Leasing Life Conference 2019: Enablers, not financiers
The world of leasing and asset finance descended on the Spanish city of Barcelona in November for the 15th annual Leasing Life Conference. Experts from across the European leasing industry gave insightful talks and took part in panel discussions on the issues and trends affecting the present and future of the market. Chris Lemmon reports.
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Technological and digital innovation dominated conversation during the conference, with the industry on a clear path to an online-led future. “What we’re going through is a cultural transformation, enabled by technology,” asserts Lindsay Town, chief executive of IAA-Advisory. “As opposed to a technology transformation, which needs the culture to catch up.”
This sentiment was echoed throughout the day, with speakers outlining the importance of moving processes into the digital age. “If we don’t do it, someone will come along and usurp us,” says Ben Sher, managing director of EMEA at Cloud Lending. “Technology is the future and we need to be thinking about it now. A core requirement for businesses is the ability to react to change efficiently and the introduction of technology will undoubtedly bring opportunities to the asset finance market.”
The green future
“The world is changing,” states Olivier Ouazana, chief international officer of GreenFlex – a company committed to sustainable resources in the leasing industry. “From governments around the world to the consumer, change is happening. Some 20 years ago there were only 80 laws across the whole world designed to fight climate change. Now there are more than 1,200.
“Consumers are more willing to buy sustainable products than they were in the past. Two years ago, for the first time, consumers ranked health above price when considering a purchase.”
In a separate talk, Carmen Ene, chief executive of 3stepIT, discusses the impact of electronic waste, which is the biggest growing type of waste globally. “IT waste now accounts for 50 megatonnes annually in the world. It’s the equivalent to 5,000 Eiffel Towers per year of waste – 14.2 towers daily.”
“There is a long way to go for true sustainability,” says Ene. “It’s not just in the environment, it’s in the business side and the social side – it’s in everything we do. Business-wide transformation is key to achieve this.”
However, Egbert De Jong, global head of asset management and advanced solutions at DLL, highlights the youthfulness of the circular economy movement. “Just 9% of the world is currently circular. That means that 91% of the materials that are produced, taken from the Earth and put into equipment and financed are wasted at the end of their lifecycle. This shows that despite all the good ambitions that the industry has, there is still a long way to go.”
A recurring theme throughout the day’s conference was the attractiveness of the industry to young talent.
The sustainability drive across the leasing space will encourage younger people to choose our sector as a career choice, according to Rees. “When I was in my 20s I am not sure sustainability was at the forefront of my decision to join the leasing industry but it is now a really strong card to play for younger people.”
The idea that a green focus serves to attract younger employees is one that has some legs. Ouazana notes that over two-thirds of millennials now consider the corporate social responsibility (CSR) policy as a key factor when considering a job opportunity.
Chris Sullivan, non-executive director of Alfa, adds that the industry needs to believe in itself to help draw people to leasing rather than other opportunities. “If we don’t think we are attractive, if we don’t think we are exciting, if we think we’re boring – what chance have we got of persuading the youngsters of today to come to our industry? Because we are going to need them.”
Enablers, not financiers
Lindsay Town, who deservedly picked up the Lifetime Achievement Award in Barcelona for his services to the leasing industry, said in his acceptance speech: “We as an industry are enablers, and not financiers. We work in an industry that has financed just about every capital asset on the planet; from satellites to submarines – and everything in between. That’s a true reflection of what we are – the enabler to the world’s business.”
Town stresses the point of attracting new and diverse talent to the leasing world, and the market’s need to be more open and accessible. “We work in an in industry that needs to start looking outwards for once, and not inwards.”