Minimum Standards, maximum focus

If the law changed so that you had to put your car through an MOT test three or four times a year, you wouldn’t be too impressed. If you had to carry out a separate MOT for every county you planned to drive through, you might even decide to hang up the car-keys. Then imagine how attractive public transport would look if the private car owner found the requirements of Kent MOT were different from those of East Sussex. You’d rightly start asking why no one had thought to join the dots. If one set of tests and questions was good enough for one council, you might ask, why shouldn’t it be good enough for all of them?

Then you’d stand the 450 SEL up on bricks like some latter-day James Hunt, and forget about it.

What I’m actually talking about here is not James Hunt nor MOTs, but the NACFB’s biggest 2016 initiative, the Minimum Standards Document. Funders who currently have slightly different interpretations as to what a Good Broker looks like have been drawn into the discussions. That’s a lot of funders, and a lot of discussions, because we’ve been involving some big lenders and even one single lender might take a long time to revise its own procedures.

There is an element of Chinese Whispers here. The FCA has a set of best practices, and each lender has its own requirements and interpretations; they’re all feeding their views through the commercial finance broker and by the time the message gets to the client there’s a real need for clarity and, where possible, simplicity. That’s a lot of loose ends to tie up.

Our final meeting was held on 9 May and we had to build two extensions onto the board table to accommodate the numerous lenders who had signed up to participate.

Now that they have agreed on the minimum standards, the next step is for us to roll those standards out at our AGM on June 15. From then on, NACFB members simply need to demonstrate to us as a body that they are complying with those minimum standards, and by retaining that responsibility within our Association, we take away from the lenders the need to confirm independently the correct behaviour of the broker. We’ll be able to reassure them that our members meet those standards: the end result is that those lenders will see our members as compliant, dependable and attractive.  I’ve met a lot of them, and I suppose two out of three isn’t bad.

I’ll also meet a lot of them at our seventh Commercial Finance Expo – the biggest one yet, and our first chance to talk about the Minimum Standards Document with them.

We’ve got over 120 exhibitors and 1700 visitors expected. The floor space has been opened out and extended and is now 50% bigger than three years ago, a visible demonstration of the recent growth of the NACFB. New concepts like the Meet the Experts show and the NACFB’s own Marquee will compete for attention with a full conference schedule.

We’ve got a great deal more to share with our members in the Conference Theatre than just the Minimum Standards document. Our new Training and Education plans are about to bear fruit, and we will be revealing the first pages of our new website. On top of that, the hiring of new staff and development of our compliance services, were all on the to-do list for the first half of 2016, and we are right on schedule.

In this first article for Specialist Finance Introducer, I make no apology for giving this NACFB-centric overview. In future issues I’ll go into more depth with the issues facing brokers more generally, but just today, let me take this opportunity to invite every reader to clear their diaries for June 15 and to come to this free event. It’s a day to do business and, I hope, it’s also a day to have some fun and enjoy yourselves. But I promise we will all be back at the grindstone on June 16!

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