GSM Finance Brings a Creative Touch to Ambulance Finance

Last month, London-based GSM Finance celebrated twenty years of year on year growth as a forward thinking provider of asset finance across a range of sectors. Founded in November 1997 by Guy Symmons, (the “G” in – GSM) the company has carved out a unique position in the finance market; arranging lease and HP agreements for niche business assets which high street banks typically do not like.

Drawn to GSM’s “outside the box” approach, Roger Wood joined the company in 2009 as a Business Development Director after successful stints at Barclays and BNP Paribas in the City. Whilst still at Barclays, Wood worked on a series of fleet expansion deals for London-based Door 2 Door PTS. Having instinctively grasped the ins and outs of ambulance finance, he was invited to continue serving as Door 2 Door’s finance broker after his move to GSM. Wood’s acumen within the sector grew with his experience and he developed a similarly fruitful funding relationship with Stewart Lawson at AST Ambulance.

Roger and Stewart have worked closely together since 2012, financing new ambulances and equipment for a number of Stewart’s companies from AST Ambulance to the relatively new company Ambulance Transfers Ltd. Although ATL are a fairly new company by underwriting criteria they have a very experienced management team and are well respected in the industry which makes obtaining funding for them easier due to the CVs and expertise of those involved. This has enabled GSM Finance to source funding for Ambulance Transfers’ fleet of new PTS ambulances from GSM’s panel of lenders. Stewart commented “GSM Finance’s ability to fund our ambulance fleet meant we secured our NHS contracts enabling us to continue growing as a business.”

Wood and GSM anticipated that, not only would private sector ambulance provision grow in emphasis thanks to government policy, but that this growth would lead to the formation of larger, more professional independent ambulance services. These new services would follow the lead of NHS ambulance trusts, running their own high-spec clinical vehicle fleets, underpinned with twenty-first century telecoms and new technical innovations, managed by highly trained clinical staff.

Joe Fraser joined GSM as a leasing executive from a creative background and now works alongside Wood in the independent ambulance sector specialising in frontline sales. As dedicated ambulance finance specialists, they can often be found visiting customer sites, trade shows, events and at supplier production lines, inspecting new vehicles.

As the credit – crunch eased, Wood and Fraser focused increasingly on finding new ambulance industry customers and GSM’s client base grew rapidly. Many of GSM’s longstanding funder-panel members, seeking fresh investment opportunities, started to show an appetite for the ambulance sector. Wood was invited to share with them his expertise on the types and varieties of vehicles and medical equipment being purchased and his understanding of the equipment’s residual values; a grasp of which helps massively with underwriting when it comes to putting deals together. One of the issues funders faced at the time was that they couldn’t attribute values to ambulances being built by new suppliers as there were no ‘historical’ examples. Why would a Renault chassis with some add-ons cost in the region of £60k or £70k? With their specialist knowledge of the industry, GSM were in the perfect position to answer these questions, and as a result, they now have over 30 funders who specialise in financing ambulances and associated medical equipment. Thanks to these funders and GSM’s expertise, they have been able to finance a wide range of companies from new start ups to well established industry names. Wood has also developed close ties with Alan Howson at The Independent Ambulance Association who promotes GSM’s specialist expertise in helping companies to secure their funding.
When securing funding for a client, new or existing, GSM’s aim is to make it as easy as possible; with their ambulance team there is just one point of contact for underwriting a deal, which is Roger Wood himself.

Roger explains: “We offer a one-stop service, once the client has provided the information that we have requested, we secure funding from our panel of over 30 banks, raise documents and work with the supplier on the invoices. Although these days documents can be emailed, whenever required I’ll visit the customer to assist with the paperwork as this can sometimes be a bit of a headache for them.”
“We process the paperwork at GSM and ensure a speedy payout of funds so that the customer can get their vehicles out on the road and the supplier is paid quickly and without fuss. We’re proud of the fact that we can often turn a deal around in just 2 to 3 hours, with more complex credits taking only between 24 to 48 hours. With a fair wind we can have a deal credit approved, signed up and paid out within 48 hours if required.”

Detailed below are three typical examples of cases where GSM has stepped in to help ambulance companies to major success.

Case study No. 1

Dickie Henderson, the previous owner of Mediforce (NI) Ltd that was sold in 2012, returned to the market after taking time out due to a 3-year non-compete clause with his new company Polaris Medical Services Ltd. He decided that his best option was to grow the new business organically and naturally approached GSM to finance vehicles. Polaris Medical Services would provide ambulances initially to the events sector and thanks to GSM financing a fleet of 12 ambulances, the company was able to begin trading immediately and start winning new contracts.

The company has grown to the point that they have now entered the front-line sector, purchasing five new GSM-financed HDU vehicles from AMZ, fitted with LIFEPAK 15 defibrillators, Ferno stretchers and Terrafix navigation equipment.

As Dickie Henderson said: “GSM provided outstanding service, very personal and catered to the bespoke needs of Polaris Medical Services.”

Case Study No. 2

In 2014, GSM were approached by the new start-up Medi 4 Ltd. The company had no trade history, no accounts, and no contracts and had not yet passed the Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspection. The start-up was in urgent need of at least one High- Dependency Unit (HDU) Ambulance in order to pass the inspection.
Within five working days GSM had secured funding for two new HDUs purchased from Blue Light Services, enabling the company to pass CQC and immediately start working on ad-hoc contracts with their local NHS trust.

Case Study No. 3

GSM were approached by an existing customer who required funding for 40 Patient Transport Service (PTS) and Wheelchair Accessible (WAV) vehicles. Although the company was well-established in the industry, a recent change of ownership to a foreign parent meant that showing Universal Beneficial Ownership (UBO), a new funding regulation, was difficult. Utilising our panel of funders GSM secured over £2m of funding for this customer, enabling them to purchase vehicles from O&H Conversions.
With GSM’s customary no-nonsense style Roger explains the company’s impressive growth very simply: “As Brexit looms and trading conditions for UK businesses remain as challenging as ever but with increased economic uncertainty, our mantra here at GSM is very simple: We listen to our clients, we get them their finance and we help them manage their finance and their paperwork with the minimum of fuss. One thing that never changes is that great service matters!

Profile: GSM Finance

– Celebrating 20 years in the industry
– Backed by over 30 banks, finance houses and specialist lenders
– Typically lending around £40m per annum
– Funding rates currently as low as 3%
– GSM can offer HP, Finance Lease, Balloon payments, Operating Lease, Business Loans, Refinance, Invoice Discounting & Factoring.

– The recommended finance partner of the Independent Ambulance Association

Over the last decade Roger has also assisted many companies with working capital requirements to provide capital for cashflow or new investment by refinancing or restructuring existing debt. By developing supplier relationships, such as with O&H Conversions and Blue Light Services, GSM have now become directly involved in the sales process, offering competitive finance solutions to the suppliers’ customers. In the words of Graham Hunter, Finance Director at O&H Conversions “Roger and GSM made a complex transaction with a major customer appear simple. Clear communication with all parties ensured that deliveries, billing and payment all happened seamlessly.“

Assets and equipment financed

:• New or Used Frontline, HDU, Bariatric and PTS Ambulances
• New or Used WAV and Renal and First Responder Vehicles
• Defibrillators• Stretchers
• Diagnostic equipment
• Carry chairs
• IT equipment
• Telecommunications and navigation equipment
• Specialist beds• Fixtures and Fittings/Office Equipment

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