The Asset Finance Connect Autumn Conference 2023 held in London on 29th November was an outstanding success with record numbers attending. Some 500 industry professionals heard presentations from a broad range of speakers from the auto, equipment and asset finance sectors, and made the most of the opportunity to network and catch up with colleagues.
The AFC Autumn Conference, with FIS as the headline sponsor, considered the key insights, topics and trends which the industry tells us are on their minds, taken from the new AFC asset finance outlook half-yearly confidence survey, available to download now at https://7622636.hs-sites.com/outlook-report-h2-2023
In the stream sessions, delegates had the opportunity to examine the critical issues facing their sector.
The morning’s keynote session saw University of Warwick Professor David Greenwood, MotoNovo Finance’s Richard Jones and CA Auto Bank’s Marcella Merli join AFC’s head of content David Betteley to delve into sustainability and the attitudes of the main UK political parties. With a general election on the horizon, the panel looked at what auto and equipment finance companies can expect from Tory and Labour policies and what they need from UK Government to help power the transition to green.
Focusing on auto, the panel agreed that there is a need to provide confidence in new and used electric vehicles (EV), their batteries, and the charging infrastructure, in order to fuel demand. It was also recognised that incentives are needed for retail customers purchasing a new or used EV, such as those offered in European markets including social leasing in France.
In the equipment finance stream, AFC’s equipment finance community head John Rees was joined by an eminent group of experts from finance providers and OEMs who are involved in vendor partnerships, joint venture and captive finance operations. The expert panel including Steve Bolton, PEAC Solutions; Peter Townend, Odessa; Vincenzo Scalzone, SGEF; Karima Haji, Scania; and Paul Jennings, ANSENresearch discussed how technology-driven change, regulation and the growing importance of sustainability are driving change in vendor finance and affecting the choices between different finance arrangements that are made by OEMs.
In the asset finance stream, AFC’s asset finance community leader Stephen Bassett and his panel of UK asset financiers discussed how the asset finance industry can meet emerging economic and compliance challenges.
Simply’s Ylva Oertengren presented the results of AFC’s Autumn asset finance confidence survey and explored how the panel members - Mark Nelson, Compass Business Finance; Matt Roper, Close Brothers; Nathan Mollett, United Trust Bank; Nova Everidge, Metro Bank; and Richard Davies, Allica Bank - view the outlook for the industry for the next six months, focusing on the economic environment and its impact on the asset finance sector, with changing appetites to lend and borrow, increased defaults, changes in new business volumes, as well as the impact of increasing compliance costs with the withdrawal of funders from regulated business, and the effect of the proposed Basel 3.2 standards on lending to SMEs.
The panel also discussed how the broker-lender channel could be more streamlined, focused and organised with the introduction of a new industry digital platform to mitigate increasing compliance costs and to build an efficient digital customer journey which blends automation and personal service. Katrin Herrling provided an update on Funding Xchange’s activities, focusing on the Smart Finance Hub platform for brokers and lenders.
Following feedback from the AFC confidence survey about the rising cost of regulation, David Betteley spoke with Professor Karen Elliott; Michael Stewart, Mazda Financial Services; Rachael Jones, Auto Trader; and Wayne Gibbard, Shoosmiths on whether Consumer Duty is delivering real benefits for consumers or just adding additional cost for finance providers.
The panel discussed how the digital journey can provide both pros and cons for businesses and customers alike regarding Consumer Duty – providing a digital audit trail and safety net for businesses but also adding additional cost and placing a larger burden on small business leading to them leaving the market, whilst giving customers easier access to financial products but not focusing on vulnerability issues. This all highlights the need for an omnichannel approach with human interaction still an essential component of the customer journey.
The extension of Consumer Duty to the unregulated space was raised, with the panel unanimously agreeing that they see the Consumer Duty principles moving to unregulated business in the near future.
In the leaders’ interview, David Betteley spoke to the new Finance & Leasing Association (FLA) chair John Phillipou about the opportunities and challenges he sees for the UK asset finance industry as he starts his tenure, focusing on economic, technological, regulatory and ESG issues.
In the technology session, sponsored by Lendscape, Steve Taplin was joined by Andy Trimmer, Simply; Graham Lines, Novuna Business Finance; Katherine Meredith, Paragon Bank; and Martin Goodson, Evolution AI who explored the likely short-to-medium-term impact of data and AI on asset finance, discussing the practical applications and barriers to the adoption of AI in the sector.
Product and technology specialist in asset finance, Jason Hurwitz, discussed the importance of using technology to enhance relationships in the asset finance industry, in a session sponsored by NETSOL Technologies.
Specialist industry workshops
Asset Finance Connect’s Credit Decisioning Workshop, moderated by Murad Baig, Strategic Advisor to CA Auto Bank, Product Strategist at Data Pilot and Entrepreneur in Residence at Illuminate Financial, brought together 50+ top minds across asset and auto finance in the UK, all with the goal of listening to the customer and engaging in breakout sessions with industry-leading SMEs from technology vendors, fintech and consulting. Through this, various themes and business outcomes were uncovered that drive credit decisioning across asset and auto finance.
Moderated by Stephen Bassett, AFC’s head of asset finance community, and Trevor Pirie from Alexander Angel, Brokerzone held its first physical congress in a closed workshop at the Asset Finance Connect Conference, with some 30 of its members attending from all around the country.
A community of like-minded and experienced brokers, Brokerzone members handle very significant and growing volumes of business, and the AFC workshop provided a good opportunity for that community to come together and share any issues its members are facing, all with the intent of improving market methods and standards.
Specific initiatives were discussed, including members working alongside SmartFinance Hub to help smooth out the unnecessary inefficiencies of proposal handling in the market, by using a single platform which adds real value for funders and brokers alike. The ability to better qualify deals before they are proposed helps brokers massively and reduces re-keying, whilst filtering out ill-fitting cases and reducing rejection rates is a real boon to funders.
Brokerzone has come of age and is no longer just a talking shop, it has started to take positive action and is now making that known, mainly to attract other like-minded brokers and increase its influence, but also because it is happy to work with any other parties which can demonstrably help it move its own projects forward further faster.
Asset Finance Connect’s Next Generation Workshop, in association with the Leasing Foundation, shines a spotlight on the industry’s young professionals and promotes critical networking skills for the emerging talent.
The session included a presentation on diversity and inclusion in the auto finance sector from CA Auto Bank's Marcella Merli, followed by a senior leaders’ interview with Mike Randall, Simpy; Alice Altemaire, Mobilize Financial Services; Marcella Merli, and moderated by Time Finance’s Steve Nichols
The workshop included a roundtable session where NextGen attendees could network and discuss challenges in career developments, focusing on diversity and inclusion, career breaks, and social mobility, with their peers whilst gaining insight from asset finance industry leaders who were moderating the roundtable discussions.
30 under 30 announced
The Leasing Foundation announced who has made it into the 2023 30 under 30 index, sponsored by Acquis Data Services, at the AFC Autumn Conference 2023. See the 2023 30 under 30 listing at https://www.assetfinanceinternational.com/index.php/people/members-blogs/members-blogs/leasing-professionals/23169-the-leasing-foundation-reveals-the-2023-30-under-30-rising-stars-in-asset-finance.
Published annually, the 30 under 30 initiative aims to recognise individuals’ exceptional talent, showcase their achievements, and reward their passion, creativity, and brilliance.
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