‘We understand this isn’t just our clients’ livelihood, it’s their life’

Why Rural Asset Finance head of legal and compliance ANDREW CARRIER values the friendly approach

RAF’S Head Of Legal and Compliance Andrew Carrier is delighted to be part of the company’s ‘one-stop-shop’ team – because of how much it gets funds to customers as quickly as possible.

“Solicitors are often seen by their clients as the ones who apply the brakes, who slow things down,” he says. “As RAF’s inhouse head of legal and compliance I can help move things along working with our customer’s solicitor so our client can get their funds as quickly as possible for whatever purchase or project they are planning. “

Andrew manages all the legal processes in our customer transactions – including navigating all applicable law.

“As well as ensuring we observe the rightly very stringent rules around lending and borrowing money, I also handle the conveyancing of our land deals, draw up our agreements with both customers and brokers, supervise audits and handle any other day-to-day legal business,” says Andrew.

But although those rules are fixed, he is a firm believer in RAF’s priority of friendly customer service. “We like to work with people, with customers, with other solicitors to get the best outcome for everyone,” he says. “Every lender – every company in any field – must obey the rules around their profession but you can choose the attitude with which you apply them. Either you can apply them starkly because you are forced to, or you can follow them in the spirit that it’s the right thing to do, and you want to treat your customers as fairly as possible. We are definitely in the latter camp. We are very supportive of the Financial Conduct Authority’s ‘Treating Customers Fairly’ principles because they very much reflect the way we do business.”

Which means if there is – as is inevitable in business – sometimes disagreement over a contract or another legal document, Andrew’s first move is a friendly personal approach to try to find common ground.

“The FCA says you don’t have to be nice but you have to be fair,” he says. “But in finding a way to be fair, there’s no reason not to be nice as well! If there’s an issue the easiest way to start finding a solution is always a call appreciating the other party’s point of view and getting a friendly dialogue going towards a resolution that helps everyone. There are of course situations where we are obliged to, say, send out certain letters, but you can still be reasonable about how you prepare people for that.”

“We’re very conscious of our responsibilities to everyone we deal with, and that includes being very mindful of customer vulnerability. We don’t just want to do the best  thing for us, we want to do the right thing for everyone.  If something doesn’t work for the customer, we can’t give advice but I can, for instance, number crunch with them to find the best options available, or direct them to organisations where they can get the help they need.

“Often I find that even with someone who initially strongly disagrees over, say, a request for information, is much happier to discuss their concerns if you just approach them in a friendly manner that is clearly trying to help them as much as it is you.”

That means Andrew, like all his colleagues, embraces opportunities to get out in the field, visiting and getting to know RAF’s customers. “Even just doing an audit, perhaps going out and taking photos of assets, gives you a chance to chat to the people you’re helping,” he says. “Many solicitors just meet people in their own offices, but going out to farms to see clients, constantly reminds you that this business is not just their livelihood but their life, that the farmhouse is at the centre of who they are – and has often been the constant in their family for generations.”

That reminder, he says, underpins the goal that runs through RAF – to give everyone we deal with the same positive experience. “Ultimately, we all want the same thing – to agree a finance deal that everyone is happy with. We may have different priorities within that, but that is our common goal, that we’re not travelling separately, but that we’ve all jumped in the same minibus and are heading in the same direction.

“Whether it’s a land deal, or seeing through a contract to buy a piece of machinery, or settling up when they’re selling equipment, it’s always rewarding to look back in the evening and say ‘I helped someone today’.”

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