Q&A: Gary Little, Co-CEO, Duologi
RTIH: Tell us about yourself
GL: Duologi is about providing innovative finance solutions to businesses to help them grow and increase their profits. The clue is in the name. Duologi is us working in partnership with those businesses to offer logical, intelligent and creative financing options to their customers.
The company was set up last year by myself and my co-CEO John Taylor. We’d worked together for a long time at Close Brothers, a UK merchant bank, during which time we set up and grew a number of finance operations. They were in different sectors, including insurance, retail, motor, but what they had in common was that they provided businesses in those sectors with the ability to offer their customers finance options.
John and I were keen to build something which reflected our values – passion, integrity, creativity and above all have fun, and we were fortunate to get the backing of Oaktree, one of the largest private equity providers in the world. In the last year we’ve put a world class team in place, built our operating platform, obtained authorisation from the FCA to trade and launched the business. We’ve developed innovative solutions, won some contracts with large well known businesses and are now growing rapidly.
RTIH: What was the inspiration behind setting the company up?
GL: The world is a fast changing place and emerging technology is a key driver of that change. But change can be viewed as either an opportunity or a threat. Our vision is to take the skills and experience we have built up over many years as lenders andapply them to develop innovative finance solutions which utilise emerging technologies. We’ve put in place a team who share our vision. We want to link fantastic technology to strong lending disciplines but without the stuffiness you often see in traditional lenders.
As an example, new ways of assessing credit worthiness and reducing identity fraud are emerging. Too often traditional lenders are loath to use these tools to optimise lending opportunities. We want to use these techniques in a rigourous and controlled way. Customers' buying patterns are changing – we’ve seen it in the motor industry with the emergence of personal contract plans, in the way people buy mobile phones and in the property sector we’ve seen the emergence of on-line estate agents. All these changes require financing solutions.
Customers want to be able to access finance in a simple and straightforward way at Point of Sale using channels that are convenient for them – phones, tablets, PC’s. Too often they don’t get the effective Point of Sale finance options they’d like because lenders are not creative in developing solutions. We’re passionate and relentless in overcoming obstacles to provide effective operating models.
RTIH: What has been the industry reaction thus far?
GL: Reaction from businesses has been very positive. We’ve already created some product structures which have given us traction with new partners and are in discussion with a number of other potential partners. People are interested in what we are doing and particularly with the fusion of traditional lending expertise with emerging technology driven opportunities.
RTIH: What has been your biggest challenge/setback?
GL: I think the biggest challenge for a new entrant is to establish credibility; to demonstrate to people that we will be around for the long-term and through the lending cycle. Fortunately, we’ve got years of demonstrable industry experience, great technology and the backing of Oaktree.
RTIH: What are the biggest challenges facing the omnichannel retail sector right now?
GL: Two things: Utilising new technology to provide the solutions customers want in a secure way, thinking particularly of cyber security; Ensuring that lending is accessible and convenient for customers whilst still complying with the best principles of responsible lending and the regulatory framework.
RTIH: What's the best question about your company or the market asked of you recently by a.) an investor and b.) a customer?
GL: Investor: What happens when interest rates rise and customer defaults go up – will you lose money? No, the opposite. We’ve spent years lending money in a sensible and controlled way; the businesses we ran survived and prospered through the 2008 financial crash. At some point the lending environment will worsen and many lenders will be forced out of the market. Our disciplined approach to lending will continue and we’ll grow even more rapidly as other lenders withdraw. We’re building a business for the long-term.
Customer: So why should we use you? Because we’ll come up with the best solution for you and your customers and we’ll implement it effectively and ‘right first time’. We really do care about this.
RTIH: What can we expect to see from Duologi over the next 12 months?
GL: We’ll grow rapidly and will win further contracts with household names. Investment in our team and infrastructure will continue, to support this growth and drive further expansion. We’ll expand in a range of lending sectors – not just retail but also everything from property to healthcare to education and travel.