For more than 30 years we have influenced the success of the transport sector with our alternative funding solutions. Even at times of severe uncertainty, such as the recession, we continued to help the sector with finance solutions that result in long term growth.
With Brexit on the horizon and the differing clean air strategies put in place by councils across the country, uncertainty regarding what is required is heightened. In this context, organisations in the sector may need different borrowing advice. We have a wealth of knowledge in solving these problems.
John Fawcett, CEO of our Transport Division, recently spoke to Transport Britain about his experience in the transport industry and why the solutions of Close Brothers Asset Finance are so highly regarded in the wider sector.
Could you explain the origins of your company and how it has developed?
Close Brothers Asset Finance has been helping businesses since 1987, with offices in Tolworth and Derby. Further expansion quickly followed across the UK, including opening transport, print, manufacturing, engineering and sector specialist businesses.
To supplement the organic growth, various acquisitions were also made, including those of professions specialists, Braemar Finance, Kingston Asset Finance and various brokerages.
Today, we are the largest non-high street bank in the UK with thousands of customers across the UK, Ireland and Germany.
What does your asset finance sector experience provide the transport industry and how has this developed?
It’s worth taking a quick look at what asset finance actually is. Asset Finance is an alternative form of funding used by businesses – including those in the transport sector - to obtain the equipment they need to grow.
It usually involves paying a regular charge for use of the asset over an agreed period of time, avoiding the full cost of buying outright.
Over the years it has proved increasingly popular because of the flexibility of our finance products, which include:
- Capital release: The finance company purchases your asset and finances it back to you. You then use the funds generated to then pay for, for example, expansion plans, working capital, etc.
- Hire Purchase (HP): allows the customer to buy the equipment on credit. The finance company purchases the asset on behalf of the customer and owns the asset until the final instalment is paid.
- Operating lease: An operating lease may be more appropriate if a company does not need the equipment for its entire working life. The leasing company may retain responsibility for maintenance and is likely to take the equipment back at the end of the lease period.
How long have you worked within Transport?
We’ve been involved in the transport sector for over 30 years, providing finance for all classes of vehicles, from cars, buses and coaches to vans and trucks.
How did the company sense that transport was a market with potential and how have you maximised this?
The transport sector is hard to ignore – it’s grown hugely over the years, with changes and advancements on a number of fronts, including lower emissions and changing consumer demands.
We understand that the transport sector is a vital part of our economy – the link in the chain that so many other industries rely upon.
However, tighter margins, increased fuel costs and stringent European legislation are putting increasing pressure on many businesses in the industry. To overcome these constraints, and remain open to opportunities for growth, calls for careful planning and a sound financial strategy.
We have years of experience in arranging finance for the transport sector, which has given our specialist team in-depth industry knowledge. We work with our customers to find funding solutions that spread the cost of investment in new vehicles, or release working capital from their current fleet and equipment.
We have a national presence, with offices across the UK, which helps us maximise our coverage through local presence.
In what areas of transport have used your expertise?
Across the board, from cars, bus and coach to haulage and logistics.
We’ve even helped a company diversify into LGV training by developing a market-leading HGV training centre. We used our Sale and HP back product to raise capital for ventures unsupported by the banks.
Close Brothers’ detailed understanding of our customer and the industry led to a structured deal that offered a VAT deferral to support cash flow and allow the customer to retain ownership of the asset at the end of his agreement.
How does Close Brothers Asset Finance stand out to the transport industry?
We’ve won a number of prestigious awards over the years for being the ‘go to’ finance provider in the transport industry.
The reasons we win these awards are, ultimately, for our outstanding customer service, on which our business model is based upon. We can provide this level of service because we hire from within the sector, which means our team speaks the language of the customer.
We’re also willing to lend through all economic cycles, as was proved during the financial crisis of 2008 where we were one of the very few lenders who remained committed to SMEs despite the difficulties they faced.
Other reasons are:
- Joining forces with the RHA (Road Haulage Association) to launch a pioneering programme to help SMEs secure the skills they need for future growth by recruiting young drivers into the transport sector. Through the ‘RHA/Close Brothers SME Apprentice Scheme – 20/20’, we will contribute to the cost of apprentices for 20 SME members of the RHA (those with less than 20 vehicles) who might otherwise be unable to afford to take on a new apprentice Large Goods Vehicle driver.
- We are proud sponsors of Duo Motorsport driver Rob Austin who competes in the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) and Darren Turner of Aston Martin, a factory driver in the FIA World Endurance Championship.
What do you provide clients that other companies cannot?
I can’t speak on behalf of other companies, but in addition to the reasons already outlined, the time we invest in understanding our customers’ businesses, our specialised service and willingness to put together bespoke deals are almost unmatched.
Who are your clients?
We don’t have a typical customer – whoever has need of a vehicle could be our customer, regardless of what they do.
How has the move towards cleaner fleets and the drive to reducing air pollution affected your business? How have you adapted?
We are working closely with key players in this field and are actively involved in championing reduced air pollution. For example, we have partnered with Green Urban to help businesses meet their Euro 6 requirements for Clean Air Zones. This includes upgrading to a new Euro 6 Vehicle or converting older vehicles to meet the Euro 6 standard.
We are also members of Low CVP and are working with a number of key suppliers about supporting our customers to transition to low carbon vehicles.
What are the plans for the future of the business?
Our plans amount to keep doing what we do well, which is maintaining great relationships with our customers and adapting to their needs while also adapting to changing customer demands through all stages of the economic cycle.