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Introducing… Sean Walton-Carroll

Sean Walton-Carroll is one of Syscap’s longest serving employees. During 20 years of working for us, his job title has evolved from Customer Services Manager to Head of Asset Manager & Customer Services, and now to Asset Management Manager. Following our recent silver jubilee celebrations, we asked Sean for a few minutes of his time to talk about his background, hobbies and experience working for Syscap. And it appears that we have another Crystal Palace supporter in our midst…

Sean grew up in Warlingham, Surrey, and was the youngest of four children. “My parents pushed us all into paper and milk rounds as soon as we were old enough, and I spent many school holidays working with dad who was a painter and decorator.” His dad’s meagre wages were further eroded by deductions for food and petrol expenses, so Sean helped by packing his own lunchbox and cycling to his jobs.

It was Sean’s mum who found him his first full-time job after spotting an advertisement for a drayman in the Croydon Advertiser. The job paid £60 a week with 7am starts every morning. Sean learned how to carry heavy loads and this, together with his painting and decorating skills, served him very well having just moved house.

After working as a drayman for several years, stoppages forced Sean to look for another job and it wasn’t long before he landed a role working for The Worldwide Visa Shop; a private Passport and Visa agency based in St Martin-in-the-Fields. The firm specialised in short notice applications, so aside from the general public Sean regularly dealt with journalists, celebrities and sportspeople. Armed with a briefcase and ginormous Panasonic c10, Sean’s job involved visiting foreign offices and consulates in the capital.

Sean’s specialist area was the old Soviet Union, particularly dealing with those traveling with Intourist and on the Trans-Siberian Express railway. He tells us: “I spent many a long afternoons sitting in the consular section of the Russian Embassy at Kensington Gardens while some demure chain-smoking official scrutinised my applications for hours before finally issuing the required visas. It was very John le Carré, but I loved it.”

After a few years, it was upwards and onwards for Sean and he joined Unilever, working in Sales and Marketing Operations for Brooke Bond catering in Croydon. The division looked after household brands such as Flora, Walls and PG Tips, overseeing supply and demand along with product launches and campaigns into the cash and carry wholesale sector.

After a short while of working for Unilever, Sean started to realise that bigger isn’t always better. “It was an extremely rigid environment and a stark contrast to what I’d previously experienced.” But the job did have its perks, particularly for Sean’s mum, who was given plenty of free tea and coffee.

It was at Unilever where Sean first gained experience working in the leasing market. “I looked after Bravilor Mondo coffee machines, where customers would get a free machine if they purchased a predetermined amount of coffee.” If those customers reneged, Sean had to persuade them to either buy more coffee or, failing that, recover the equipment. Dealing namely with the pub sector, Sean admits: “It was difficult. Big, tough landlords didn’t want to buy more coffee, they just wanted to see you come and try to take their machine away. I lost far more than I won, but it was a good experience.”

At the time, Sean’s company ran a programme for Sankey and Wittenborg vending machines in conjunction with Anglo Leasing, who were based in the building next door. Sean applied for a position there and was successful. “The fact I still work and have contact with a number of former Anglo colleagues is testament to what I learned there and the culture they deployed.”

From Anglo Leasing, Sean then moved on to Syscap and has been with us ever since. “Actually, quite a lot of people warned me against working for a mainstream funder, given the bad reputation of brokers at the time.” Sean admits that his reason to apply was part in the face of those who advised him not to.

“From the unorthodox interview methods of the then Managing Director, I did wonder for a moment if those people were right. Let’s say the interview process was definitely not one you’d find in any HR manual, but the MD sold me the dream and almost 20 years later I’m still here, so I reckon I’ve made the right choice.”

20150430_161112_resizedWe ask Sean why he believes Syscap is the success it is today. “As a company, I think we’ve helped change the reputational image of brokers for the better. The open-door policy of management and directors over the years has lent itself to the convivial working atmosphere that largely remains today.”

When speaking of the challenges and rewards his role brings, Sean says: “I’d say the greatest challenge is ensuring the Asset Management function continues to meet the ever-evolving needs of the business. The fact it largely does is the reward.”

So, what does Sean like to do in his spare time? Well, as previously mentioned, he’s an avid Crystal Palace supporter. “I’ve been following the club for 42 seasons, home and away,” he says, admitting that he’d “dodge parties, weddings and gatherings if it clashes with a home game.” Sean even neglected usher duties at his brother’s wedding, choosing instead to stand at the back of the church with a pair of earphones in, listening to updates. “I got my comeuppance though… we lost 7-1 at Huddersfield.”

Sean’s wife, Claire, used to be the Croydon Advertiser Blue Bear mascot on the pitch before home games many years go. “You could say it was a marriage made in heaven. And yes, we still have the costume!”

 

A Look Back: How SME Funding For IT Has Evolved

There is no underestimating the importance of small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) for the UK: the market is a key driver of economic growth and contributes greatly to the GDP. Statistics released by the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) last year found that 99.9% of the 5.2 million private sector businesses are SMEs, which together represent an annual turnover of £1.6 trillion. SMEs dominate the industrial market and account for 60% of private sector employment.

Needless to say, supporting SMEs is vital for economic stability and growth; something which has been addressed by all key political parties in the run-up to May’s general election. For our part, we have been committed to this market since our inception in 1990, helping business to acquire the finance they to need in order to succeed and grow.

Obviously, the financing climate has changed a lot since our business venture began. Here, we take a look at how funding for SMEs has evolved over the past 25 years:

A brief history

At the start of 1990, and indeed through to the start of the millennium, businesses like our own were experiencing significant growth. In a recent article, Dr Khaled Sofani, Senior Teaching Faculty member in Finance at the University of Cambridge, attributes this growth to a range of factors: the end of the Cold War, the removing of financial regulations, and China gaining significant economic power.

There were also two more reasons. The first, of course, was the rise of the internet. The world wide web helped facilitate business-consumer engagement and for the very first time, businesses could reach customers across the globe without having to establish a physical presence in those countries. The second reason was that it was relatively simple for SMEs to acquire funding at the time which, as Dr Sofani states, was due to the fact that private equity funds and venture capitalists were both able to seek funding from financial organisations with ease.

During this time, the banking market was overcrowded with companies wanting market share. And, with credit being easily accessible for SMEs, they were able to grow and succeed, creating more job opportunities and boosting economic confidence.

Then everything changed

But then, the financial crisis hit and everything changed. Many banks and financial organisations went bust, or at the very least found themselves facing severe solvency and liquidity issues. Banks and other funding houses were forced to become far stricter in their lending terms; they became much more constrained and risk averse, making it increasingly difficult for business to acquire the funding they needed. According to BIS statistics, bank lending peaked during 2009 and since then, it has been declining year-on-year.

In the years that followed the financial crisis, there was huge uncertainty in the market. Aware of this, SMEs were holding off investment plans: in the six months leading up to February 2011, there was a 19% reduction in application value for small businesses applying for new term loans and overdrafts. A total 3% of SMEs at that time admitted to delaying borrowing because of the climate.

At times of economic instability, SMEs are at a significant disadvantage. Whereas larger companies are able to cut costs by doing things like limiting their services, losing employees or restructuring, this is virtually impossible for smaller businesses with little space to manoeuvre. Plus, cuts to alternative finance solutions during these times leaves small businesses increasingly vulnerable, as they often rely on short-term credit, loans and overdrafts for their day-to-day operations.

Today

Yet now, years on from the financial crisis, the economic climate has significantly improved, and confidence in the market is returning. SMEs have the tools they need to grow and succeed, and individuals that were perhaps apprehensive before now feel encouraged to begin their own business ventures. In fact, the number of SMEs has increased by 1.8 million since 2001, up 51%. And these businesses aren’t just confident in the market but in lending, too, with the government’s latest SME Business Barometer report showing that 77% of SMEs seeking finance last year thought they would be successful.

Despite the numerous challenges, the SME market soldiers on relentlessly. What is needed going forward is assurance by the government, banks and financial providers like ourselves that we are able to continue supporting this market in any way we can. SMEs are the lifeblood of the UK economy and we must ensure that their needs, both financial and other, are met.

Syscap is a leading provider of finance solutions to this market. If you are a small or medium-sized business, we are able to offer short-term business loans, finance for your new assets, and provide finance for your IT needs. Contact us today.

UK Businesses Set To Receive IT Budget Boost

This year, UK firms are set to experience a 1.4% increase in IT budgets, a new report from Gartner has revealed. This increase is higher than the global average of 1.1%, as well as the average among US firms, which stands at 0.9%.

By comparison, Chinese firms are set for an average IT budget increase of 8.5%, which is significantly higher than both the UK and US.

A key finding from study is that there is an increasing amount of investment in IT across UK companies, with results revealing that over 21% of IT investments take place outside of the actual IT budget. Gartner polled over 2,800 respondents from 84 countries in order to compile its report.

After a long period of budget restrictions and cost-cutting, Gartner believes that a renewed focus on strategic IT investments will help to facilitate growth among UK businesses. In particular, companies in the UK and Ireland are becoming more open-minded with regard to SMART technologies; they are starting to make investment in new tools and are creating strategies which cover areas such as robotics and the Internet of Things.

Gartner predicts that UK CIOs will now dedicate less than 40% of their time to running IT departments this year. They will instead focus on spending more time with other C-suite executives, business unit leaders and external customers to “extol the values of IT and investing in the right technology,” CRN reports.

Vice President at Gartner, Dave Aron, commented that digitalisation represents both an opportunity and threat, which means that “CIOs are facing new, more challenging and more exciting circumstances as digital moves to centre stage.”

An increase in IT budgets is great news for UK businesses, as it will allow them to utilise new technologies and implement them throughout the company. Yet, despite increased budgets, IT finance can still help you to spread the cost of the full solution, including training, installation, upgrades, maintenance and support contracts. Syscap can provide you with a tailored finance solution that will enable you to get the IT technology you need today. Call one of our team members to find out more or click here.

We’ve just been nominated!

We’ve had a great start to the year. A busy January with Tax season, and February is proving an exciting month as we’ve just found out we have been nominated for two very exciting awards.

Commercial Finance Provider of the Year 2015  
British Credit Awards

This category is awarded to those organisations who can demonstrate innovative solutions for the marketplace in lending to businesses. Customer service and satisfaction are key criteria to come out on top in this category. For more information about the awards, click here.

The British Credit Awards take place on Wednesday 11th February at The Brewery, London.

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Finance/Support Services Provider of the Year
European IT & Software Excellence Awards

Nominated by one of our strategic channel partners, Softcat, this category recognises independent organisations who are a vital part of the channel community through helping channel partners win business, and look after customers. For more information about the awards, click here.

The European IT & Software Excellence Awards take place on Wednesday 25th March at The Lancaster London Hotel.

IT-Europa-Excellence-Awards-Finalist-2015-Syscap

 

Syscap are dedicated to providing our customers with a great service and complete satisfaction in the solutions that we provide and work hard to improve our processes and offerings to better serve the needs of the organisations that we work with, whether customer or partner. As such we are thrilled to be nominated for these illustrious awards categories.