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Steady growth for heavy equipment

BY Ken Ryan

New business volume grew 2.5% in the equipment finance industry in 2016, marking the seventh consecutive year that businesses increased their spending on capital equipment. Construction was among the top five most financed equipment types in 2016, according the 2017 Survey of Equipment Finance Activity (SEFA) released by the Equipment Leasing and Finance Association (ELFA), the 2.5% increase is down from the 12.4% growth in 2015 but still outperformed the national economy, which grew at 1.6% in 2016.

“The equipment finance industry continues a slow-growth trajectory, mirroring a fundamentally sound—if unspectacular—U.S. economy during the past several years,” said Ralph Petta, ELF president and CEO. “Despite a slowly rising interest rate environment, leasing and finance companies are profitable entities, with generally healthy portfolios and sustainable levels of returns.The SEFA report covers key statistical, financial and operations information for the $1 trillion equipment finance industry, based on a comprehensive survey of 115 ELFA member companies.

Key findings for 2016 as reported in the 2017 SEFA include:

By organization type: Independents saw a 12% increase in new business volume, while banks saw a 5% increase and captives saw a 5.9% decrease;
    

By market segment: New business volume grew 5.2% in the middle ticket segment and 0.8% in small-ticket, while large ticket declined 1.8%;


From an asset perspective, the top-five most-financed equipment types were transportation, IT and related technology services, agricultural, construction and office machines. The top five end-user industries representing the largest share of new business volume were services, industrial and manufacturing, agriculture, transportation and wholesale/retail;


Assets under management rose by 13.9% overall, helped by increases in sales budgets and sales personnel, which reflected companies’ efforts to grow volume in an increasingly competitive environment. Return on assets also remained positive after declining by a percentage point to 1.4%, and balance sheets strengthened as net worth rose by 9.1%;


Interest expense increased year-over-year by 14%. The cost of funds decreased slightly;


Efficiencies gathered from increased automation and greater application of data analytics contributed to an overall year-over-year dollar increase in net income of 7.8%;

Delinquencies increased slightly, with 1.8% of receivables over 31 days past due compared to 1.5% the previous year. Net full-year losses or charge-offs also increased slightly but remained at 0.29% of average receivables; any level lower than 1% is considered very low;


Credit approvals increased slightly while the percentage of those approved applications being booked and funded edged down overall;


Employment levels rose 13.3% overall in 2016. This is likely the continued impact of the absorption of the GE Capital portfolio and personnel by the acquiring banks, the report said Headcounts in accounting, tax and legal remained stable, reflecting the implementation of back-room efficiencies as companies continued their push to do more with less.

The full report is available at elfaonline.org/SEFA.

ELFA also released a companion report called the 2017 Small-Ticket Survey of Equipment Finance Activity. The report, which focuses on small-ticket and micro-ticket equipment transactions among the SEFA respondents, found that new business volume in the small-ticket space grew by 10.7% in 2016.

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Leaders still need people skills

BY David Sladack

In a not-so-futuristic world where robots and algorithms take over tasks and jobs once accomplished by human workers, it’s antithetical to say “people skills” would be the No. 1 ability future leaders need. But, it’s true.

Everywhere you look, another headline addresses how artificial intelligence, machine learning and robots are transforming everything from cars and investments to product development. We’re experiencing the beginning of an incredible transformation of our economy, culture and how we do business. And that’s exactly why the future will be led by people, not bots, algorithms or AI.

Look at online job searching as an example — it’s terribly broken. Despite technological advances made to make the search appear simpler, human intervention is still desperately needed. And it’s not going to come from some junior human resources coordinator following their recruiting software’s algorithmic score. Finding and hiring the right talent for your organization requires instinctive people who personally view resumes and recognize the diamonds peeking out from the dirt. For all the efficiency this technology has enabled, human intervention remains critical.

Cultivating a strong emotional intelligence in future leaders is just as important as developing the next breakthrough algorithm. The qualities of a good leader remain constant: Be a trusted adviser, possess a calming influence and communicate a clear vision.

Tomorrow’s leaders will need to apply those skills in different ways. They will have to be authentic and credible in assuring workers that increased technology will result in a more productive workplace with clear roles and opportunities for human talent facing integration with a growing workforce of robots.

In 2016, Harvard Business Review released a 10-year study on what great executives know and do. It boiled down to four themes:

  • They know the whole business.
  • They know the industry.
  • They are great decision-makers.
  • They form trusting relationships.

To best navigate the growing complexities technology has on an organization, it’s the “trusting relationship” that is most critical. And tomorrow’s leaders — the millennial generation — have it.

The 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey suggests the top two values a business needs to succeed are focused on people and employees — from employee satisfaction and fair treatment to operating with a strong level of trust and integrity.

What are the most important values a business should follow if it is to have long-term success?

The study also found millennials’ personal beliefs about an organization’s sense of purpose should put a high priority on people — everything from providing good wages and a positive culture to improving workforce skills and generating jobs. That differs significantly from how millennials perceived the actual priorities of their employers.

Don’t confuse soft skills with soft leadership. Millennials put a high priority on performance — efficiency, continuous improvement and achieving excellence. We can expect them to be empathetic leaders, but with a clear level of accountability for employees.

In addition to strong people skills, millennials have qualities of trusted, believable “next great communicators,” including confidence and respect for education and ideas. They have grown up in a fragmented world of choices — both personally and professionally. They live by a philosophy of try, learn, adjust and re-apply.

And while millennials are comfortable using technology in all aspects of their lives, ironically, it may be their ability to be effective, people-first leaders that becomes their most valuable asset to tomorrow’s organizations.

David Sladack 
SVP and director of sales and marketing at Brunner. Visit brunnerworks.com.

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Report: Mobile e-commerce sales to hit $250 billion by 2020

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy
Mobile e-commerce sales will account for nearly half of all online commerce in just a couple of years. 
 
This was according to “A Mobile Mindset,” the second volume in the five-part series, “The 2017 UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper.” The report, from UPS, is based on input of over 5,189 comScore panelists who made at least two online purchases in a typical three-month period.
 
According to the study, mobile e-commerce sales are projected to grow to $250 billion by 2020. Meanwhile, mobile retail sales in the United States are expected to be 48.5% of retail e-commerce sales. 
 
The report reinforces that customers are getting increasingly acclimated to using their smartphones as a shopping tool. In fact, 48% of smartphone users have already made a purchase on their personal device. While these transactions extend across customer segments, 66% of these purchases were conducted by Millennials.
 
Specifically, 17% of online transactions are already occurring on a smartphone, and 29% of millennials are making these purchases. When given the choice to use apps or mobile web, four in five smartphone users chose to shop using retail apps — a practice that is preferred by 92% of millennials, the study revealed.
 
“In terms of discretionary spending, mobile commerce (m-commerce) growth is far outpacing e-commerce and brick-and-mortar,” the study said. 
 
“Over the past five years, shoppers have simply become more comfortable using their mobile devices to research and buy online, resulting in more time and money channeled via m-commerce,” the study continued. “The projections for continued growth in m-commerce make it essential that retailers of all sizes be properly positioned to provide an optimal experience via mobile devices.” 
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