As we hear about the shortages hitting the leasing industry once
again, funding getting more severe, lesser-quality credits having
to scramble a bit more vigorously for their facilities, and less
enthusiasm from venture capital providers, there is one shortage
that I believe is more serious than all the rest – quality
people.

The recent concern from many parts of the industry that there is
a severe shortage of good quality candidates for the many jobs on
offer is disturbing. It doesn’t seem so long ago that I read with
fascination a piece in “The Eye”, written, it seemed to me,with
great enthusiasm, about a survey of senior executives in the
leasing industry.

It lauded the average age of many recent appointments being
substantially lower than that we have seen over the past few years.
It reported that “this new blood represented a transformation of
the industry with new ideas, renewed focus and different ways of
working”.The suggestion seems to be that the average age of the
senior executives can come down, but with no apparent loss of
knowledge or experience to our industry – the word ‘tosh’ comes to
mind.

I wonder if there is a connection between the need for young
blood to learn the various aspects of the business coupled with the
lack of candidates, and the burning ambition to be top dog before
learning the basics of running a company.

Surely we haven’t reached a situation where the 40-something
chief executive thinks that he or she will learn nothing new
between 40 and 60. It would be sad, indeed, if that were the
case.To feel that one’s career ‘tops out’ at 40 is to be as self
deluded as thinking that 40 is the age to try for the 10-second 100
metres.

The more problematical issue for the leasing industry is that
the falling age of the new generation of leasing leaders is not by
design, but more as a result of the downgrading of the leasing
business within banking groups to one of ‘product’ rather than
‘alternative business’. Measured by portfolio size, profit
contribution, market penetration or any other factor; the fact is
that banks are increasingly managed by numbers and processes rather
than innovation or customer service.

Many banks are frightened by doing something new, or employing
different kinds of people, and instead prefer to hide behind being
one of the crowd.

It is sad to see the erosion of personal service being replaced
by systemsdriven processes managed by faceless people with no
mandate to deal sensibly with customers.

Our leasing industry was founded on customer service and
innovation.Where will it come from in the future? I hope the growth
of the independent and captive will answer that question.What will
then happen, also learning from historical habit, is that the banks
will try to buy them to add more turnover, go through the process
of integration, take away the real reason for the success, which is
usually the people, and the circle continues.

While we have some of our leasing industry still intact, let’s
inject as much innovation as we can, both via technology and
product, delivery and service, thus showing the banks the way to
success.This is a people business. Let’s go out and find the
quality staff and train them well; that way we will have less
concerns for the future health of the industry.

Derek Soper
A principal at The Alta
Group