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Scottish joy for Northridge

Scotland, a traditional proving ground for new products and marketing concepts, has provided a lucrative staging post into Britain for Bank of Ireland’s motor finance arm, Northridge Finance.

Northridge director Alan Carson describes the move six years ago into Scottish territory as “a hop and skip across the water”. He adds: It was an inevitable expansion into new territory from a platform of nearly 23% of the Northern Ireland intermediary motor finance market.”

Northridge now takes 8.5% of Scotland’s motor finance market. After moving relatively quietly into England and Wales during 2003, it is raising its profile and broadening its product range, including a new personal leasing package targeting professional drivers and company car refugees.

Northridge channels F&I business through 1,400 UK sites majoring on franchised dealers’ prime sector finance and funding predominantly new to three-year-old cars.

Carson claims that Scottish growth depended on effective personal contacts and relationships, “not just social calls and cosy cups of tea”. That human dimension is supported by an online system for processing loan proposals, which interfaces with major groups’ computer networks.

Sales director James McGee adds: “We are not a slave to technology and focus on personal touch rather than rigid credit-scoring. That is why we have negotiators or underwriters talking to dealers.

“Where possible, our negotiators endeavour to make a deal rather than say no. It is about pragmatism and flexibility, making the retailer feel empowered. Better to have less commission over a greater number of sustainable deals.”

McGee highlights Northridge’s success with “bigger ticket” cars, although business ranges from funding five-year-old Škodas to brand new Aston Martins.

He believes the end of loan psychological barrier about not owning a car is diminishing and points to high percentages of HP deals involving car changes before they expire. Equally, McGee envisages future “bundling” joint ventures with retailers covering finance servicing and, possibly, insurance.

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