Claire Lewis, Chief Operating Officer
The team at Optimum Finance is comprised of knowledgeable and professional invoice finance experts with a wealth of experience between them and the entrepreneurial skillsets to support our customers in securing the right cash flow and working capital solutions to drive growth.
In this blog series, we will be catching up with members of our fantastic team to find out more about their responsibilities and what they think sets our service apart from our competitors’.
First up is Claire Lewis, our chief operating officer. Read on to learn about Claire’s impressive experience and about how she manages and coaches the operations team to build strong and supportive relationships with our clients.
Please can you tell us about your role as chief operating officer at Optimum Finance?
I oversee operations at Optimum Finance and make sure that we provide a high standard of flexible invoice finance solutions, as well as supporting clients with getting the most out of their facilities.
A key responsibility of the operations team is managing risk on client portfolios; this includes credit management and maximising client funding, as well as providing clients with valuable information on their own customers. Managing risk is also an important part of the process when starting a relationship with a new client.
As chief operating officer, I manage and coach the operations team to ensure they have the tools and expertise to build close relationships with the businesses we work with and to tailor our offering accordingly, ensuring we deliver highly personalised services that suit our clients’ unique individual needs.
How did you get in to the industry?
I have over 22 years’ experience in the factoring and invoice discounting sector; I started in an accounts role processing invoices when I was 17 and then worked my way through various roles in the operations department.
I have also worked for both independent providers as well as a bank provider during my career, so I have considerable experience in what clients expect from their funder and how to best meet these expectations. It’s also equipped me with a deep understanding of what it takes to run a business and how to get the most from cash flow solutions in order to drive growth.
Owing to my experience, I have strong relationships with our clients where I work closely with them on business strategy, whether this be offering general advice and support or constructive criticism when necessary.
What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
I love spending time outdoors with my husband and two young children. We are fortunate to live near the seaside, so on a sunny day we pack up a picnic and venture onto the beach or go for a walk in the nearby Somerset countryside.
I also really enjoy baking, cooking and entertaining, and am partial to a nice crisp glass of Sauvignon Blanc whilst doing so! I also always look forward to watching Bake Off with the kids; they really enjoy watching the showstoppers!
What’s your proudest achievement?
Aside from my children, I am really proud of what I have accomplished in my career and – more recently – having the courage to leave the company that I had been at for over 14 years to launch Optimum Finance! What we have achieved to date and the amazing team that we have created here fills me with pride; the team’s hard work and dedication is really heartening to see and to be part of.
Who inspires you?
Richard Branson – his leadership style inspires me, especially the respect that he outwardly demonstrates towards his staff; he genuinely cares about them and has decent values which contribute to their success and ultimately that of his businesses because staff will reciprocate by being efficient and effective. Here are a few of my favourite quotes of his:
Why do you think some companies haven’t considered invoice finance?
It’s a tricky question because factoring is a very beneficial way of releasing cash tied up in a business and I find it astounding that more don’t use it considering the benefits weighed up against the cost of an in-house finance function.
The savings that businesses can make using our factoring services are considerable; we’ve just launched a savings calculator on our website to enable SMEs to get a quick and easy insight into just how much they could save their business before they even talk to us.
To encourage more businesses to think about taking advantage of our services, we’re making the processes easier for our clients by reducing the legal paperwork, ensuring all terms and conditions are accessible online and using Adobe digital signatures for legal documentation, for example.
We’re leading the way in developing the technology to support businesses in obtaining the funding they need to unlock cash tied up in invoices and focus on growth. In 2018, we launched an industry-first app aimed at accountants, enabling them to gain almost immediate funding approval for their SME clients. We are continuing to advance our IT infrastructure in a drive to be a fully fin-tech enabled business.
How do you ensure your clients receive a highly personalised service?
Underwriting is part of the operations remit where it’s my responsibility to get to know the client’s business inside out from the beginning of our relationship with them and I encourage the rest of my team to do the same. When a client feels like their business is understood and supported, they feel valued and will be more likely to turn to us for advice.
The operations team needs to be equipped with the knowledge to provide entrepreneurial support and expertise to the owner-managers of these businesses and analyse the facilities which would best suit their companies’ unique requirements. It results in the most rewarding part of operations; having happy clients.