Close Brothers Asset Finance and Leasing helps more SMEs realise their growth goals with Salesforce

Discover how the company’s Asset Finance and Leasing division is embracing digitalisation to simplify the lending process for thousands of SMEs.

Launching new products. Entering new markets. Opening new facilities. Growing a business requires working capital, but it’s not always readily available, especially during challenging economic times.

Asset finance provides businesses – particularly SMEs – with the flexible funding they need to pursue new opportunities. “SMEs are the engine that drives the UK economy,” said Neil Davies, CEO, Commercial at Close Brothers. “With Salesforce, we can help more SMEs thrive by making it easier for them to access the funding they need.”


“We want to build client relationships that stand the test of time. With Salesforce, we can strengthen the already strong service we provide to our customers.”
Neil Davies
CEO, Commercial, Close Brothers

Outstanding service boosts client satisfaction

As a UK-based merchant banking group, Close Brothers offers a range of financial services, including lending, wealth management, and securities trading. Its Asset Finance and Leasing division provides many millions of pounds worth of loans to SME clients in a range of sectors – from agriculture and aviation to recycling and renewables. “We want to build client relationships that stand the test of time,” said Davies. “With Salesforce, we can strengthen the already strong service we provide to our customers.”

This service-centric approach has proven very popular, with numerous benefits achieved, including an increase in the volume of lead conversions and deals. The average deal size has also improved.

As the company moves towards providing more omnichannel experiences, it wants to ensure its digital interactions are as personal as face-to-face meetings. “The COVID-19 pandemic changed customer expectations; they now want the option to engage with us on digital channels as well as spending time with their account manager,” explained Paul Philbrick, joint Managing Director of the Print Division within Close Brothers Asset Finance.

Close Brothers Asset Finance and Leasing empowers its people with 360-degree visibility

To provide an exceptional experience across physical and digital channels, the Asset Finance team needs to be empowered with exceptional processes and insights. “We need a holistic view of our clients to keep moving the business forward,” said Philbrick. “With Salesforce, everyone can see the same information at the same time.”

Close Brothers Asset Finance and Leasing has been using Salesforce since 2018 to unlock not only greater visibility but also to drive greater efficiency and agility. From simplifying the approval of lending proposals to prioritising digital marketing spend, Salesforce helps Close Brothers Asset Finance and Leasing excel in an omnichannel world. “With Salesforce, we can keep enriching the journey for our clients and colleagues,” said Davies. “It has transformed how we manage the business.”


“With Salesforce, we can keep enriching the client’s omnichannel experience; Sales Cloud gives 360-degree visibility helping drive stronger growth. Salesforce Maps visualises data geographically, giving more time for teams to better support SMEs, leading to proactive selling.”
Paul Philbrick
Joint Managing Director Of The Print Division,
Close Brothers Asset Finance And Leasing

Boosting sales performance and productivity

Sales Cloud has been pivotal to this transformation: it unlocks new insights, powers new processes, and maximises new revenue streams. For example, Close Brothers Asset Finance and Leasing has been able to generate around £4 million worth of new business in just 12 months by empowering its outbound lead teams with Sales Cloud. 

Everyone, from company execs to individual reps, can now see the status of the pipeline, which is key to driving future growth. “With Sales Cloud, we can track performance and productivity more easily and segment leads more effectively,” said Kerwin Hack, Salesforce Product Owner for Close Brothers Asset Finance. “It helps our people work faster and smarter, so they can spend more time developing lending proposals and building client relationships.” 

“Automated workflows in Sales Cloud helped us identify candidates for government loans within just 15 minutes. With central access to data, our teams can be more time-efficient in developing lending proposals and building client relationships.”
Kerwin Hack
Salesforce Product Owner For Close Brothers Asset Finance

Digitalisation streamlines approval of lending proposals

The ability to process lending requests quickly is key to ensuring SMEs can access the right funding at the right time. But lending requests must also be rigorously checked, which can slow down approvals. 

“A single proposal involves contributions from multiple stakeholders, which we used to co-ordinate via email,” explained Hack. “With Sales Cloud, we can manage the lending process centrally – from the initial enquiry through to approval. It’s made the process more efficient, which means proposals can be shared with clients faster.” 

Account teams use Chatter, an enterprise social network from Salesforce, to flag up urgent requests and collaborate on proposals with underwriters when working remotely.

The versatility of Sales Cloud means it can be used for every type of lending proposal – from financing a new wind farm to refinancing a printer. Close Brothers Asset Finance and Leasing tested this versatility during the COVID-19 pandemic when the company was part of the government’s Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme.

Close Brothers Asset Finance and Leasing steps up support for clients and colleagues during pandemic

In just four weeks, Close Brothers Asset Finance and Leasing designed a new digital application and validation process using Sales Cloud, Pardot, and Salesforce Sites. “A lot of clients had a tough time during the pandemic,” said Philbrick. “Asset finance and refinance can help to maintain cashflow and aid recovery.”

Close Brothers Asset Finance and Leasing issued more than 5,000 loans worth in excess of £1 billion as part of the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme. “With Salesforce, I didn’t need to email or call 20 people to get a feel for how things were going. I could make decisions based on dashboard information that refreshed every 60 seconds,” said Davies.

To ensure its teams were able to provide clients with expert advice on the various government loans, Close Brothers Asset Finance and Leasing developed training modules on myTrailhead, Salesforce’s online learning platform. It also introduced trails focused on improving employee wellbeing during COVID-19 lockdowns. 

To notify clients about relevant government schemes within their sector, the Asset Finance and Leasing division used Pardot, a B2B marketing automation solution from Salesforce. “When a contact engaged with an email or filled in an online form, their Sales Cloud record was automatically updated,” explained Hack. “Automated workflows helped us identify potential candidates for some government loans within just 15 minutes.”


“With Pardot & Tableau CRM we can now see revenue generated by digital marketing activities, enabling us to prioritise our spend and adapt our messaging to maximise results.”
Jonathan Dytor
Head Of Digital Marketing

Measuring revenue generation from digital marketing

Tracking prospect and client engagement is key for delivering more personalised experiences and driving more informed decisions. With Pardot and Tableau CRM, Close Brothers Asset Finance and Leasing can not only monitor but also measure client and prospect engagement in real-time across different campaigns and channels. “We can now see the revenue generated by different digital marketing activities, which enables us to prioritise our spend and adapt our messaging to maximise results,” explained Jonathan Dytor, Head of Digital Marketing.

As well as using Pardot to co-ordinate its email campaigns and industry newsletters, Close Brothers Asset Finance and Leasing has integrated the solution with its website. Leads captured via online forms are automatically scored and assigned to sales teams based on a prospect’s location and industry. This has helped to double the conversion rate for website leads.

Close Brothers Asset Finance and Leasing also uses Pardot’s Engagement Studio to automatically trigger emails at key stages in the client journey, such as when a lending contract is due to expire, which has helped to boost repeat business and client retention rates.

Close Brothers Asset Finance and Leasing enriches prospect engagement

In the complex world of asset finance, converting a prospect into a client can take as long as 18 months – especially when it involves deals worth millions of pounds. It’s therefore vital that sales teams maintain contact via both face-to-face meetings and digital channels. Salesforce Engage makes it easier and quicker for the Asset Finance and Leasing account teams to share approved marketing content with prospects. “With Salesforce Engage, we can send the right content at the right time to the right contact,” said Philbrick. “But sending an email isn’t enough; you need to know if it’s being read.”

Salesforce Engage automatically notifies account teams when recipients engage with emails, which enables them to prioritise follow-ups. Every communication sent via Salesforce Engage and Pardot is logged in Sales Cloud, providing account teams with 360-degree visibility of a client’s omnichannel experience. “With every interaction captured in Salesforce, we can have richer conversations and build stronger pipelines,” said Philbrick. “It’s helped to elevate and prioritise our sales efforts and drive growth.”

“We want to ensure our people have the skills and tools they need to be successful. With myTrailhead, we can launch new on demand content in a couple of days and empower our people with anytime, anywhere training.”
Juliette Evans
Learning Business Partner For Close Brothers

Enabling people to upskill anytime, anywhere

Close Brothers Asset Finance and Leasing developed modules and Trailmixes on myTrailhead to help its teams maximise the potential of Salesforce Engage and support materials during the pandemic, including wellbeing and the government-backed recovery loan scheme initiatives. “People value the on-demand approach to learning,” said Juliette Evans, Learning Business Partner for Close Brothers. “The modules are easy to access, and we can embed video content to make them even more compelling.” 

All the divisions of Close Brothers are committed to fostering a culture that attracts and grows great talent. “We want to ensure our people have the skills and tools they need to be successful,” explained Evans. “With myTrailhead, we can launch new training content in a couple of days.”

To support a current initiative, Evans and her team are developing 19 modules with 50 units in them. “With myTrailhead, we can empower our people with anytime, anywhere training,” said Evans. “On-demand learning is particularly valuable for our field sales teams, who can at times find it challenging to participate in training when working remotely.”

Maximising the business value of data with visualisation

Making it easier for people to consume information is key to the division’s digitalisation goals. With Salesforce Maps, account teams can visualise prospect and client data captured in Sales Cloud in a geographic format. For example, they can pull through information on clients’ different printing assets to identify the best matches for a campaign. “With Salesforce Maps, our teams can manage their territory and pipeline more effectively, freeing them up to spend more time supporting SMEs,” said Philbrick.

Account teams use Salesforce Maps to optimise their schedules and routes when planning client meetings. “Being able to see all customer and prospect data visually has enabled the sales teams to be more focused when planning their days,” added Philbrick. “They can see exactly who is in a specific area they might be travelling to and schedule meetings accordingly using the auto route planner in Salesforce Maps.”

Account teams can not only see the location of a customer but also key profile and financial information, such as turnover, as well as details of the last interaction. “With Salesforce Maps, we can surface data faster and in a more targeted way. It enables our teams to better prepare for customer meetings and better plan their routes, which increases efficiency,” commented Philbrick. “The ability to use Maps on a mobile platform also makes it a versatile tool for people when they are travelling.”

By combining Sales Cloud insights with data from third party sources, such as Companies House, account teams can also identify lookalike clients in their territory via Salesforce Maps. “With Salesforce, we can take a more predictive and proactive approach to selling,” added Philbrick. 

Dashboards reveal new operational insights

With more digital interactions unlocking more data sources, Close Brothers Asset Finance and Leasing has started to explore Tableau CRM, Salesforce’s AI-powered analytics platform. From sales opportunities to marketing campaigns, Tableau CRM dashboards enable the Asset Finance and Leasing division to access actionable insights in real-time. “With Tableau CRM, we can evaluate the past and predict the future,” commented Philbrick.

As more people learn about the power of Tableau CRM through personalised Trailmixes on myTrailhead, the company wants to expand its dashboard portfolio to include more insight-based analysis using Einstein AI’s capabilities to identify upselling opportunities. “Consistent and regular analysis of our operational data allows us to better understand our clients and expand and adapt our services to suit their changing requirements and habits,” said Davies.

Close Brothers plans for a greener future

The Asset Finance and Leasing division has already developed new offerings to address the growing focus on sustainability within the SME market. As well as providing finance for green energy and electric car fleets, Close Brothers is looking at ways to reduce its own environmental impact.

For example, it plans to minimise unnecessary consumption, improve rates of recycling and promote the use of recycled materials wherever possible, while continuing to monitor and report on its environmental footprint both internally and externally.

“Acting sustainably is an integral part of our strategy and we’re committed to making a positive impact. We appreciate that our actions today will have lasting impacts and consequences for tomorrow,” said Davies.

Digitalisation enriches client and colleague experience

As well as planning for a greener tomorrow, Close Brothers Asset Finance and Leasing is ramping up its investment in digital technologies. By implementing CL Originate, an underwriting solution from the Salesforce AppExchange, the division will be able to further streamline the loan proposal process for colleagues and clients. “Instead of having to manually source supporting information from different websites, teams will be able to automatically access the data through Salesforce,” explained Hack.

Close Brothers Asset Finance and Leasing also plans to deploy DocuSign and Conga solutions from the AppExchange to digitalise the onboarding process for new clients. “With Salesforce, we can keep innovating and evolving; there is no line in the sand,” commented Philbrick.

Personalised onboarding Trailmixes and a client portal built on Experience Cloud are also on the innovation radar along with the implementation of Salesforce Inbox, which will provide field sales teams with better access to emails and client records via the Salesforce Mobile App.

Close Brothers Asset Finance and Leasing helps SMEs realise their growth goals

For Close Brothers Asset Finance and Leasing, all these innovations have one thing in common: a desire to ensure SMEs thrive, not simply survive, whatever the market conditions.

The company offered a lending lifeline to hundreds of businesses during the pandemic, which saw its asset finance loan book increase to £2.8 billion in the financial year ending July 2021, up from £2.2 billion in 2020. And it wants to ensure more SMEs can benefit from flexible funding in the future.

‘We want to provide SMEs with the financial support they need to plan with confidence,” said Davies. “With Salesforce, we can help our clients fulfil their ambitions while also growing our own business.


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