Making business finance simple

Many new and established Northamptonshire businesses struggle to gain access to the finance they need to get off the ground or expand. Rory Dunn, Sales Director at Portman Asset Finance, explains how asset finance can be a flexible solution – as well as an effective strategy for growth…

Q: What is asset finance and who is it for?

RD: It is a financial tool for business owners to secure a variety of key assets that can grow their company. You make fixed regular payments for the use of an asset over an agreed period between 1-10 years. Asset finance is now one of the most accessible and flexible sources of funding out there.

Why should local businesses use asset finance?

If you need equipment to start up or expand your business, then asset finance is ideal because you can secure the funding against the asset itself. Use the right product for the right purpose – loans are not linked to assets, for example, and are best used for cashflow or paying for anything unsecured. Payments on our lease finance agreements are also tax deductible, giving customers further savings.

Why don’t businesses just pay for what they need in one lump sum?

Companies need to retain cash for unforeseen circumstances that often arise in business, or even seasonal dips in revenue. Asset finance saves you from the cost of buying an asset outright and preserves your working capital, freeing you up to invest in other areas of the business. Additional sales staff can generate more profit than the cost of a few per cent on an asset finance deal.

How important is it for companies to preserve their working capital?

In my 11 years at Portman I’ve seen first-hand that working capital is the lifeblood of a successful business. Assets should always work and pay for themselves. In my experience from our base in Northampton, people don’t tend to access asset finance until they really need it – I’d stress the value in thinking about it much earlier to cover your back and retain your cash.

What kind of companies can benefit from asset finance?

Many start-ups and small-to-medium established businesses across all sectors find it ideal because they can gain quick access to the top-of-the-range equipment they need to grow. They are also attracted to asset finance due to the flexible repayments on offer as well as the low rates, tax benefits and the wide range of assets that can be funded.

What particular assets can be financed?

More than what many people may imagine. We can fund any sort of asset, be it a traditional ‘hard’ asset such as tractors, forklifts, vans and machinery to ‘soft’ assets like office or gym equipment, furniture, air-con systems and IT software packages such as CAD, Sage or Microsoft Dynamics.

How easy is it to access asset finance, and how long does the process take?

Asset finance is extremely quick and easy to access, although this often depends on how well positioned the provider is. For instance, a broker like Portman is well placed to secure finance and move swiftly because we have a broad spectrum of lenders at our disposal, so we can offer varying rates and find the right deal for companies in a range of circumstances. We aim to move from initial contact to full activation of transaction in as little as 24 hours.

What specific options are there and how do they vary?

At Portman we offer the following finance products:

-Lease finance: Portman buy the asset and you use it over an agreed contract period in return for monthly payments. At the end of the agreement, you can choose to purchase the asset for a small one-off fee, hand it back or continue to lease it. Rates from as little as 2.5% are available and costs can be offset against tax.

-Hire purchase: This is similar to a lease agreement in that it frees up working capital, however you are the purchaser. After all payments have been made, your business becomes the owner of the equipment, either automatically or on payment of a final option to purchase fee.

-Refinance: This allows you to release locked in equity from your assets. These unlocked funds can then be used as you require.

-Commercial loan: This gives you the freedom to use the monies as you see fit, whether it’s consolidating existing finance, growing your business or buying another.

What advice would you give to business owners considering using asset finance for the first time to grow their company?

In the modern marketplace all sectors are competitive, so you need to be the best in breed. Asset finance allows you to buy the top-specification coffee machine, treadmill, JCB or whatever it is you need, rather than settling for what your cash reserves allow. Customers want to receive a quality experience or service, so the best equipment sets you apart from your competitors.

Do you advise business owners on how much to borrow?

No one knows a business better than the owner(s). However, our experienced account managers will often use their sector expertise to advise on any associated costs – such as import duty and VAT costs for overseas purchases – that may arise in certain purchases to ensure customers get the best financial agreement for them.

What common misconceptions are there about asset finance that you would like to set straight?

It amazes me that there are still people who believe finance is just for people who can’t afford to buy. The reality is quite the reverse – asset finance is designed for ambitious, profitable companies who are looking to grow and reduce tax liabilities.

Some people also think that going through a broker to arrange asset finance is going to be more expensive than approaching a lender directly. Because of the amount of business we complete with our panel of lenders, we get preferential rates for our customers so the overall cost is actually lower.

Can you help businesses that need to fund a variety of assets?

Yes, in these cases we tailor a bespoke package of finance products for the customer. If they are starting a gym business, for instance, we look at the equipment, the whole fit-out, the member management system etc and will break all that down and find the best lender for each component. There may be five different lenders making up one overall package for a customer.

What about businesses that experience quieter periods of the year? Can you help them?

The beauty of asset finance is the flexibility that allows each agreement to be tailored to the specific requirements of each business. Where companies are sometimes affected by seasonal trade – like tanning salons, gyms or farms – we can arrange lower payments during the quieter months.

More information is available at http://www.portmanassetfinance.co.uk or call 01604 321 995.