Sponsored by Societe Generale Equipment Finance (SGEF)
Equipment Finance: People, Passion & Purpose
The Equipment Finance Industry is a fascinating ecosystem. As a new joiner – I joined SGEF only six years ago! – let me share with you a few observations which highlight the very positive perspectives of our industry.
Joining from the Investment Banking side of Societe Generale group, reputedly more glamourous, I have perceived on several occasions and in several countries – especially from the most senior teams – some kind of complex working in equipment finance (wrongly called ‘leasing’) as if it would be less shiny than other financing activities. Honestly, I don’t get it! I am convinced that the coming years will evidence how wrong those sceptics are. Why? Because equipment finance is about People, Passion and Purpose, three sustainable pillars.
Equipment finance is a People business, by the variety of the clients and partners we work with, by the depth of the connections we build with them and also with our teams.
First, equipment finance is much wider than leasing. SGEF has chosen as a motto: “A solution provider beyond equipment finance”, and this is for good reasons. Our mission is to provide financing solutions to a wide range of customers. Serving large corporates, SMEs and professionals with essential-use equipment be it technology, healthcare, green energy, transportation, construction, agriculture, printing, machine tools or material handling equipment. It would be difficult to be closer to the heart of the economy!
To be a true solution provider, this is all about building and growing the right relationships between our staff and our clients and partners. Thanks to this proximity, we can design the right solutions to address their needs. The recent circumstances and the unprecedented crisis the whole planet is currently going through have obviously reinforced this strong feature. We have been able to overcome adversity and support the economic rebound thanks to the strong and close relationships we are enjoying with our clients and partners. On one hand, we have supported them by accommodating many requests for payment deferrals. On the other hand, our vendor partners have also supported us by confirming their commitments to our partnerships, by extending their remarketing agreements, and by guaranteeing security values when terms where extended.
Besides, this crisis has highlighted the need for high quality relationships with and between our own teams. Once again you cannot expect happy customers and partners if you don’t start with your own staff. Remember, the first days of the crisis were about safety, protection and health. It was vital to create a secured base for our teams. Once this was assured, we were able to work all together, even remotely from our kitchens, living rooms or attics in the same direction and the same ambition. Keeping strong connection among the teams was a challenge calling for creativity, humor, check-in calls and trust. We did it! The level of commitment we observed from our teams has just been amazing. We are a People business.
Let’s look now at the second pillar: Passion. Passion for our territories and the balance between local and global. Passion for finding solutions to problems and needs.
Thanks to our teams’ strong engagement, we delivered a service beyond expectations in all the countries we are present in - 16 in total - all across Europe but also in the US, Brazil, China and Hong Kong. Our geographical footprint is a core element of our value proposition. Our presence in so many countries goes much beyond adding points to a map. It is about passion for the various countries and territories we are in, offering the right balance between a global approach and local proximity: Global approach, especially for our international vendor partners, to guarantee efficiency with a single entry point into our company. Consistency from one country to another (and we all know that this is challenging. Despite what our US friends’ usually wish, Europe is not one single country with unified legal and tax system). Homogenous customer experience with an international approach especially for multi-country transactions or large corporate clients with development plans and equipment needs in several countries.
Local proximity to fit the customers’ needs and constraints, to understand their business models, markets and closest environment. Offering these two focal distances (local and global) fuels our teams’ engagement and dedication.
Let’s switch now to our can-do mindset and capacity to fall in love with our clients and partners problems. Our teams engage with partners and end users and make sure that their problems become our problems. With focus and ambition, we work closely with them to find the right financing solutions for their investment needs. Our industry has the reputation of being resilient. We have little massive drops and few amazing ups. Do we deserve such a reputation? Yes, we do. And the recent crisis was a great and unmissable opportunity to confirm it. Financial essential use assets trigger better payment behavior from end customers who really need the equipment to run their business either as revenue generators, expenses saving source or key element of their business processes. They will try their best to honor their financial obligations relating to the funding of their equipment. Our teams have stayed very close to clients and partners to find once again solutions to go through the crisis together and to protect clients’ businesses, be it for SMEs, family business or large corporates. We are passionately trying to support them and exit the crisis. Passion has allowed this crisis management and will allow to safely go through the ones to come. Our teams enjoy the intricate relationships with local ecosystems from end users, manufacturers, resellers, distributors, service providers, infrastructures, public authorities, insurance companies, technology providers, universities. Our presence in so many sectors and for so various clients allow us to catch the global picture which is so crucial in our VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world. It allows us to build solutions in a collaborative way leveraging on the massive collective intelligence of the various stakeholders. Passion is an incredible source of renewable energy!
We have engaged and passionate people. They are key to the success and relevance of our business. Will it be a sustainable resource? I strongly believe that the answer to this fundamental question is yes, thanks to the third pillar of our industry: its Purpose. Our industry will be core to the profound transformation waves our societies and economies are going and will go through. In order to properly address those changes and challenges, we need to have the right people and to bring more diversity, in all meanings of this word. It is crucial to understand our clients in their diversities and to build new solutions. We have often discussed the trend of new consumptions models: From ownership to leasing and now from usage to output. Climate change and the imperatives of living and working in a more frugal world mean building ecosystems based on sharing, recycling, and designing early in the manufacturing process circular economy features.
Together with People and Passion, Purpose is fueling inspiration and motivation of the teams, as much from our perspective that from clients and vendors’ perspective. Human beings need to see the purpose of their jobs to keep inspiration and motivation up. The various lockdowns over the last eighteen months have pushed everyone to deeply enquire whether we are at the right place with the right people doing the right job without betraying our inner child’s dreams and aspirations. Our industry is proving that we are useful, it is worth waking up and going to work. It is worth helping hospitals to get new equipment and to increase prevention and diagnostic. Building solutions to support the energy transition, with new asset classes such as energy efficiency solutions, LED lighting, photovoltaic panels, charging stations for the ongoing electrification of our mobility is relevant and useful. I have the regular opportunity to coach and train students for future interviews to apply for a university or a first job. I am always impressed by their immediate aspiration to have a meaningful job. Only few of them are ready to sacrifice their first years as an investment to accelerate their careers if it does not make sense to them. In my opinion, they are right. Life is bringing changes, uncertainties, discoveries, surprises at an increased pace of change. The very minimum structure we can bring to our lives is to be aligned with our personal aspirations. Bringing relevant solutions, having a true sense of purpose will allow us and our successors to contribute to the massive challenges ahead of us, starting with CSR. Being useful to the society is fueling our creativity and capacity to collaborate and innovate across sectors, across skills.
With People, Passion and Purpose, equipment finance in that respect benefits from an ideal position to attract talents, renew its resources and shine long and far.