Vansdirect MD interviewed by the LBF
In a male dominated industry, there are, alas, few females who head up leasing broker firms. I can count them on one hand - but one such is Jane Pocock.
Jane is managing director of Vansdirect, the Newport-based broker which won Best Van Leasing Broker in the 2016 Leasing Broker Federation Awards, which were supported by BMW Group and Hyundai.
"Winning the award was great for staff morale and great to be recognised in the industry as a contributing partner," says Jane.
"I think it also reflects our professionalism in the broker world. It means a lot to have our business recognised by an external body. That can only be good news for the future."
Jane has been managing director of Vansdirect since 2009, when the old Vansdirect was restructured.
The new Vansdirect business is clearly focused on sensible growth that is profitable, utilising Jane's business training and venture capitalist background.
Prior to Vansdirect, Jane had been a business consultant and before that had worked at the Automobile Association for 17 years in various operational roles, from international operations to membership administration. During this time the AA went from private to public, then to private equity ownership.
Regarding Women in Business, Jane is clearly disappointed - that so few women are currently represented on the boards of leasing brokers, let alone the wider automotive world.
"Historically, it's not been an industry that's attractive to women. And a lot of women can be deterred by the fact that it's a man world" she says.
"Personally I've had a 25-year career in the motor industry - so I don't see it as a challenge. But it is interesting how few manufacturers and leasing companies have women on their boards. The same goes for the BVRLA. All in all it's a poor reflection on the industry.
"As a result, brokerages are missing 50% of the workforce - and I think the mix is essential for sustainable growth. I've established a successful career next to successful businessmen. But it's a stereotypical environment."
As you might expect, Jane is not in the gregarious vein of many broker MDs who are often ex motor trade; on the contrary, she comes across as thoughtful, reserved and intelligent.
Outside of work she's very much dedicated to horses, especially eventing and more recently dressage.
In work, though, she's very much focused on the business and what Vansdirect can deliver - in particular - and brokers in general.
"The beauty of brokers is that they can offer a whole suite of different products and funders than is available from just one leasing company.
"And funders can change their lending criteria quite quickly - so brokers have relationships with a variety of manufacturers and other funders to enable the widest available choice for the customer. I can only see that growing in the future."
Jane believes that the Vansdirect clientele is also ideally suited to the broker online experience. Customers are changing, they often manage their whole life online - and brokers are fast-responding to that online experience, whether it's a sole trader wanting a single van or larger business requiring a fleet of vans.
"That's the beauty of using a leasing broker," believes Jane. "A leasing broker can serve a single van or a small fleet. You can provide the service that is personal with one point of contact that doesn't exist anywhere else. Our new website is aimed at meeting a broad spectrum of customer requirements."
Van leasing broker
However, like many van specialist leasing brokers, Vansdirect is looking to broaden its base with a potential move into car leasing later this year, probably through a separate business.
"The beauty of leasing brokers is that we can move with the times. There is demand for cars. With the size of our customer base it's good to give our customers other choices. "
However, Jane believes that while it's possible to move leasing brokers into other associated areas - such as an insurance offering - she cautions on moving too far away from the leasing broker specialism.
"I think you have to look at your brand and what you specialise in. I'm a firm believer to be excellent in what you do; there are other experts out there that do other services - such as mortgages - very well, so you need to be respectful of that. You have to be careful how far you stretch your brand."
Impact of the toxicity tax on new vans
Later this year, the London Mayor is introducing a toxicity tax to polluting diesel vehicles.
"I think it will make cities look at transport as a whole. Electric vehicles is a future growth area for us, because pollution is such a worldwide issue. Within the next three years I can really see that changing as the trades go over to EV vans."
"At the moment it's not readily available to the whole market. There are no real large EV vans, so once that happens I think it will be a huge success. A lot of the corporates will also be looking for an environmental edge, so that plays to the electric van requirement well, too."
The best-selling new vans at Vansdirect
As regards the future and the possible challenges to brokers, Jane is highly optimistic.
Yes, she does believe the FCA investigation into car finance will broaden to include leasing brokers.
"Cars are often the next biggest debt behind mortgages, so areas of affordability and treating customers fairly are key issues" - but finds little to worry about if broker internal processes are correct and compliant.
As for the future, Jane believes PCH leasing will grow as the personal preference for changing new cars increases, so there are few drawbacks to the leasing broker model.
"I see few threats really, because brokers are so adaptable to changes in the market.
"My job is to navigate any challenges and provide the business with its strategy."
And no doubt encourage more women into the broking and leasing business world.
Jane's five key points for managing a company successfully
- Ensure a strategic direction
- Manage the economics
- Set targets and manage staff development/performance
- Manage the risks
- Market the business