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Interview with Leigh Lones

Thu 23 May 2019

The Secured Lender talks to Leigh Lones, Director North America, about the EQ Riskfactor proposition for the U.S. market and how the team plan to drive business growth and further product developments.

Leigh Lones_.jpg Leigh Lones, Director North America

Equiniti Riskfactor works with 90% of the UK receivables finance market and launched its risk management products in the U.S. and Canada in 2018. How is this North American expansion playing out?
Over the past year, we’ve invested in building the company’s operations here and are actively looking to hire people to build out the team. Our combination of software, industry experience, and marketplace knowledge make us a compelling partner and proposition for the North American commercial finance industry. We have tailored the company’s approach to their risk management needs.

We have a strong brand heritage and are recognised as a market leader in the UK.  Our customers include some of the biggest factors and ABL players in the world as well as local and region funders.

Please provide some background on your career. How did you get your start in this industry?

I spent many years as a secured lender, working with banks and independent finance companies, primarily doing asset-based lending (ABL) or factoring. I’ve always been drawn to this space because it requires a close relationship with your customer.  You are exposed to many different types of industries and most of your customers are managing through challenging situations.

This is a relationship-driven business that relies on putting the right people in the right place and giving them the support they need for success. In 2016, I took a break from running a factoring and ABL company to start a business focused on recruiting and coaching.

I thoroughly enjoyed the two years I spent in recruitment, and it brought me the opportunity to work with Equiniti Riskfactor. I had experience using the system and found the idea of building a team here exciting.

What were your first steps in your new role?

I spent the first six months talking to independent finance companies, banks, and many who are involved in the factoring and asset-based lending space across the U.S. and Canada. I wanted to make sure our value proposition met the needs of this market. We couldn’t assume that what works in the U.K. would necessarily work here. I talked to factors and ABL players about the concerns they face about the space, risk management, operational efficiencies, and compliance issues.

Now, we’re showing them how EQ Riskfactor can support them in these areas. Our risk analytics tool turns data stored in operating systems into information people can use to improve efficiencies and reduce risk.

During this discovery phase, what are some common themes you saw?

There is a degree of concern about staff experience levels in the industry. Those with less than 10 years of experience have not been through a downturn or credit crisis. Will they be able to spot negative trends early at the client and portfolio levels? We also heard that there’s a big appetite to consolidate data so they can share and monitor information more easily.

What are some new developments lenders need to be aware of in risk and fraud prevention? 

Customers and prospects are putting risk at the heart of their organization. With increasingly competitive markets, lenders need to accept more risk and, at the same time, have a clear understanding of the risk they are managing.

People are looking for more automation that centers on risk management to assist with credit decision-making, monitoring, and control. And, as compliance has become more rigorous, lenders need to demonstrate that their systems comply.

Our system is designed to help lenders spot risk and compliance warning signals in advance. I’ve yet to hear of anything that’s comparable to EQ Riskfactor in this market to help manage risk aggressively. 

What are some of the trends and innovation happening in this area of the industry? What do people need to be aware of?

Lenders don’t have nearly as much time for the process of underwriting and closing new business. Instead of weeks and months, it’s become days or weeks. They need to quickly aggregate marketplace data that comes not only from the client but also from online searches.
Once on board, clients expect technology to make information available, online or offline, whenever it’s needed and they want quick answers to additional funding needs, facility changes, and the lender’s position on a new debtor.

How does EQ Riskfactor plan to enhance and develop the system and grow its user base?

We already have 13 clients in NA and our goal is to continue to grow rapidly. We are expanding our risk analytics tools, refining our due diligence module, and enhancing our data extraction capabilities.  Our focus is on helping our clients improve the customer journey.

When you are not working, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

I enjoy gardening and consider “digging in the dirt” therapy!  I love taking my two German Shepherds for evening walks. They’re my children now that my kids are grown.  During the summer, our family spends weekends and our summer vacation on Watts Bar Lake in Tennessee where my husband and I grew-up boating, swimming and relaxing.