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New technologies demand a new outlook for finance

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The days of bankers being able to apply a set of regular criteria when assessing clients’ requests for finance are officially over. They have fallen victim to the evolving march of technology and the introduction of machinery and devices that were unheard of and non-existent a few years ago.
This is according to Toni Fritz, head of vehicle asset finance: business at Standard Bank, who  notes that today an increasing part of a banker’s duties involves keeping up with developments across both commerce and industry, as well as putting in the necessary ground work when an unusual, non-vanilla request crosses one’s desk.
The effort of keeping abreast of these developments is worthwhile; in the world of asset finance, the exceptional is bound to become the norm, new asset types are emerging everywhere and within a few years, these could even be redundant as a new system or process demands new hardware. That’s just the way technology evolves, says Fritz
“One of the  recent technological developments at  the moment is 3D printers. Although we don’t receive as many finance requests for these items as we do for other assets, there is a definite increase in demand for financing these and other high-tech, high price items.  As is the case with a lot of new technologies, we believe that the demand is likely to  increase as 3D technology begins infiltrating all aspects of industry. Once early adopters have showed interest and practical use in the industry, the rest of consumers are sure to follow. It’s a natural progression of product adoption.
“We can expect 3D printing to become a common manufacturing value-adding tool that is likely to decrease in price and increase in demand as its level of sophistication improves. One can safely say that we’re likely to reach a point where the printers become common tools for businesses and technicians working from home.”
Sounds impossible? Well, cast your mind back to the now immortal quote of Thomas Watson, president of IBM who said: “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers”, talking at the dawn of computer technology.
Fritz adopts a more balanced view in relation to the future of 3D technology. She says that from a financer’s perspective, it looks bright as it is presently being adopted by many companies that specialise in creating small runs or single items.
“Even in traditional manufacturing, 3D printers are beginning to make a mark. Instead of having to wait for a set of technical drawings and then undergoing the expensive process of milling and producing a single prototype for testing, a technician can use his 3D facility to produce an example of what an item would look like and deliver it with drawings to a client.”
For more focused, specialised producers the future is already here. They now have the ability to take a part from a client and reproduce it- a cause for great excitement for customers who may be looking for an obscure part to fit into a classic car or other exotic needs.
“Like most nascent technologies, the way forward for 3D is still not clear. At the base is concern regarding intellectual capital and copyright infringement; at the peak, the current lack of ability to produce items in materials that may be required by customers.
“There is no doubt that these questions will be dealt with. New materials will be developed and 3D printers will be produced that will be able to handle a variety of materials-from plastics through to stainless steel and beyond.  The only thing we don’t know is when this will happen,” Fritz says.
“In the world of banking, however, we have come to understand that technology must be embraced if we are to remain innovative and meet our customers’ needs.  This applies especially in the growing world of asset finance. If we don’t keep pace, our customers can fall behind, something that could be terminal to their ability to remain relevant and competitive.”