Career advice and guidance for asset finance young professionals
Posted on 03 February 2022 by Neel Amin
Asset Finance International - Industry Leader Viewpoint.
Neel Amin, managing director of recruitment consultancy New Leaf Search, has a unique perspective on the asset finance sector.
After building a successful career working in asset finance, Neel moved into recruitment, where he has built a detailed knowledge of the vital elements of building a successful career in the industry, including understanding the requirements of major employers in the sector. Here, he provides advice and guidance on strategies for long-term career success:
Q: What career path did you take to your current role?
After graduating from University College London with a degree in Economics, I began my career in asset finance and leasing with Ford Credit Europe. As part of my training, I worked in several functions including New Business, Operations Support and Settlements, Pay-outs, Credit Support as well as IT Technical Support. This broad exposure provided a strong foundation in lease products, lease systems and the interdependencies between the different business functions. However, the one aspect of the various roles I particularly enjoyed was engaging with internal and external customers as well as supporting the field sales team. I therefore decided to look for internal sales openings and secured a role in Fleet Sales which I thoroughly enjoyed.
I later moved into a field sales role with Lombard North Central as an Account Executive. I excelled in the role and quickly progressed to a Dealer Development Manager, supporting and training dealer sales staff in maximising finance and insurance sales. I then jumped at the opportunity of joining a captive; Mercedes-Benz Finance (Daimler Chrysler Financial Services), as an Area Manager. This role involved selling and promoting dealer / customer funding facilities as well as closing finance deals (on behalf of dealers) directly with SME end-users. I thoroughly enjoyed this remit, collecting numerous sales accolades along the way. During my tenure, I also took the opportunity to become involved in various business projects, as a representative of the sales function. This was invaluable in helping me develop a strong understanding of the intricacies of a financial services business, as well as broaden my commercial knowledge and serve to raise my profile within the wider business. These projects included: dealer POS systems, development and implementation of a new business-wide CRM system, compliance and ISO certification, business premises relocation and fit-out, sales, marketing and product initiatives, job grades and salary benchmarking.
During my tenure, I was promoted into a multifunctional role as Manager of Dealer Services, VideoLink and Company Car Fleet. I managed a team of 21 sales support staff providing a multi-brand call centre facility to dealer customers and field sales force. I was responsible for the concept, project plan, structure and implementation of the new function, including policies, procedures, information technology, logistics, recruitment, training and performance measurement. I also recruited and managed a team of 6 Business Managers providing a specialist Finance and Insurance sales service to subscribing Chrysler Jeep and Mercedes-Benz dealers via office-based videoconferencing technology. In addition, I managed a team of 4 contract administrators, responsible for the company car and employee car lease schemes; including vehicle acquisition and disposal.
One of the key benefits of this multi-disciplined role was that it provided me with an invaluable insight into the importance of a robust recruitment and staff retention strategy.
I was fortunate enough to draw upon this commercial experience when invited to join Shell Capital (Auto Finance) as Sales Leader. My remit was to launch, manage and develop the UK sales operation which we planned to achieve in 3 phases, with final phase sales projections reaching in excess of £300m pa with a sales headcount of 30. By the close of phase 1, we were 175% of volume target, having recruited a team of 12 Sales Managers who had secured c400 dealer accounts between them. It was soon after this that I faced one of my biggest career challenges when the company announced that it had regrettably decided to abort the Auto Finance venture in favour of their established business lines.
I registered with a recruitment company and the consultant, Jane Theobald, advised that I should consider broadening my asset class experience to include IT/Telecoms. She arranged an introduction to BT and following a series of interviews, I secured the Head of Sales role for BT Financial Solutions. My responsibilities included increasing lease penetration across the BT Business portfolio and managing the sales relationship with funding partners. The role also involved establishing a team of Sales Managers to ensure that BT business customers received financially engineered solutions when procuring products or services.
After 3 years of successfully exceeding lease penetration and revenue targets, I had the misfortune of developing chronic illness and decided to take voluntary redundancy.
A long-standing ambition of mine was always to be self-sufficient and run a business. Recruitment was a key feature in my senior roles; an aspect which I particularly enjoyed. So when my health improved and the opportunity arose, I co-founded New Leaf Search (Asset Finance and Leasing recruitment) in 2004, with Katherine and Jane. My current responsibilities include business strategy, finance, operations, sales and marketing.
Running your own business brings with it very different challenges and demands; but I guess after 17 years we must be doing something right!
Q: How did you first learn about the asset finance industry?
I hadn’t heard of asset finance until I embarked on my training at Ford Credit whereby I clearly remember the trainer drawing a simple tri-partite lease arrangement diagram as an introduction to the industry.
Q: What had the biggest impact on your career development?
Career Mentors. Finding the right people / role models (informal and formal) to offer career coaching and counselling was fundamental to my development. Mentors have provided powerful and meaningful insights; helping me look at opportunities and obstacles from different perspectives. I have been fortunate enough to have benefited from having a mentor in every position held in the corporate environment. Even as MD of New Leaf Search I have sought mentors from within the recruitment industry. Some of these individuals have provided invaluable assistance for which I am ever grateful. As a way of ‘giving back’ I have been fortunate enough mentor a couple of business owners who have approached me in recent years.
Q: What role has advice and training played in your career? What steps would you recommend?
I’ve already discussed the importance of advice. Training too has played an important role in my career development. Aside from elementary product courses, I’ve have benefited from numerous sales, negotiation, people development and management courses. For me, training courses provided an excellent way of reinforcing my practical experience as well as enhancing my skills and knowledge. They were also invaluable in preparing me for higher responsibilities including people management and leadership.
Studying for the Finance and Leasing Association Diploma (Business/Consumer Credit) also reinforced my day to day understanding of Asset Finance.
Starting a recruitment business didn’t curtail my enthusiasm for learning and development. Over the years, I have attended numerous courses aimed at business owners as well has courses specialising in recruitment; I have also completed the Recruitment and Employment Confederation's Certificate in Recruitment Practice qualification.
Q: What advice would you give someone starting their career?
My advice to someone starting their career in leasing would be threefold:
Find a company that encourages cross-functional business exposure. This provides an excellent opportunity to work in different areas of the business and find the discipline that best suits you. Once you have identified a business function, make it your area of expertise.
Seek out a mentor within the workplace; somebody you admire or aspire to emulate. They will provide the steer and support required and help you network effectively, develop your profile (self-brand) and grow professionally.
Develop and immerse yourself in a personal career training programme. Soak up knowledge at every opportunity and never stop learning.