After an 18-month spell working from home, the team is gradually returning to our offices to continue pursuing our remit of working with a small, targeted group of introducers and further develop its distinctive service-led, personalised approach to business. Here, Martin Stewart, our Managing Director, outlines Carrick’s Covid journey so far.
Naturally optimistic though I am, I’d never have expected our business to be in the positive position it is as we approach the third anniversary of our launch. Whilst it’s not lost on me that the tail of the Covid pandemic could yet provide some bumps in the road ahead, over the last year or so we’ve managed to progress and develop the Carrick operation in ways I wouldn’t have thought possible given the general trading environment.
The national sentiment of ‘we’re all in this together’ has played out in our little world as well, and the team’s determination to ensure the challenges of working from home didn’t cause any aspect of our service to fall away has been gratifying to watch.
I firmly believe our service has improved significantly as a result of the Covid crisis. With credit-decisioning times averaging 5.5 hours; a document production service for brokers that consistently produces the goods in two hours or less, and an execution capability that sees us payout over 95 per cent of transactions same-day – we’ve materially enhanced every dimension of our offering.
I think we can lay a credible claim to having a service proposition that’s up there with the best in the market, with regular feedback from our brokers suggesting we’ve flourished in areas where many others seemed to have struggled.
Our brokers have been hugely supportive over this time, and I can’t thank them enough for trusting us with their business, particularly when activity levels have been low and there’s been less to go around than normal.
We decided quite early on not to seek accreditation under the British Business Bank’s CBILS scheme. This left us able to focus on dealing with any customers requiring payment forbearance while simultaneously providing an uninterrupted and effective asset finance offering.
Our view was we’d rather try to do two things well rather than risk doing three things badly, and our brokers seem to have responded well to that approach. It meant there was an important strand of their business which we couldn’t service, but the portfolio growth we nevertheless managed to achieve shows there was still a good quantity of regular business available – which we were very happy to service.
A combination of consistent, reliable service and fair pricing has allowed us to develop a steadily increasing business flow over the last 18 months.
As our lending book has grown we’ve been able to demonstrate greater appetite for larger transactions, and in several recent months, more than a fifth of our total caseload has comprised cases involving balances beyond £100k – many of them significantly so.
Aside from that potential ‘back book’ risk though, I think the leasing industry can take great credit for its performance through this difficult time. What we’ve observed, through our broker interactions, is a sector that enjoys deep, practically-orientated customer relationships, and a product range unrivalled in its relevance and value to the businesses that use it. Customers have known who to turn to when help was required with new or existing funding requirements, and in many cases, it hasn’t been their bank manager.
Intermediaries operating in the market have rightly expected funders, whatever other pressures they are dealing with, to still service the demands of the asset-supply led sales-cycle that underpins every new deal. When the customer lets everyone know they’re taking delivery of the asset tomorrow, both they and the broker expect us (pandemic or not) to facilitate that – rather than being the reason it can’t happen.
There’s zero room for complacency, but thankfully Carrick seems so far to have passed that test and, over and above everything else, the thing I’m most proud of is that we’ve never paused our lending activities for a single day throughout the crisis.
We’ve recently strengthened our credit and operations functions; will be recruiting further business development staff over the next few months, and our outlook and day-to-day actions across the business are all underpinned by a fundamental optimism about the future.
We are intent upon doing everything we can to capitalise upon the near and medium-term opportunities we think are on the cusp of unfolding in the UK asset finance space and are excited about the prospects that lie ahead.
Reasons to be cheerful? We’re knee-deep in them.