Syscap Limited (previously Syscap PLC) was a UK based leasing and asset finance company. Here our CEO, Jeremy Hall, talks about the history of Syscap, viewed through the eyes of their key adversary.
An introductory note from our CEO, Jeremy Hall
To point out, we are not connected to Syscap other than we operate in the same leasing and asset finance sector here in the UK.
The owners of Syscap built a highly successful and well recognised business that was later sold, then sold again twice more. Here, I reflect on Syscap’s journey from modest beginnings in Wimbledon to being owned by Hampshire Trust Bank, a major force in the UK asset finance lending space.
The Systems House UK Limited
Within three months of setting up Wyse Leasing, on the 19th of February 1990, a new IT leasing company was formed called The Systems House UK Limited. Almost immediately, Wyse Leasing and The Systems House became fierce competitors, both operating in the UK computer leasing sector.
The Systems House was incorporated by Sean Williams and Phillip Brook. Based out of South London, they used their leasing experience working for Lloyds Bowmaker and set about calling UK based IT dealers. It was not too long before they formed a sales team. A tough, aggressive company, they worked hard and built relationships. Wyse Leasing and The Systems House were competing head-to-head in accounts daily.
It was clear early on that Sean Williams was very clever and Philip Brook was good at building relationships. They recruited on a regular basis and as their team grew, so did their volume of business. In the early 1990’s the IT leasing sector was growing fast, companies were using leasing to finance equipment. It wasn’t too long until The Systems House became the UK’s largest computer leasing broker.
On the 1st May 1992, Parry Mitchell joined the board. Parry Michell was made a life Peer in May 2000. The Right Honourable, The Lord Mitchell (Baron Mitchell) was instrumental in helping to build the company and then later to sell it to AnaCap Financial Partners in 2006.
Later in September 1992, Simon Brook (Philip Brook’s brother) completed Companies House documentation to change the status of the business from a limited company to a privately owned ‘PLC.’ The writing was clearly on the wall, The Systems House had big plans for growth.
Rebranding to Systems Capital PLC
However, all was not roses at The Systems House. With growth came issues. The Systems House, whilst a large well known computer leasing broker, had a bad reputation. Jeremy Hall noted, ‘When we talk about a bad reputation, you must respect Wyse Leasing was their major competitor. We would fight off the juicy bits of gossip from suppliers being annoyed with poor service, or end user clients who felt ripped off. We were not friends; I would say at this time we didn’t even respect each other. We wanted them to fail just as much as they did us.’
However, all was to change. They rebranded to Systems Capital PLC on the 1st of June 1998. Together with a new logo was the desire to improve their image.
Syscap name change 2004
Systems Capital PLC shortened their name on the 14th of October 2004 to Syscap PLC. A new logo and a great domain name, www.syscap.com.
Jeremy Hall noted, ‘This was pure genius. The name Syscap just rolls off the tongue and as the internet was gaining massive momentum, they had a great domain name.’
Syscap was growing. They now had large offices, 100 plus staff and fantastic contracts with the likes of Sage. Syscap called themselves the UK’s number one IT leasing company. Speaking as their major competitor at the time, I would have to agree.
The business moved into the education sector and bought a company focused on professions loans and lending. They were not moving away from their core IT leasing business, just shifting into new sectors.
The business still had a reputation of being very tough. Many people came and went from Syscap, a number of these people setting up as their competition. Many of the UK’s long established leasing brokers cut their teeth at Syscap.
Philip Brook, one of the founding partners, left the company and set up Capex Limited in January 2003. Some people say ‘Capex’ stands for ex-Systems Capital. Others say it’s just short for capital expenditure. Either way, Philip took what he learnt from the Systems Capital branding and came up with another amazing brand. He owned the domain name www.capex.co.uk. Many years later, Philip Brook sold the business of Capex to us here at WestWon, and we still own the domain name www.capex.co.uk.
‘One day we will use the Capex brand. It’s simple, easy to say and most people already associate it with finance’ explained Jeremy Hall.
2006 sale to AnaCap Financial Partners
Lord Mitchell and Sean Williams (plus others) then pulled off their biggest deal to date. Syscap was sold to AnaCap Financial Partners for a deal worth north of £30m. We do not know the exact amount the business was sold for; however, some people say it was around the £36m mark.
Philip White, the newly appointed CEO was to head up the £135m leasing business with over 120 people based out of New Malden and Northwich.
2015 AnaCap sells Syscap to Wesleyan
Roll forward to 2015 and Syscap Holdings is sold again, this time to a UK bank called Wesleyan. What’s interesting is the company is described as an £8m turnover company, with 70 staff focusing on short term loans. Philip White, who has not been with the business for 22 years remained as CEO.
Why AnaCap sold the company, the question remains. Why did they take a loss on their investment? It’s not something we believe we are qualified to answer. Likewise, why did the company lose many of their team in the previous nine years. However, what we do know is that Wesleyan were keen on the professions funding / short term loan element of the Syscap business.
2018 – the end of the Syscap brand
February 2018 witnessed the end of an era. Wesleyan decided to drop the Syscap brand and trade under their name. It made commercial sense for Wesleyan, but it must have been tough for the Syscap team to lose their brand that’s been around since 2004.
Later in September 2018, after 25 years of service, Philip White leaves the company to form his own business. Jeremy Hall commented, ‘Wyse Leasing and Syscap used to clash, we battled it out over the years. However, I have complete respect for Philip White and his team. He was at the forefront of building a great business.’
2020 – Sean Williams, the Founder of Syscap passes away
Very sadly, Sean was diagnosed with cancer in 2017 and spent the next four years fighting the disease. He was 55 years old when he passed away in 2020.
Jeremy was keen to add, ‘I didn’t know Sean very well personally, we did meet up a few times over the years. I remember him coming over to my house, a big character driving a big car. He could have so easily given it the “I am so great chat.” He didn’t, he played down his success and came over as a real gentleman.’
Is Syscap out of business?
No, Syscap have never gone out of business. However, from 2018, the Syscap brand vanished in the UK. The Syscap offices in New Maldon and Northwich are still there, habited by some of the longer serving employees of Syscap, plus new recruits at Wesleyan.
With the website taken down, the brand has all but gone. However, ICT suppliers and customers still refer to the company, even now.
The business maintained its focus on the education, medical, professions and general leasing sector. Short term loans were / are a major part of the business, as is residual value leasing arrangements in schools.
On the 28th of February 2022, the final chapter was complete when Hampshire Trust Bank PLC bought Wesleyan Bank. This included all the historic operating business of Syscap. What will happen next, we do not know.
Syscap employees help shape the UK leasing and asset finance sector
Before we end this document on the history of Syscap – looking at the business through the eyes of a competitor – we should note how the company has helped shape the UK leasing sector.
There are two key elements to this. Firstly, Syscap helped put UK leasing and asset finance brokers on the map. Historically, many of the UK leasing lenders / banks sold their services directly to the end user or dealers. There were not many brokers around and they did certainly not make up much of the business that was written. Today, leasing brokers such as WestWon act as the outsourced sales arms to many leasing companies.
Secondly, Syscap was an incredible training ground for people in the leasing sector. So many of their staff have gone on to set up their own leasing brokers. Many more are in senior positions working for large organisations.
So, as we close the most recent chapter, it will be interesting to see over the next ten years where the story goes. This also refers to all senior people in our industry who gained their leasing education and training at Syscap.