Making up for lost time


This year marks the 10th consecutive occasion Close Brothers Asset Finance will be exhibiting at MACH. To mark the occasion, Machinery & Manufacturing spoke with Steve Gee, CEO of Close Brothers Asset Finance’s Industrial Equipment Division to discuss the company’s involvement in the manufacturing sector, training & apprenticeships.

“We were ever-present during the financial crisis of 2008-12 when no other funders exhibited,” said Steve. “There were many deals struck at the show – a notable one is the first machine we funded for BCW at MACH2002 for £95k, who were then a new start business. Today they are 20 years old and a highly successful multi-national Group of companies with turnover in excess of £30m, for who we’ve funded around £10m, in all, over the years.”

According to Steve, with the pandemic having interrupted MACH, him and his team will be looking to make up for lost time.

“The event has a broad agenda and addresses a wide variety of topics, from the sector’s role in helping meet our climate commitments, the development of the digital factory, new automation solutions to connected manufacturing processes, power by the hour and improving production processes.

“We know we have a role to play in helping firms meet future demand and are looking forward to doing so.”

Close Brothers SME Apprenticeship Scheme

Our connection with the Manufacturing sector goes back decades and in April 2015, Close Brothers launched a pioneering SME Apprentice Programme to help manufacturers secure the skills they need for future growth and to recruit the next generation of engineers

The scheme – supported by the AMRC Training Centre in Rotherham and the Manufacturing Technologies Association – is targeted at small and medium sized enterprises who might otherwise not be able to afford to take on an apprentice.

Each year, Close Brothers pays for 20 apprentices, contributing 50% of the apprentices’ wages in the first year and 25% in the second year, and covers all training costs. Further support is offered for those on degree apprenticeships.

“We know from experience that SMEs often need assistance to take on apprentices, so we designed our programme to help with the specific issues they face. We believe the scheme has made a real difference to the business results of participating SMEs and we look forward to continuing this important initiative in partnership with the AMRC,” added Steve.

The scheme has already resulted in some fantastic apprentice success stories. One of those was our sponsored apprentice and Foxwood Diesel heavy duty engine builder, Leigh Worsdale. She was the first female Apprentice of the Year at the AMRC Training Centre’s 2017 ceremony and as part of her prize spent time in America with Boeing. She has become a figurehead for engineering apprenticeships in the region.

Sales training Academy
As a specialist funder, it’s important our sales teams speak the language of our customers, which led to the founding of the Close Brothers Asset Finance Sales Training Academy, the third iteration of which launched in 2021.

Its aim is not only to train new salespeople, but also help redress the gender imbalance in sales roles. In total, 13 new recruits – both internal and external – were selected to undergo the intensive nine-month programme, comprising classroom-based learning, and mentoring and practical ‘on-the-job’ training.

“We are very proud of our specialist business model and want to build on the outstanding success of the first two Sales Academies, which has seen many of the previous ‘graduates’ fully integrated into the Asset Finance and Leasing sales teams and leading very successful careers in their chosen sectors.”

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