CGI Finance, Leader in Europe

With an 85% satisfaction rate among surveyed dealers, CGI Finance confirms its position as Europe’s leading financial services provider, according to the first marine market satisfaction survey conducted for CGI Finance by Becoming, an independent research company

by Annarita Mariani

The objective of this qualitative study was to gather feedback from our partners to improve our services to boost satisfaction among our partners and customers”, reads the statement from the European marine finance and leasing provider. The survey, the results of which were published in July, involved 500 French marine industry professionals from 30 November 2022 to 19 February 2023 and was extended to Spain, Italy, the UK and Germany, with 500 dealers interviewed between 5 April 2023 and 19 May 2023. This broad range was justified by the fact that the company operates in seven European countries and involves at least 1,000 players including partners and boat dealers.

«OUR SALES NETWORK IS SPREAD ACROSS FRANCE AND INTERNATIONALLY, WITH DEDICATED TEAMS IN THE COUNTRIES WHERE WE OPERATE. BEING CLOSE TO OUR PARTNERS IS ESSENTIAL FOR US, AND IT WORKS». SYLVAIN BARD

However, its widespread presence in Europe is only one of the strengths that emerged from the study, which ranks CGI Finance among the most reliable financial players in terms of team proximity and back-office efficiency: “Our sales network is spread across France and internationally, with dedicated teams in the countries where we operate. Being close to our partners is essential for us, and it works!” But the quality and promptness of the telephone services, the competence of the sales service both in the field and in the sales offices, and the quality of the financial and marketing services also tipped the balance in favour of total satisfaction among respondents. Furthermore, the data underscores how the constant presence at boat shows, the team’s helpfulness and the responsiveness to competing products are winning cards for this finance company.

photo by Jérôme Kelagopian.

The study also sought to identify critical issues and areas for improvement, which were found in the financing offers and digital presence, although satisfaction levels were still at 60%. “In this latter area, dealers mentioned digital training, social network presence and lead generation, or rather the process of engaging potential customers to increase future sales”. However, these are fields in which investment has already begun and in which the improvement process is already underway through actions to develop the credit policy, to enhance digital and social communication, and – in France in particular – to offer new insurance products.

«A BOAT ON THE MARKET DEPRECIATES BY 20%, BUT NOW CATAMARANS, FOR EXAMPLE, ARE SELLING TWO YEARS AFTER THE FIRST PURCHASE FOR EVEN MORE THAN THE ORIGINAL PRICE WHEN NEW».

CGI Finance

photo by Jean-François Romero.

We put a few questions to Sylvain Bard, CEO of General Yachting & Leisure Finance Italia, the exclusive distributor for Italy of CGI Finance and SGB Finance products, who gives us an insight into the current marine industry and a glimpse into its commercial future.

CGI Finance

photo by Nicolas Claris.

What were the strengths and critical areas pointed out by Italian partners? They are in line with the rest of Europe. The priority is to improve digital technology during the contractual process to streamline bureaucratic procedures, but we have to tackle these requirements while considering that we are in an international group, which is Groupe Société Générale, and that we operate throughout Europe. The group’s means need to be unified, while also conforming to each country’s requirements. We are working very hard. The other point is the credit policy. You know, in all my many years of experience I have never seen such a sudden rise in rates. As a group, to deal with this discouraging aspect for customers, we have changed the redemption, which can reach 30%, and raised the boat age limit to thirty-five years so that we can now finance or refinance a twenty-year-old boat for another fifteen years. These are significant changes.

CGI Finance

An excerpt from Yachting in Figures Monitor no. 5 Market Trends 2022/2023 of March 2023 published by Confindustria Nautica reads: “As for Europe, although there is evidence of several positive elements, including the unexpected resilience of domestic demand despite spikes in inflation, a robust labour market, and an easing – albeit temporary – of tensions in the gas market, there is a deterioration in household and business confidence that suggests a weak outlook”.

CGI Finance

Is that the case? Is a weak period looming? I don’t think so. The type of clientele has changed. As regards private individuals, until a few years ago they mainly bought boats they could pay for in cash or finance through their bank. It is more complex today because the economy has changed. Speaking of the charter sector, on the other hand, we can observe a further change: the cost of a week on a boat is no longer what it used to be and this changes the business plan for charter boats. Nevertheless, we have not made any changes in the management of outstanding debts and disputes.

Once again in an extract from the Confindustria Nautica study, we read: “Now the unknown factor regards ‘when’ high inflation, together with the tightening of lending conditions brought about by the ECB (which raised rates to 3% on 2 February 2023, an increase of 50 basis points), will lead to a contraction in consumption”.

What do you think about this?
We are the only ones financing dealers and shipyards and – I can tell you – we have never had such a large exposure before. For example, this means that even in mid-July – with the season half over – we are still receiving applications for new, ready-to-buy boats. Things will have to be rebalanced. Just consider that a boat on the market depreciates by 20%, but now a catamaran, for example, can be sold two years after the first purchase for even more than the original price when new.

CGI Finance

Nevertheless, what you’re telling me contradicts the general complaint about the impossibility of finding boats, with orders up to 2025 that can’t be delivered because of the shortage of materials. As far as I can see, there are boats for sale.

What does this mean? It’s a very delicate subject, but the question needs to be asked. In light of all this, is there a risk of a speculative bubble in the nautical market a few years from now? And how worried are you about this as a finance and leasing agency? We are not scared. Even during the 2012 crisis, we were the only financial company that always remained in the marine sector. As long as we respect credit policy and customers we are not afraid of the market. We have a solid financial structure and I can say that, despite everything, our clientele has been very good, we have had very few disputes and the risk has been limited for seven or eight years. However, all players in this area must remain flexible with their financing, while conducting stringent assessments.

(CGI Finance, Leader in Europe – Barchemagazine.com – October 2023)