to write in with their views, both private and public, and to air them online via twitter or our LinkedIn group. I’m also not too proud to admit that these feelings are partly motivated by modern publishing’s hunger for “user-generated content”.
However, I also know that word from those working at the coalface of the asset finance market is an essential counterpart to the kind of analysis that journalists – with the best will in the world – can only ever achieve from a distance.
Like Chris Stamper of ING Lease’s letter to the editor last month, reader correspondence sheds light on subjects – in that instance government-assisted lending schemes – where the reaction of the asset finance industry to the issue at hand is the most important half of the story.
This month, we print a letter from Aldermore leasing chief George Ashworth, in his capacity as an FLA board member, inviting collaboration and coordination between the increasing number of organisations connecting leasing companies (Golden opportunity page 22). I hope it encourages yet more letters from subscribers.
George has a lot to say on how those with a proactive attitude can raise the profile and promote the interests of the asset finance industry. I think anyone would agree that there has rarely been a more important moment to make efforts in this direction.