Changing customer expectations are reshaping the asset finance industry. As Jochen Jehmlich, CEO, Societe Generale Equipment Finance (SGEF), points out, the key trend is a strong move away from traditional acquisition of equipment towards a usage and service-based approach, supported by innovations in technology.
Disruptive start-ups such as ride hailing service Uber have led the way on this, but the switch from a focus on owning equipment to wanting to pay for outcomes is spreading, facilitated by the use of data collected from connected devices as part of the Internet of Things (IoT).
Having a network of devices fitted to equipment and vehicles allows vendors, users and lenders to connect, interact and exchange data.
Jehmlich said: “SGEF recently provided financing solutions that included IoT in Brazil as well as in Germany in the medical, machinery and IT sector. Beyond providing accurate and immediate measurements, the usage data of IoT is a valuable source of knowledge which enables companies to offer their customers the best solutions. Overall, data will become increasingly important in all sectors, including leasing.”
Internet of Things
US tractor giant John Deere underlined the importance of connectivity and data acquisition when it paid over $300 million in 2017 for Blue River Technology, a Silicon Valley startup that is applying these, and other technologies to the agricultural business.
John Stone, senior vice president for Deere's Intelligent Solutions Group, explained: "Our roadmap is calling for machine learning and AI to find their way into every piece of John Deere equipment over time. This also applies to our construction and heavy equipment divisions, too."
The technology is used to build systems within the equipment that collect data as it is in use and sends it to the cloud where it can be retained and interrogated. An early application of Blue River’s technology applied machine learning to spraying equipment to reduce the amount of herbicide used in farming. The sprayer takes pictures of plants and by using machine learning techniques, it can determine which ones are weeds and which ones are crops, and only spray herbicide on the weeds.
How asset finance companies collect and use data and support their clients to do so was one of the issues explored in Alfa’s latest Digital Directions research report. This found that while 58% of respondents felt that they were able to collect data comprehensively across the customer journey, only 10% of respondents felt there were no gaps in their data collection.
The research identified a clear divide between “traditional” companies who have yet to fully take the plunge into digitalisation, and those who describe themselves as “progressive”, with a commitment to digital working throughout.
As Miguel Cabaça, Managing Director at Arval, explains, this means creating a digital ecosystem: “We are now using telematics extensively to add value and enable personalization of our messages to promote loyalty and retention. We are investigating how we can exploit the monetary opportunities from outsourced services and data collected from cars.”
In Alfa’s research, when asked about how comprehensively companies are able to collect data across the customer journey, there is no strong message from any sector - although, on the whole, progressive companies are faring better. What is clear is that none of them feel they are completely successful at this, as even the most progressive organizations recognize they could probably collect another 20% of data from the customer journey.
When asked if data was readily available or easily sharable in their company, only 28% agreed it was, but when asked if they had the tools required to analyze the data they had access to, 31% of respondents agreed and 14% strongly agreed that they did.
However, 58% felt they lacked tools to utilize the data they collected. More concerningly, of these the highest proportion, 57%, say the biggest gap is in asset usage data.
Chris Ballinger, Chairman of MOBI (Mobility Open Blockchain Initiative) and one of the interviewees for the report, points out: “It is not the volume of data which is important – it is the relevance.”
Of those respondents able to analyze data and gain insight, 64% either strongly disagreed, disagreed or were neutral that their organization acted upon this data. That means that only 36% of companies are currently actioning the insights gained through data collection and analysis.
Steve Taplin, Alfa’s Chief Digital Officer explains: ‘Data is often referred to as the ‘new gold’ but, as with anything precious, the key is to convert it into profits. Companies need to change their approach to data and see it as their greatest asset.”
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