Finance is prominent in the coach and bus industry, particularly for SMEs. The marketplace is competitive, but it is also an area where Chadderton-based PMD Business Finance is keen to grow is existing presence.
PMD is a diverse and relatively young organisation. It was founded in Greater Manchester 13 years ago with six members of staff and began by financing soft assets, such as gym equipment. Since then, growth has come quickly, including in coach and bus among a plethora of other sectors and across a breadth of financial products.
In the coach segment, PMD already works with operators in the SME landscape that have developed strong reputations for both service quality and innovation.
PMD has funded around £220m of assets across the board and it is working hard to lift that figure to £500m within the next two years, Director Lee Schofield explains.
PMD Business Finance: ‘Supportive during COVID-19 pandemic‘
Lee also highlights how the business supported existing coach and bus clients during the pandemic. While some finance companies took what was regarded at the time as a hard line with schedules, PMD did not. It was “proactive” over establishing payment holidays, Lee says.
A lot of resource was devoted to that, including the establishment of a dedicated phone number. Lee also takes pride in the wider customer service that is provided by PMD.
As the coach and bus sector continues to recover, expertise was recently brought in with the appointment of James Radford as Business Development Director. James formerly held the role of Sales and Marketing Director with Totalkare. He retains a non-executive Director position with the workshop equipment supplier and joins PMD with the task of driving its presence in the road passenger transport market.
Having been with Totalkare and its predecessors for 29 years, James brings significant experience of the coach and bus segment.
Totalkare has worked with PMD for a long time and that arrangement remains strong, says James. In some cases where PMD was introduced to businesses in coach and bus through its work with Totalkare, those operator-funder partnerships have since expanded into vehicles.
Funders ‘see coach industry rapidly returning to health‘
PMD both lends its own money and acts as a broker for other funders. In the case of financing a coach, the latter would be its preferred approach “as it is better for the customer,” says Lee. The business can finance other items also, including telematics systems, CCTV and much else alongside its existing position with workshop equipment.
Funding for exhaust retrofit equipment is on the table, although that becomes complicated if the vehicle in question remains the property of another lender. But it can be done, Lee adds.
In the future, infrastructure to support zero-emission vehicles could also be financed by the business; PMD is already active in the battery-electric van segment, a venture that began during the home delivery explosion of COVID-19, and which has shown no sign of tailing off since then. It represents valuable experience in the zero-emission area.
Although coach and bus suffered a torrid time during the pandemic, PMD is hopeful that James’s influence will contribute to the growth of its presence in that sector as recovery proceeds.
But his arrival at PMD is not the sum of its exploration work in the industry. Engagement with other funders has shown that they are keen to work with the segment, says Lee.
“Lenders like coach and bus. They see that market as being back on trajectory.
“From our point of view, funding workshop equipment before James joined us gives a connection to the sector and we now want to leverage that.” Where contracted income is in place, the appetite among lenders is still stronger.
PMD Business Finance ‘ambitious to grow in coach and bus’
Through its activity in other areas, PMD has a refined outlook on the wider funding landscape. Lee also has a clear view on how he wishes the business to grow. Its approach to people development is like that of many coach and bus SMEs: Bring in the right individuals and school them.
“Most of our colleagues within PMD are not from an asset finance background,” he explains. “But they are ambitious. We train them in this area, and we do so properly.”
As an example of the scale of PMD’s growth, its lead generation team will number five people by the end of 2022. That contrasts with the overall staffing of six at its founding. Many of the business’s senior roles are held by younger staff members who came in with no experience of the sector, but who have advanced thanks to the help of colleagues.
That appetite for personal achievement is something that Lee hopes will translate into PMD’s position in coach and bus. “Asset finance is in the background of almost every business,” he observes. “We are keen to grow in the passenger transport market and do deals, including on multiple vehicles that could involve more than one lender.
“I believe that James’s arrival gives us significant scope to expand in the coach and bus sector.”