Meet the MD: Willie Paterson of Asset Alliance Group

Meet the MD: Willie Paterson of Asset Alliance Group

Willie Paterson has always been an entrepreneur at heart, perhaps why he is now in charge of Asset Alliance Group. Yet, even though he runs a thriving business, he says that he still doesn't know what he wants to be when he grows up. He caught up with BQ to tell us more.

What is it you do?

I am responsible for the long term direction of the group. With a great senior management team behind me taking care of day-to-day business, my role is to develop and deliver the medium-term strategy of the group and its four constituent businesses.


What is it the company does?

Asset Alliance Group is a specialist funder in the commercial vehicle and transportation sectors.

We supply, finance , maintain, rent and fleet manage new and used trucks, trailers, buses and coaches.

Delivered from a uniquely all “in –house” capability, we lend on our own balance sheet taking all credit, asset and residual value risk on our own shoulders.

The group has a UK-wide customer base and has facilities in Scotland, the Midlands and most recently Southampton.

Our flagship 15 acre site in Wolverhampton operates its own in-house repair and refurbishment facility including the UK’s longest VOSA authorised test centre, a 14-metre low bake paint shop, complete metal fabrication facilities and a 60,000 square feet vehicle maintenance depot.


Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?

I left school at 17 years of age and took a job within Clydesdale Bank in Lanark and then Wishaw.

After five years I realised branch retail banking was clearly not for me and left to join Scottish Discount Company Limited (SDC).

SDC was an independently-managed firm in Glasgow specialising in asset finance for cars, buses and commercial vehicles.

It was a small business with a big reputation for great customer service. Without doubt this was a hugely important period in my career as I was privileged to get the opportunity to spend time in every function of the business, a real apprenticeship I guess.

After five years I was approached by HSBC and offered a role within their asset finance business Forward Trust.

I then had five years back at Clydesdale Bank operating across NAB’s European Asset Finance  brands.

In 2002 I was offered a rather unique position with Alliance & Leicester PLC where we restructured the existing asset finance offerings and created Alliance & Leicester Commercial Finance.

Our mandate was to be top three in class within three years, and in fact we topped the sector by December 2006.

In 2007 I was given the role of heading up all the A&L Commercial finance businesses with a specific brief of doubling the £1bn-a-year lend by the millennium.

However, after the credit crunch hit, A&L was acquired by Santander in 2009 and the mandate was to move away from specialist lending businesses to a generalist asset finance product team serving the business banking division.

This was a major step in the opposite direction for me and a clear opportunity to move on and establish my own company.

Asset Alliance was formed in January 2010, the day after leaving Santander, and consisted initially of four staff who followed me.

Six years later we now employ 90 staff across the group.


What do you believe makes a great leader?

I think a great leader is someone who never fails to inspire their teams regardless of the economic environment or trading scenario.

A calming influence who has the ability to see through the most difficult of issues with clarity and confidence, and who always strives to bring out the best in their people.


What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?

Without doubt the biggest challenge has been the integration of three, and now four, businesses into a combined group. 

To be successful we need to define and implement a shared culture across the group, and when you have independently successful trading businesses it can be difficult to get everyone aligned to the same mindset.


How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?

I enjoy family life and the company of our closest friends. Getting out of the office environment into the Scottish countryside is always very relaxing and I enjoy a round of golf or two (but shamefully only in the summer months).


When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Great question and one which I always ask when recruiting. The answer is that I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up!

I am very entrepreneurial and always have been, all I knew was that I wanted to run my own business and be successful at it. My dream was to be a professional rally driver.


Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about then?

I get annoyed with complacency and “can’t do” attitudes, I always try and foster a can-do approach. 

Regardless of how well we are doing today, we try and promote a culture of finding ways to be even better tomorrow.


Where do you see the company in five years time?

We are striving to be a genuine single source supplier to operators of transportation assets, and have a clear vision of a group that is regarded as a UK leader in the supply, finance and fleet management of truck, trailers, buses and coaches.

The recent acquisition of Forest Asset Finance was a pre-planned strategy that widened our offer from just commercial vehicles to including the bus and coach sector.


What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?

Work hard on getting your strategy and vision correct then lead your team to ensure that they buy in and want to deliver it.

For me it has always been important to believe in my team and above all never give up on our strategy through the hard times.

I was advised by a very respected business leader many years ago that its all about holding firm to your strategy and focus on getting the detail correct.