As a sponsor of the annual Focus on Excellence Awards, WesBank continues to show its support for the local commercial transport industry, despite troubled times. When WesBank first decided to support the Focus on Excellence Awards in mid-2008, the commercial transport market looked very different to what it does today. Truck sales were soaring, and transport operators were booming.
Of course, the boom period also resulted in many fly-by-night products and companies entering the market, making it all the more important to distinguish between those companies who offered good service, and those who did not.
At its core, this is why the Focus on Excellence Awards were conceived in the first place, and why WesBank chose to add its brand to the prestigious event. “The transport industry is of huge importance to the South African economy, and we believe in honouring those companies that are doing a great job in this field,” said Chris de Kock, executive head of sales and marketing at WesBank, in the announcement in June 2008 that the finance house would be sponsoring the awards.
The fact that market and industry conditions have changed so substantially make these awards no less important, however. If anything, they are a marker of the companies who are not only weathering the storm, but managing to put their customers first as well.
“We believe that the local transport industry is not only the best in Africa, but on par with any country in the world,” says De Kock. “Which is why we believe it is vital to not only maintain a strong relationship with this industry, but support and honour it in any way we can.”
De Kock conceded that the last year has been a difficult period for the commercial vehicle industry, with experienced operators finding a significant decline in new contracts being awarded. “This has resulted in many expansion and replacement programmes having to be postponed, and in severe cases some operators have even closed their businesses,” he reveals.
“This, in turn, resulted in an unprecedented decline in new vehicle sales, with some sectors reporting a drop in sales of almost 50%.”
De Kock maintains, however, that, throughout this period, WesBank has continued to support the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and their dealer networks in securing funding for credit- worthy customers and assisting customers in distress with various repayment plans.
“The WesBank brand is well established in South African society,” he elaborates. “Long known as the ‘Wheels Bank’, we have grown to become the country’s foremost vehicle and asset finance company. This relationship with the local motoring industry places responsibility on us to support this industry as well, just as it has supported us.”
WesBank, as a division of FirstRand Bank Ltd, is designed to align operational units as closely as possible with the operations of its major partners in the motoring markets.
“This allows each business unit to take ownership of its operation, while leveraging off group strength,” explains De Kock. “Our revenue-generating business units include motor division, corporate division, fleet division, loans division and international division, as well as investments in a number of subsidiaries and associates.
“WesBank identified the commercial vehicle market as an opportunity for growth eight years ago. Our success since then is derived from our partnering strategy with leading OEMs.
“We firmly believe that the only way to have a sustainable business in the commercial vehicle industry is through solid relationships with customers, OEMs and their dealer networks, facilitated by our dedicated commercial vehicle finance team.”
This team was initially created in response to the strong growth the commercial vehicle finance market showed over the past few years leading up to 2008.
This move ultimately benefited both WesBank and the commercial sector
as a whole, and the financier remains a
firm supporter of the local commercial transport sector, believing that South Africa’s growth and momentum will carry all industries through these tough economic times.
“The entire country has experienced tough times, but that does not mean we can lose sight of the good,” says De Kock.
“Celebrating excellence is always important, but particularly so during crisis periods. The synergy between the Focus on Excellence Awards and WesBank is clear,” he continues. “The awards recognise excellence in the transport industry and our new brand positioning supports expertise and know-how across all areas of our business.
“WesBank also sponsors the Car of the Year competition, and as the largest vehicle and asset finance company in South Africa, we believe that this synergised approach to supporting both the transport industry and the passenger vehicle industry makes sense for all involved,” he concludes.