We are delighted to win Corporate Visions’s Outstanding Finance Provider of the Year 2018 Award! To celebrate we caught up with Anne Williams, Chief Operating Officer at Henry Howard Finance to provide an insight into the innerworkings of our award-winning firm.
Please give us a brief overview of your company, clients and services.
Established in 1996, Henry Howard Finance (HHF) is a specialist finance provider helping SMEs secure funding quickly and easily. With two decades of experience, we know every company’s need are different, which is why our adaptable and flexible finance has helped over 30,000 UK businesses.
Our Asset Finance channel allows SMEs of all sizes access competitive finance rates for the purchase of vehicles, industrial machinery, printers, civil engineering, construction equipment and more.
Our Vendor Finance channel offers business equipment suppliers’ finance on demand for their customers, with our online tool, HowApp, which quickly provides suppliers with a credit decision and a finance agreement for their customers.
Also, we offer Retail Finance for shop owners, big or small, to finance shop refits and new assets and are one of the largest independent finance providers for the convenience store sector.
When undertaking a new project, how does your firm ensure clients receive the best possible outcome?
We’ve dealt with thousands of SME funding challenges and many ups and downs in the UK economy over the years.
Our customer-led approach means every client receives a service as personal as it is bespoke. Bigger banks often offer a less personal service experience, plus stricter lending criteria.
Considering the full range of funding options is a major focus for HHF, as is working closely with SMEs to ensure all needs are met.
What is your firm’s overall mission and what steps do you take to achieve this?
We help SMEs secure flexible finance deals which are right for them. Expert knowledge of the SME finance market, strong customer relationships and continually challenging traditional funding models helps us support businesses UK wide. Many HHF customers have grown from start-ups into major employers, making us the funder of choice for ambitious companies.
What differentiates your firm from your competitors and make you the best possible option for clients?
Recently, we received a second £51m tranche of funding from the British Business Bank, the UK government-owned economic development bank, under the Bank’s ENABLE programme. The facility comes on top of an existing £51m asset finance facility granted in 2016 to allow us to extend our leasing and asset finance offering to an even larger portfolio of UK SMEs.
In addition to this, a £25m deal with Cabot Square Capital in 2014 also enabled us to fast-track our own-book lending.
The ability to lend against our own balance sheet means we can provide capital quickly and easily compared to traditional lenders and finance a wider portfolio of businesses in a growing number of sectors.
Also, we are leading the way with our vendor technology. Currently, we are investing a further £1m into ‘HowApp’ – our vendor finance app, allowing vendors to set up tailor-made customer finance packages, simplifying credit approval and cutting transaction times.
Please give a brief overview of your industry. Are there any specific challenges or outside influences?
HHF is constantly in conversation with the SME market. Economic uncertainty around Brexit and a lack of consumer confidence has created high street instability. The closure of longstanding retailers has unsettled smaller retail businesses.
Traditional lenders offering strict lending criteria in response are discouraging SMEs from pursuing growth plans, many of whom depend on funding to expand.
A flourishing SME market is pivotal to the success of UK Plc and will be critical in bolstering the economy post-Brexit, making access to financial support essential.
What is the internal culture in your firm? How do you ensure all staff are equipped to provide the best possible service?
HHF has a 130-strong team with a ‘can-do’ attitude and a drive to deliver the best. Investing in training and ensuring that knowledge is consistently shared creates a positive internal culture where team members can develop and grow.
What is your approach to hiring staff? How do you attract the very best talent in the industry?
Employing driven and confident people keen to succeed is key to success. Our company ethos revolves around teamwork – we have a robust recruitment process to ensure staff have the qualities, mind-set and attitude required to achieve our shared goals.
With regards to your industry, what developments do you foresee and how will you adapt around these?
SMEs are increasingly sourcing alternative finance providers like ourselves. We need to ensure that we continue to listen to customers and anticipate their finance requirements despite changes in the economic and political landscape. Technology continues to play an important role and we are committed to keeping pace with the latest advancements in support of our customers.
What does the future hold for your firm?
2017 saw HHF achieve record growth, and 2018 has been no different. I joined as Group COO last year, and our executive team has been strengthened by Mark Catton, former chief executive of RBS Corporate Bank, joining us as Group CEO and former Opel Vauxhall Finance executive Mark Tweed as Group CFO. We operate an open-door policy and are very hands on within the business.
With our own lending book now approaching £100m, the door is open for alternative lenders like HHF. Talent investment therefore remains key, following significant appointments within our sales, marketing, compliance, finance, customer service and HR teams.
Our investment in good people and market-leading technology has seen HHF achieve record-breaking results, and we are delighted to have been named Outstanding Finance Provider of the Year.