Three issues – all currently unanswered – have dominated 2019 and look set to do the same in the coming 12 months. The first is, unsurprisingly, Brexit. It is tempting to gloss over it, but not only are we no clearer about the eventual outcome, but we have no real idea if the lack of a decision hurt the asset finance industry or if, conversely, the stockpiling helped, although we can probably all agree that uncertainty doesn’t generally accelerate investment.
Secondly, broker fees. Did 2019 spell the beginning of the end for broker fees as we’ve always known them? The FCA is acting to change how broker fees are paid in the motor industry and their press release contained a statement ‘these changes would apply to many types of credit brokers and not just those selling motor finance’.
Lastly, recession. With continued sluggish economic performance, the question on many lips is whether we are about to enter a Europe-wide recession, and will it be as severe as 2008, and will lenders react the same way, will there be a shortage of liquidity? Regardless of the Brexit we end up with – or not! – Close Brothers Asset Finance and Leasing will continue to lend into Germany and Ireland. Our current volumes in all our territories are unaffected and we had a record year in 2019. A recession also holds no fears for us – we have performed well in previous downturns and expect to
grow faster in the next. Should we be looking for new forms of broker relationships, with annuity income? The asset finance industry is remarkably resilient and will survive but it must react more quickly to change. Looking ahead, the larger lenders will need to complete their digital journeys to hit the new timescales expected by regulators and customers; brokers will spend more time protecting their licences. With no real certainty, the message from Close Brothers Asset Finance and Leasing is that we will be there with you through the cycle!