The Asset Finance Observatory – a network of industry-based researchers drawn from the Leasing Foundation Governors and Fellows who develop, perform and use research driven by the industry’s needs – is meeting for its first discovery workshop in London on 29 November 2013. The workshop is supported by Siemens Financial Services.
The Observatory’s first project is a qualitative, pan-European piece of research that looks at SME perceptions of, and decision-making around, asset finance products.
Professor Peter Thomas, the Foundation’s COO and leading international expert on customer experience research, says: “Numerous studies of SMEs and finance brokers have confirmed that even though asset-based finance is clearly beneficial for SMEs, the takeup of these products is still low. These studies suggest that negative perceptions of asset based finance providers as ‘lenders of last resort’ are commonplace, and that small businesses simply aren’t aware of alternative financing options. We want to look at these issues in much more detail than previously by identifying and define evolving customer needs, unpacking and redefining customer segments by examining factors including ownership structures, lifecycle stage and rate of growth, and to analyse product promotions and sales to understand the key moments of truth for small businesses.”
The Asset Finance Observatory is underpinned by the Leasing Foundation’s philosophy of ‘research by the industry, for the industry’: rather than outsource the development of the research methodology, research process and analysis of the results, the Foundation will work with a range of companies across the industry who have a vital interest in the research.
“It’s important that we do this research ourselves so that we generate actionable insights rapidly, transparently and in way that authentically represents an SME’s experience of understanding and using finance products” says Thomas. “Too much research is hard to apply in practice, and we want this work to help drive product innovation, shape sales processes and support marketing and communications. We also want the research to have the maximum impact, and so we’ll make the results available to UK and European policymakers, private investors, product manufacturers and operators of non-bank lending channels, as well as the leasing industry as a whole.”
The Asset Finance Observatory’s participants come from bank and non-bank lenders, manufacturers, independent lessors and advisers. The details of the methodology for the SME project will be released in December 2013. The Observatory will create a variety of projects in 2014 that look at key issues for the industry including innovation, skills, technology and political and regulatory changes.