After working in the consumer leasing industry for almost 20 years, Cameron Crowell, Director of Sales and Operations at Aspire42, continues to play a lead role in the sector’s continued progress. He traces his career from its beginnings, explaining his personal trajectory, key insights, and hopes for the growing industry.

‘Having come from Betta Electrical and Harvey Norman, I got my start in the Consumer Leasing industry in 2002 with Radio Rentals South Australia, gaining valuable experience in the consumer leasing space,’ Cameron begins. ‘After working on the sales floor of Radio Rentals SA during my first couple of years, I gradually worked my way through varying business divisions to become Chief Operating Officer.’

Cam’s work in this role was varied and demanding. ‘I led the post-acquisition integration of the Queensland-based company RT Edwards in 2008, tasked with introducing consumer leasing into that group and integrating it into the broader RRSA business,’ he recalls.

Returning to head office in South Australia in 2013, Cameron was promoted to Group General Manager and headed up Retail, Marketing, Procurement, Warehousing and Distribution. Promoted to Chief Operations Officer two years ago, Cam stayed with Radio Rentals until just prior to its acquisition by Aspire42 Post-acquisition, Cameron was subsequently hired by Aspire42 into his current position, Director of Sales and Operations.

During two decades in consumer leasing, Cam has accumulated crucial insights about customer needs and how best to fulfil them. ‘The biggest change from 20 years ago is undoubtedly the internet,’ he reflects. ‘This has been a genuine game-changer, ushering in an era of massive technological progress along with changes to consumer behaviour and buying patterns.’

The internet revolution has also challenged the authority salespeople once enjoyed. ‘Our word was gospel when I started on the sales floor, so we had to have very broad knowledge of many different categories,’ Cameron remembers. ‘The internet’s coming of age, which really occurred in our industry around 2011–12, has empowered consumers. There’s now much more research available, with far broader product knowledge among the public in both physical product terms and acquisition methods. As a result, it’s never been more important to give our customers a compelling value proposition to stand out from the crowd.’

As well as becoming savvier and more assertive, customers are more amenable to leasing as a concept. ‘More than ever, flexibility is king,’ Cameron explains. ‘Many products we use in daily life now have a subscription and disposable mentality; purchasing was definitely prioritised for previous generations, with products expected to last for decades.’

Another major change has been the liberalisation of finance. ‘There were far fewer financing options for customers when I started, but they’re now spoiled for choice,’ Cameron reflects. ‘There has been a proliferation of finance options like BNPL, for example. To offer value over and above these other options, consumer leasing has had to evolve to offer customers the flexibility to change their requirements quickly and efficiently based on changing lifestyles.’

This emphasis on flexibility is linked to renting’s recent widespread acceptance among the population. ‘When I was younger, renting anything was seen as “dead money”,’ Cameron observes. ‘Now, though, we’ve moved to a subscription mentality in many areas. From cars, phones, and homes to Uber, Spotify and Netflix, there’s far less emphasis on owning things outright.’

There is also a growing awareness of leasing’s hidden advantages. ‘When considering whether to rent or buy, many people simply look at the retail price,’ Cameron points out. ‘However, they forget how quickly products evolve, and are left with the hassle of selling it on Gumtree or other marketplaces – or binning it,’ he points out. ‘In addition to the convenience of being able to hand the product back, upgrade to new technology or simply update your lifestyle, it’s great to have a central point of contact for any concern – as it’s our product, it’s our problem.’

A desire for newness is another factor driving consumer leasing. ‘People are far more impatient now than they were – they want the latest, and they want it today,’ Cameron confirms. ‘As a rental company, one of our biggest accomplishments is getting a product to the customer’s door in a timely way.’

Another phenomenon Cameron has observed is the massive growth in providers, creating an urgent need for regulation. ‘There was an explosion of small operators starting up shortly after the GFC in 2008–09, which sadly damaged the industry’s reputation through the actions of a minority,’ he says. ‘Rental became a go-to option during those tough times, but this expansion created risks which are now more than ever the focus of intense regulation – and for good reason.’

For this reason, Cameron appreciates the increasing emphasis on consumer protection. ‘We’re extremely grateful that the consumer leasing space has now become more regulated – including the recent decision to regulate “credit repair” companies, many of which operated without clear guidelines,’ he says. ‘Our business has always acted in a way that emphasises working with our customers, past and present, for the optimal solution to their enquiries. Having a more regulated process ensures a fair outcome for all.’

When asked about his insights over two decades, Cameron raises two key points. ‘Although I’ve seen the industry change significantly in my 20 years, some things stay the same,’ he says. ‘First is the paramount importance of making your customer the priority and evolving with their needs, because customer retention is as important as customer acquisition.

‘Second is the imperative to adapt and keep pace with technological change,’ he continues. I’m proud that our company has recognised each of these factors, and strongly supports a regulatory framework backed by a first-class industry association in Responsible Leasing Australia, which allows us to remain an ethical and compliant industry leader.’

Cameron’s commitment to running a robust, transparent and innovative consumer leasing sector is exactly what this burgeoning space needs in rapidly changing times.

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