Auto finance industry has regulators at the door

The auto finance industry must focus on generating positive messages as it endures a flurry of negative publicity and the growing attention of regulators.

That was the message from industry leaders who recently reviewed the potential impact of an official review of the industry in the UK.

Julian Rose, director of consultancy, Asset Finance Policy, explained that concerns were focused on the fact that UK household indebtedness remains high by historical standards.

Regulators also want to know whether there is any sign of weaker underwriting standards that would cause a risk to lenders.

Industry experts responded during a panel debate at the International Auto Finance Conference, in London.

Richard Jones, managing director of Black Horse, said the industry should respond to concerns with a strong, positive message.

He said: “The big thing that will drive their concern is ‘how responsive is the market?’. If we go to them with a sense of, here’s how we want to keep improving this market, here’s how we want to see reform, and we go to them with solutions and work with them, I think their concerns will be far lessened.”

Malcolm Banfield, commercial director, RCI Financial Services, argued that the industry is careful to ensure that consumers are protected by offering clear advice and information about finance.

He said: “The level of information available to consumers, particularly online today through videos, means that information is communicated, I think, in a clear and unambiguous fashion.

“My personal view is that I think we can be reasonably confident, but that’s not to say that we should be complacent.”

His view was supported by David Betteley, global financial services director at Jaguar Land Rover, who said: “I think quiet diplomacy, making sure that we’ve got our house in order, would be the way to deal with this.”

Adrian Dally, head of motor finance at the Finance & Leasing Association, also called for regulators to ensure support of the auto finance market by ensuring they were “looking at the bigger picture”.

He added: “That is absolutely the spirit in which this review is being carried out. So yes, at a high level, do we expect the FCA to find that this is a market that works well in the interests of consumers? Yes. But are there areas the industry, as always, should be working on to keep it that way? Also, yes.”

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