Simon Fuller (left) and Vince Pemberton of Rivervale
Simon Fuller (left) and Vince Pemberton: leasing the way into making Rivervale the John Lewis of leasing

IF you go down ‘motor alley’ in Portslade, Brighton, you might be forgiven for missing Rivervale as a broker.

It looks for all the world like a dealership among all the other franchised outlets.

There’s a Bosch service department with undercover parking; a used car lot; and in the entrance to the impressive building – complete with its own Starbucks cafe – are a couple of cars: a Honda NSX and an Aston Martin DBS. Nice eye-candy.

These have just been taken in part exchange for new lease deals (the NSX for a Range Rover SVR).

All staff, including Chief Operating Officer Vince Pemberton and Leasing Director Simon Fuller, are dressed in navy blue.

There’s good reason for this dealership feel. In fact, Vince refers to it as a “leasing dealership”. Rivervale used to be a Mercedes-Benz franchise, but lost out when Mercedes-Benz reorganised its London representation back in the early noughties when HR Owen was granted the Sussex area as a gesture of goodwill for departing the capital.

Vince Pemberton puts this down to his time at Rivervale which he joined in 1996. “In those days part of your joining instructions was to visit “The Italian Suit Company” in the lanes where you were kitted out with your Suits and Shirts. The only thing you had to provide were the shoes.”

But it’s that sense of belonging to a team that made Vince and the board decide it was right to bring this back in some way. “It’s like putting on a football shirt. You become part of the team.”

The office is open Monday to Saturday and the large entrance area, which features that NSX and the DBS, has kitchen style breakfast bars for a relaxed feel for customers to talk about leasing or anything else that the business has to offer.

It’s very much part of Vince’s plan to make Rivervale – in his words – ‘the John Lewis of leasing’.

“We need to provide good value for money, but we also need to look after people.” That’s something supported by Rivervale currently sitting in the number one slot on Trustpilot with 96% of the reviews being awarded five stars. In addition, they have received two Highly Commendeds in the Leasing Broker Awards 2018, and also being named LeasePlan Franchise of the Year 2017.

Rivervale entrance with Jaguar F-Type and Honda NSX
Rivervale’s spacious customer area at the front of its sales, servicing and used car operation

Vince left Rivervale Mercedes in 2001 and began Eagle Oak Vehicle Contracts where Rivervale co-director Simon Fuller joined him in 2005. The pair then were brought back into Rivervale to expand it in its current state in 2009, with the backing of Endeavour Holdings headed up by its Chairman Tommy Sopwith and Neil Chapman, the group CEO who is a former partner at KPMG.

Starbucks cafe at Rivervale
That dealership feeling: proper Starbucks cafe

Simon says that Neil is always supportive of what he and Vince wish to do but will always ask the hard questions when they need to be asked before any sign off. And that can include tactical acquisition of cars – “that’s the benefit of being part of a larger group where the funds are available. It puts us in a very strong position,” says Simon. They are also a Ford Terms holder in their own right.

2019 brings with it more expansion: this includes moving into the minibus market where the company has just resourced with the appointment of Sharon Gilpin. They are also moving into fleet management thanks to the support of ODO, one of the Leasing Broker Federation’s associate partners.

Simon also says the business is seeing the huge shift into Personal Contract Hire (PCH). “Sixty percent of our business in Q3 was PCH,” says Simon. “This seems to be in line with what funders are also seeing elsewhere.

The operation now has 62 members of staff which includes 12 contract hire sales staff along with the stand alone trading entity Business Car Contracts who were one of the pioneers in the broker market back in the 90s.

The used car department will sell around 360 vehicles a year while the servicing department has a throughput of over 5000 vehicles. There’s also a separate valet and preparation centre where the staff are not contractors, they are part of the Rivervale team.

In every way Rivervale feels like a ‘leasing dealership’. “We want to take leasing to the high street and supply and maintain where we can,” adds Vince.

Which sounds like Rivervale is getting closer to being the John Lewis of leasing.

Vince Pemberton Ralph Morton Andy Hirons and Simon Fuller at Rivervale

Outside the dealership / brokerage at Rivervale: Vince Pemberton (Rivervale), Ralph Morton and Andy Hirons (Leasing Broker Federation) and Simon Fuller (Rivervale)

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