A Capital Idea

Omni Capital Retail Finance, or Omni Capital as they are more widely known, provides point-of-sale finance facilities to retailers across the UK. They give retailers the capability to offer consumer credit, thereby increasing the payment options available to their customers.

They’ve also recently launched a personal loans product to the market at trade shows. Giving consumers the ability to spend money within two hours of acceptance. So far they’ve attended the British Shooting Show and the Northern Shooting Show, and we will be at The Game Fair later this year. Gun Trade News caught up with the company’s managing director, Michael Bevan, to ask him about the finance in the world of firearms.

What’s your personal business philosophy? How does it apply to the finance sector?

Always operate with honesty, transparency and openness. Either do something new, or do what someone else does better. You should always listen to what other people have to say and strive to look for new ways of dealing with old problems. Never assume you know everything, and never become too attached to what was once a good idea. Be agile enough to accommodate new ways of thinking, but don’t lose sight of what you are trying to achieve.

Applying this to the finance sector, at Omni Capital we strive to improve the perception of finance – in particular consumer credit, and the way in which it is delivered.

With the advent of payday loans and the financial crisis in 2008, finance has almost become a dirty word, which it needn’t be! Consumers needs and expectations are evolving. Most of us now expect 24/7 access to retailers, and the traditional battleground of pricing is being challenged. Customer service, delivery and returns policy now form an intrinsic part of a buying decision.

My philosophy is to provide a service that fits with these new consumer expectations and provides a payment solution that is both suitable and affordable.

Our technology delivers a seamless and transparent application process that replaces paper applications, where often customers did not know what they were applying for or how much it would cost. The key to our business model is our relationships with our retailers and wider business partners. By being open and transparent, we are confident that they will trust us to ensure their customers’ needs are being met

You’re BASC’s recommended provider of retail finance for businesses in the gun trade. What are the unique challenges associated with firearms finance?

The main challenge associated with financing guns is that consumers and retailers are not aware that finance facilities are available. We have had to embark upon an education piece, informing the sector that we are here and that we are willing to fund the firearms themselves – not just the accessories associated with them!

Firearms finance is a concept that many lenders are hesitant to facilitate, with the perception that the sector holds a large risk. We do not share this reluctance. We understand the industry and the stringent regulations that all RFDs must meet and have been committed to the sector since our launch in 2009. In fact, our very first retailer was The Airgun Centre, and they are a fantastic success story in how you can drive finance within the gun market.

You had some success at your British Shooting Show debut – how was that weekend for you?

The British Shooting Show was fantastic, and we will continue to attend in the future. This year we had a new exciting proposition with the launch of a Personal Loans product direct to consumers at the show.

We funded thousands of pounds worth of business at the show, enabling consumers to take advantage of the great offers there.

By offering a B2C proposition, we were also able to talk directly with a large number of consumers within the sector, finding out exactly what they would like from a finance facility. We had some great feedback and have lots of ideas, so watch this space!

Why do you think no one has had the courage to offer this sort of product before?

In order to offer a new product to a market you have to know the sector extremely well. Unfortunately, as we discussed, many banks are hesitant to work with RFDs – therefore they are unable to see the opportunities available.

What are the innovations and achievements you’re proud of making in this sector?

There are a few things: Firstly, we’ve launched finance into a market that historically has been underfunded. We’ve funded millions of pounds worth of applications and ensured that thousands of enthusiasts can pursue their hobbies.

Consumer funding lets customers buy more aspirational guns, which feeds back into retailer profits

Secondly by funding so many consumers, we’ve helped retailers increase sales, allowing them to upsell and most importantly releasing the funds for the finance to them quickly. This allows our retailers to have better cash-flow and ensures they can re-invest in new stock, a new website or maybe expanding their premises (all achievements that our retailers have undertaken in the past 12 months). 

Finally, in our wider business, our state-of-the-art system is our biggest achievement to date. The launch on OmniPort in 2015 offered an alternative to expensive platforms, ensuring that retailers and consumers can work directly with their lender.

Omni Capital is active in a lot of different markets. How important is the gun trade to your portfolio?

The gun sector, while not our largest, is nonetheless extremely important to us. Unlike some of the sectors within which we operate, where customers have used finance for years, finance penetration within the gun trade is low. Therefore it’s a market with huge opportunity for growth. 

We are committed to growing the availability of finance within the sector. Consequently, we’ve worked hard to forge great relationships within the trade with BASC, in the media and most importantly with our retailers (too many for me to specifically name).

Through these relationships, we’ve identified field sports as one of our growth sectors and currently undertake most of our proactive marketing within the sector, dedicating a large amount of resources to helping enthusiasts pursue their hobbies.

I understand you’re looking to do more shows going forward. Are you going to become a fixture on the shooting show circuit?

Historically, we’ve only attended two shows a year – the Tackle & Guns Show and the British Shooting Show. However, this year with our new B2C proposition, we are adding the Northern Shooting Show and the Game Fair to our calendar. So far, two shows down, the market has responded well, so hopefully you will be seeing more of us in the years to come. 

Part of what you offer is high acceptance rates. How are you able support that commitment?

We continue to invest a large amount of time and money to ensure that we have the most sophisticated systems available.

We achieve our high acceptance rates through state-of-the-art machine learning technology. This analyses data – both historic and current – monitoring trends against customer performance. Through this constant examination, we are able to tweak our credit policy, increasing the number of customers that we can lend to. Hence we often fund customers who other lenders might have turned down.

Is it a challenge doing the necessary checks in a show setting?

Shows definitely provide their own unique challenges!

The checks themselves are straightforward, with our credit application only taking a few minutes, but ensuring that we have the facilities like fast internet in locations that are often pretty remote is something that my team have worked hard to achieve.

At the moment our currency and markets are proving quite volatile. Is that causing difficulties in the finance sector?

Brexit and the currency markets have affectes finance providers, but markets will always have a degree of uncertainty.

We have been relatively fortunate to be slightly shielded from the impact of the current market volatility by our strong funding lines, and that fact that we only operate within the UK.

That being said, we do know that some of our retailers are experiencing difficulties with higher cost of imports and consumer confidence faltering.

What’s the future for Omni Capital and the gun trade? Any more big plans you can tell us about?

Like I mentioned earlier, watch this space!

We are not like the banks or traditional finance houses stuck to traditional sectors and propositions. We are full of new ideas and innovations, and have a great team to facilitate them.

While I can’t give you an exclusive at the moment, I can tell you to keep an eye out in the near future – we’ve got some big plans.

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