Simon Beare, Regional Sales Manager in our transport division tells us about his background in finance and his predictions for the transport industry in 2021.
Tell us about your work history?
I’ve worked in finance for coming up to 20 years in total. I started working at a local bank as a Customer Advisor and worked my way up to Branch Manager. Around 12 years ago I started working in the Commercial Finance industry and worked in Invoice Finance for around six years before moving to Close Brothers Asset Finance. This was my first role working in Asset Finance and therefore there was quite a steep learning curve!
What do you find most rewarding and challenging about your role?
The most rewarding part of the job is being able to deliver solutions to our customers in a quick and concise way. I believe that we offer an excellent customer proposition at Close Brothers where the customer gets exactly what they are expecting, and we are able to turn the deal around in a short space of time. On that basis our customer satisfaction scores are always very high.
The biggest challenge is the competition that we have to deal with. There are a large number of finance companies and Brokers who are looking to deal with the same customers as Close Brothers, so it is important that we set ourselves apart by delivering the best possible service.
How has the Covid-19 pandemic affected your industry specifically?
Covid-19 has affected most businesses in the Transport sector to a greater or lesser degree. The majority of businesses saw a downturn during the initial lockdown in March to June 2020. However, haulage and courier businesses in particular were extremely busy through the majority of the year, with this increase being driven by additional home deliveries and increased demand from online shoppers and increased traffic at supermarkets.
On the other side – any businesses supplying to the leisure/ tourism sector (mainly taxi, chauffeur and coach firms) have had a very tough year, due to people not being able to travel to events, go on holiday or travel in general.
How have you and your team ensured the wellbeing of both staff and customers throughout lock down?
At the Burton office we have all worked together as a team to make sure that all our customers have been supported through this difficult period. Initially, we were assisting our collections team with arranging payment holidays during the initial lockdown and since June we have been working very hard as a team processing numerous Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) facilities to help businesses continue to trade and ensure that they are still here once the Covid-19 situation has finished. I think as an office, we have really pulled together to get all the deals over the line.
In terms of the team we have regular Web-Ex calls to make sure that everyone is feeling OK and personally, I always try and speak to people on the phone as much as possible rather than send emails just to make sure that I get to speak to as many of the team as I can! The team made sure that everyone, including homeworkers, were involved in the Charity Week and we had a Christmas Drinks Web-Ex in December to make up for the fact that we weren’t having a Christmas Do. So overall, I think things have been as good as they could be in the current circumstances.
What are your predictions for your industry for the next 12 months?
Predictions for anything are a bit tricky at the moment! But I do think that there will be some pain to come for a number of customers as Bounce Back and CBILS loan payments commence or increase but I also think there are some positives too – leisure and tourism will come back with a bang, because people have had enough of sitting at home! So that will be good news for all the taxi drivers and coach operators. Also, HS2 work is due to start this year which should hopefully bring a large amount of work for a number of sectors, particularly in my area in the West Midlands.