Anyone who has been left disappointed by a combination of call centres, automation and poor service will be won over by Mark Dixon’s mantra.
“The best deal we can do is the second deal,” stressed the managing director of new asset finance business One Threadneedle, which opened its doors in Tunbridge Wells earlier this year and is already making waves with its customer-led approach to lending.
With mainstream finance houses tending to have an increasingly narrow focus and relying on impersonal IT systems and self-completed applications, One Threadneedle is once again putting relationships at the heart of business.
“In many ways we adopt a traditional approach, but only in the sense that we want to really know our customers, understand what they are looking for and deliver a deal that suits their particular circumstances,” explained Mark. “In that sense we aren’t afraid of rolling back the years a bit, and our customers are delighted with that approach.
“We are looking to build relationships with our clients so that they will come back to us whenever they need finance to grow their business. If we get it right, they come back – which is why we consider the best deal is the second deal.”
While One Threadneedle is a relatively new venture for Mark and business partner Andrew Sharp, it builds on their long careers in lending and benefits from the 35-years of experience brought to the table by newly appointed sales director Sean Phelan, who learnt his trade with Lombard.
While Sean covered a broad range of lending in his career with Lombard, he spent the last 12 years as the asset finance company’s agricultural specialist for Kent, making him the ideal person to spearhead One Threadneedle’s support for farmers, growers and landowners looking for lending support in the South East. It was that experience and connection with the area that led Mark to persuade his former colleague to join his new venture. From Sean’s point of view it was a chance to move away from the increasingly automated way mainstream lenders were dealing with applications and get back to the personal approach he had been missing.
“I was getting fewer and fewer opportunities to get out of the office and talk to people about what they needed and how we could help,” he recalled. “Every customer is different and a lot of them don’t want to have to fill in an online form; they want someone to listen to what they need, own the situation and put forward a positive proposal while showing a high degree of urgency.
“The chance to get back to doing that – and have more contact with the farming community – was something I couldn’t turn down.”
Mark and Andrew had already amassed many years of experience and industry contacts through their existing business, Key Motor Finance, which provides finance to motor dealers in the South East.
“We had come up with a people-focused, local proposition that worked well for the motor industry and we were certain it would be welcomed by the broader business community,” said Mark. “We believed there was an appetite for a well-backed asset finance business with a range of lenders behind it, staffed by people who were prepared to spend time with potential customers in order to deliver the most suitable option.
“We knew that the idea was sound, but we also knew that it needed the right person to head up the sales team, and that was when I got in touch with Sean. He has a huge amount of experience in asset finance and is highly regarded in the agricultural sector.
“He also shares our passion for working closely with the customer, giving them the support they need and going the extra mile to come up with the right deal. I was delighted when I was able to persuade him to join us.”
With a well-deserved reputation for putting together sensible proposals and a range of trusted providers to call on, One Threadneedle can source finance for agricultural and horticultural investment of virtually any size, whether it’s to provide new polytunnels, fund new investment in buildings or machinery or support new diversification plans.
“If we are talking face to face, rather than simply analysing a self-completed proposal, we have a good chance of spotting broader funding solutions. These can be missed by staying in the office hiding behind a screen. Above all we are committed to finding a way forward and backing sensible investment plans. “Of course we use technology where it is helpful, but we never lose sight of the fact that each customer has a specific need and can’t just fill in an online form and tick a few boxes. That’s not how life works, particularly in the agricultural sector. If the proposal is more challenging we like to solve it and allow the farmer to get on with what they do best.”
Mark added: ”Finding the right funding solution for a business proposal is not a case of painting by numbers. You need a commercial approach, which involves talking to people, giving them sensible guidance and meeting their needs in the best way possible – and doing it quickly if that’s important.”
One Threadneedle boasts comfortable meeting rooms where clients can call in for a coffee and a chat about their plans, but Sean is also looking forward to getting back out on the farms. “Over the years I have met and dealt with many of the farmers in Kent and East Sussex and I am looking forward to meeting up with them again. I enjoy dealing with farmers and I want to help them move their businesses forward.”
Pictured: Sean Phelan (left) and Mark Dixon