Many organisations, when asked about their future aspirations, yearn to be the first or the biggest in their field of expertise. But for Linklease, an organisation that specialises in SME equipment leasing, it is about establishing a sustainable market that would in turn help it grow, prosper and benefit all those involved. This vision is being led by CEO Steve Thomas-Williams, who brings over his 30 years of experience with major financial institutions including Lloyds Bank, to the forefront of the leasing sector.
"What you learn when you work for a big company, is that you learn your craft. In my case, this was lending and leasing equipment through which I have taken the opportunity to understand how the business works," said Thomas-Williams.
The CEO spent almost 20 years with the financial institution then moved onto Gulf Finance, where he served as the Group CEO for the region. During this period, Thomas-Williams gained the perspective of a market specialist with a strong understanding of the UAE, its neighbouring countries, and how they respond to fluctuations in the market when it comes to leasing. When the economic crisis took over the globe around 2008 and 2009, he had managed a large equipment finance book and successfully kept it afloat. This gave him the motivation to do it for himself, which led to the birth of Linklease in 2015.
"We have launched a sizeable bond offering on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange, which is $500 million, and that money over the next five to seven years is expected to come into the UAE to help fund and finance all sorts of equipment through Linklease. The opportunity is ahead of us and we're very excited to see how we can really start to develop these into something substantial from its little roots," he added.
To date, Linklease proudly stands as a true leasing company and caters to a broad range of industries, including alternative energy, healthcare, logistics, manufacturing and lifting gear, among others. This diversity, according to Thomas-Williams, is the key that significantly raised Linklease's survival rates in the market during the Covid-19 pandemic.
"From a staff perspective, we have kept them all on the payroll and actively involved in operations by making full use of the technology available. The UAE leadership were very decisive, as they acted quickly to avoid the economy stalling. Similarly, we have acted quick on some decisions, such as hiring good people that would add value to our company. We have also written opportunistic deals for good equipment with good companies in Covid-19 neutral sectors we like as the opportunities have presented themselves, rather than wait until the new norm arrives," he said.Â
Speaking about future ventures, Thomas-Williams is looking forward to driving the success of leasing in this region, which would bring more benefits for all those involved in the sector. "The cost of funding will come down, access to capital will go up and more clients will choose leasing as a solution. We would get a bigger slice of that pie because we have been here the longest, our clients will benefit as our cost of funds reduces, and ultimately the economy will benefit because all this latent capital equipment demand will get funded. That is what we see as our future and what we would consider a job well done," he stated.
For young entrepreneurs, he advises three things to consider when embarking on their new-found passion - have something unique to offer, whether it is a unique product or a new angle on an existing product; be able to succinctly pitch and speak in an engaging way that generates interest; and then be prepared to take risks and not be scared.