How Nigerians can explore the right lease financing options – Ifeanyi Ogbor, leasehouz

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Let’s get to meet you. Tell us about yourself.

An asset finance expert with varied experience in equipment leasing, asset management, funds management, structured trade finance, project finance, credit administration, private equity and investments.

Having lead different successful startup operations in asset finance, I was a pioneer staff of the vehicle and asset finance (VAF) team of Stanbic IBTC Bank Plc.( a member of the standard bank group). I joined the bank in 2007 and rose to become the Country Head of the VAF group, represented across Standard bank locations. The portfolio grew to become the leading vehicle and asset finance business in Nigeria. Prior to this time, I had worked at the legacy Habib Bank group and two other leasing companies.

I have been involved in various local and international training programs and exposed to international best practice. I am a member of the equipment leasing association of Nigeria (ELAN).

Key achievements would include my involvement in several successful startup operations of leasing companies and the leasing department of the bank. A key resource in asset finance, I was involved in the development, set up and running of different entities and schemes. I was part of the team that established Caterpillar finance (Catfin) in Nigeria at the time. The Coscharis auto finance scheme powered by Stanbic IBTC and Access bank is another example. I led the VAF team to win several awards (back to back) as the best auto financing bank in Nigeria. I have also been involved in the origination and management of various notable and large ticket deals in the industry and I have facilitated a number of learning intervention programs.

I am currently the Chief Executive, Assetkap Investment Limited (with trade name “Leasehouz”). We are a financial services company in the business of leasing, fleet management, financial intermediary, advisory and investments. The brain behind “Leasehouz”, an online financial services market owned by AssetKap.

I am married with Children.

 In your work and business life, who are the people that mentored you and how impactful was the experience

While at the legacy Habib, the late Adetotun Adekoya was my line manager. He loved to teach and working with him, I developed great presentation skills.

I have also worked with Oluwatoyin Sanni, CEO Emerging Africa Capital. She is an Investment banker, lawyer, chartered secretary, stockbroker and author. Prior to this time, she was the Group CEO at United Capital. She is a very supportive leader and she led me in my chosen career path. She believed in those of us that worked with her and she created opportunities for us to showcase ourselves and she ensured that we did well. Working with her, I was able to identify what I wanted to do and where I was going to. She impacted us and I have continued to work with some basic principles that she taught at the time.

Working with Stanbic IBTC (a member of the Standard bank group) added a lot of value to me. It came with higher learnings and great exposures. Being an international bank, a number of deals were cross-border. Apart from networking, international best practice became the order of the day.

 Can you share the reasons why you started this business and what are the kind of challenges faced when you started?

Early in my career, I was able to identify where I wanted to go. I was exposed to Asset Finance (amongst other offerings) and I liked the business. Apart from generating revenues for my organization, the solutions service allowed clients in need of various assets to acquire them via financing, not having to provide any form of collateral. I saw how useful and supportive it was to businesses and individuals. I decided early that I was going to major in this area of financing. The decision guided my career move. For this reason, I worked in 2 other leasing companies and later moved to StanbicIBTC where I was part of the team that established and ran the Vehicle and Asset Finance department of the bank. All the while, I sought to development myself in this area, with the dream of owning a Leasing company at some point.

I left the bank in 2016 and immediately started with the process of setting up the leasing company. We commenced operations in 2018.

Raising capital was quite challenging. We tried a number of options and we met with rejections. Luckily, I enjoyed the privilege of being around very successful business owners (with start-up experiences) so, I could carry on. Eventually, we were able to put the company together. The current board of directors   are people that I have known in the course of my work and they have also been there as mentors and coaches.

As a new company market awareness and acceptance were issues to think about. Attracting and managing the right staff was another. Then came Covid and we had to maintain the team for months (while business was at a halt). I would say that passion, knowledge/competence and goodwill saw us through.

 In Nigeria, how would you describe the lease finance business? What are the prospects and challenges of sustaining the business?

We have a number of leasing companies offering the service in Nigeria. The banks also offer asset financing (via lease agreements and other structures). Lease volumes stood at NGN2.58 trillion as at 2021. However, we still describe leasing as alien in Nigeria. There is the need to grow the knowledge of leasing in the country. We need to move away from the outright purchase of goods and embrace the benefits of taking assets on lease, while capital is put to alternative investments. Leasing allows you to possess and make use of required assets while you pay for the use in convenient monthly instalments. Under a finance lease, you will own the asset at the end of the lease. What this means is that you acquired it paying gradually with ease. This is what applies in the developed world. The operating lease is a service agreement, where you enjoy the use of the asset(s) inclusive of all other bundled services required. It allows companies to focus on their core business and it also supports better financial reporting.

 What kind of customers does your business cater for and what’s the business goal in growing and retaining customers

We offer services to salaried Individuals working in viable companies. We support them in the acquisition of choice assets in return for convenient monthly payments designed to meet their cash flows.

We deal with SMEs and corporate clients as well. Provided the company is able to demonstrate a good existing structure and the cash flows to meet payments, we will deal.

Like every other business, we intend to continually grow our customer base and portfolio. This we do via client acquisition (marketing), creating more awareness, having special events and most importantly ensuring that our customers experience is a DELIGHT.

 Is the lease finance business properly regulated and do you have enough support from the government?

Recent, the government passed the leasing law refered to as the “Equipment and Leasing Act”. The act seeks to regulate the business in Nigeria so that the relationship between parties are identified and protected. The act further seeks to provide a regulation authority so as to provide for the registration of equipment leases and the certification of practitioners.

 Are you engaged in any activity for community development and/or structured financial partnership?

In the past I have been engaged structured financial partnerships as mentioned in my profile above.

As a business, we are looking in those areas and we hope to come up with something soonest.

 What’s your view about corporate governance amongst SMEs in Nigeria? Have best can we drive this kind of advocacy across all business sectors

There is the need to promote corporate governance amongst SMEs. Most small business are unable to take advantage of some financial services on offer, due to the lack of governance and proper structures. We are aware that a number of banks organize regular training programs for their SME customers. The market needs to continually do this. What we have done is to create templates and processes for our SME prospects and clients to follow. Working with us, they gradually begin to put structures in place, in the bid to meet our requirements.

 What should Nigerians and the world expect from leasehouz in the nearest future?

Leasehouz doubles as our trade name and our online portal.On Leasehouz, you will find on display various assets sold by carefully selected vendors for sale via financing provided by us.

Leasehouz is designed to be that platform where clients go on, select whatever asset that is required (i.e. a car, generator set, other power solutions, household items, computers, phones, office equipment, industrial equipment etc.) and make orders, acquiring the assets by finance leases provided by us. We have just built a new version of the portal and it is currently being populated.

 The goal is for Nigerians to go on our platform (working from their homes or offices on their phones or computers), choose the assets that they want, request for a finance and have the asset delivered, all within 48 hours. As we say, the clients will PAY SMALL SMALL.

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