In this month’s FLA Magazine, our very own Carol Roberts, Director of Asset Finance at Time Finance and Board Director for both the FLA and The Leasing Foundation, shares her 50 years of industry experience in Asset Finance.
1. Tell us about your career and the path into asset finance…
I started my career in the world of finance over 50 years ago, taking my first steps into the sector at a young age as a finance clerk. I was thrust into a career which at that time was largely closed off to women, and so I grasped that opportunity with both hands. Thanks to hard work and determination, a lot of exciting opportunities to develop and progress came my way.
I found that having someone notice something in you at a young age can make all the difference.
That said, I owe much of my career development to the people who have believed in me and championed me over the years. I found that having someone notice something in you at a young age can make all the difference. It meant that I had the confidence to make a difference and step up to new roles with confidence and backing behind me. In fact, it’s one of the very reasons I’m such an advocate for mentorship now and actively participate in programmes to help young professionals advance in their careers.
I’ve had the good fortune of working in a variety of roles over the years and working with some incredibly talented and hard-working individuals. With two colleagues I was able to set up the first leasing brokerage in the UK and ultimately sold that business to Pallas Group which was eventually sold to GE Capital where I become the Managing Director of the Asset Division, before moving on to a similar role at Bibby Financial Services. Now, as Director of Asset Finance at Time Finance, I lead our brilliant team to deliver service excellence to a rapidly growing customer base looking to secure the vital equipment they need to take their businesses to the next level.
2. What’s been your career highlight so far?
I’m lucky enough to say that I have had a number of career highlights I can look back on and be proud of.
I was the first female to win Leasing Life’s “Lifetime Achievement” award in 2017, as well as the first ever female to be Chair of Council at my golf club. I hope when I share these stories with other women, it shows them that anything really is possible.
This gave me a platform to raise awareness on the importance of equality and diversion and to play a hands-on role in advocating change in the sector so that young people gain access to the opportunities they deserve.
That said, my main career highlight to date is my involvement as a board member of the Leasing Foundation. This gave me a platform to raise awareness on the importance of equality and diversion and to play a hands-on role in advocating change in the sector so that young people gain access to the opportunities they deserve.
3. Asset finance is a pretty resilient sector, but what do you see as the big challenges this time around compared to the financial crisis of 2008?
The Asset Finance sector and its client base has held strong fast and strong momentum during the pandemic. This is no real surprise considering the sectors that would typically invest in large machinery or manufacturing equipment, always tend to hold steady in a downturn. We saw the likes of manufacturing and construction continue to carry out new work to keep the country operating during this time. Not forgetting large commercial vehicles either - delivery drivers have been in high demand as the dominance of online deliveries surged while we all spent more time at home.
Our economic growth is also a mark of commercial resilience, of businesses’ abilities to adapt, diversify and find new ways to sustain and grow against the odds. We witnessed this first-hand with our own client base, whereby many continued to come to us to facilitate investments in new equipment that have enabled both growth in key sectors and opened up businesses to completely new markets.
The compounding effects of Covid and Brexit, mean that for many, business simply can’t operate as usual.
Now, what makes this time around increasingly more challenging is that global supply chains in a post-pandemic world means longer transit times to reach markets. The compounding effects of Covid and Brexit, mean that for many, business simply can’t operate as usual. The shortage of lorry drivers is also impacting industry supply chains – with warnings from hauliers that they can no longer guarantee all pick-ups and deliveries. The likes of construction, manufacturing and farming are all reliant on a tight schedule of deliveries, so the impact of supply chain disruption is a monumental issue we need to overcome.
4. How was lockdown for you?
As we eagerly return to the office and enjoy our working days back with our colleagues, it’s hard to believe that we really were locked down for all of those many months.
When the first lockdown began, myself and my teams had to adapt very quickly to what became an ever-changing situation. We set up remote working facilities and did whatever we could to reassure our clients that we would continue to support them during these difficult times. It was challenging and the uncertainty of when we could go back to normal and what that would look like preyed on the minds of us all.
The likes of Teams meetings and Zoom calls brought my teams closer together and we gained more opportunity to work as a collective and collaborate much more easily, as well as take the time to look after one another and develop great friendships.
But for some, including myself, lockdown provided an unexpected opportunity to make positive changes to our lives. The likes of Teams meetings and Zoom calls brought my teams closer together and we gained more opportunity to work as a collective and collaborate much more easily, as well as take the time to look after one another and develop great friendships.
A lot of us spent more time appreciating the things we often took for granted, taking more time to do things we enjoy, spending time outside enjoying fresh air, and making time to speak with family and friends online or over the phone.
5. During your career, what’s the best advice you’ve ever received, and what advice would you pass on to those just starting out in the sector?
I’m passionate about creating a lasting change in the industry, which is why I will continue to take the steps necessary to improve diversity and inclusion within the workplace. One of the best things I’ve ever learned is that representation at a higher level can’t be changed overnight and starts by building from the bottom up. It’s what has guided me to spend my career working with candidates from all walks of life to ensure they have access to as many opportunities as possible to succeed.
As someone who has benefitted from mentorship and support from those around me, make sure you surround yourself with people who champion you and work hard to help you succeed.
The best advice I can give to someone just starting out in the sector is to believe in yourself and grasp opportunities with both hands. As someone who has benefitted from mentorship and support from those around me, make sure you surround yourself with people who champion you and work hard to help you succeed.
6. If you didn’t work in this industry, what alternative career would you have chosen?
I can proudly say that I have loved every minute of my career. Having found the perfect job, there’s no other alternative career I could ever choose.