With six months trading now under their belts there’s a distinctly positive ‘end of the beginning’ feeling in the air at Carrick Asset Finance. In this short piece, Carrick’s finance director Martin Stewart takes stock of the market and explains how this start-up operation is finding its feet:
We launched Carrick Asset Finance in October last year, confident in the notion we knew exactly what our key challenges would be. It was all going to be about price – right? Oh, and achieving differentiation in a busy marketplace and, not forgetting of course having to compete with the stretched credit terms currently on offer across the sector.
Well, while we have been touched to some extent by each of these issues, we’ve happily so far managed to navigate our way to a position ahead of even our most optimistic of forecasts. We’re hyper-aware there’s no room whatsoever for complacency but are quietly very pleased at the progress we’ve made since opening for business, and the great reception we’ve had from the market. Our early sense is of some good momentum building as our business matures and of developing a healthy pipeline of both hard and soft asset business as we move into the traditionally strong Spring trading period.
In fact, what we’ve discovered is that the main challenge in establishing the business has been one of communication. Despite only working with a relatively small panel of introducers, it’s been a big exercise to get our message across to the people that matter. Making sure decision makers and sales people across our broker base have a clear view of our risk appetite, our approach to pricing, and our general way of working is obviously pivotal. The UK asset finance intermediary space is thriving and given the scale and geographical reach of many of the firms we’ve developed partnerships with, that process of engagement and explaining our offering is an ongoing one, and central to our success.
Fortunately, our management team are quite well known in asset finance circles, and the introducers we’ve approached have all been very willing to talk and develop business relationships, often because they have had productive connections with us in the past. This has unquestionably been a real help in getting us up and running and has accelerated what could have otherwise been a more protracted process. We actually managed to complete the formal onboarding of more than half our introducer panel within a fortnight of our launch, meaning we were writing business very early on in that first month of trading, and that got us off to a very strong start.
The process of engaging with brokers and spreading the word goes on unabated though because we fully recognise we’ve no divine right to business. With brokers having a larger choice of lenders than ever before, particularly in the Tier 2 arena, the market is ultra-competitive and the need for both clarity and awareness around our offering, and for us to be as communicative and accessible as possible to our brokers are absolutely minimum requirements if we want to build on the early foothold we’ve gained. Luckily, so far, our brokers have been listening, with things like our documentation production service or our process of wherever possible agreeing higher value credit lines when reverting with a transactional approval, really seeming to have caught people’s attention and have helped us gain the early traction we have.
Looking forward, there’s no escaping the endless discussions and speculation about the UK’s political situation and the possible impacts this could have on the economy and capital investment. Like everyone else, we’ll just have to deal with matters as they unfold, however we do take comfort from the generally resilient nature of the ‘real’ economy and the subsectors of that which we typically fund.
Whether things improve, stay the same, or deteriorate in some way – time will tell, but as a new entrant to the market we’re very keen to keep growing. We’re confident that our combination of experienced management, high-quality introducer base, and the natural agility we have as new business will stand us in good stead. We take absolutely nothing for granted though and will keep working hard to push our message out there and continue developing a distinct and value-added offering for our introducers.