From Dean Smith Garages to DSG – Our Story
Our history begins in 1979 when Hyde Car Centre opened, soon expanding to the purchase of Dean Smith Garages in the heart of Stockport. This would later be the first of many car dealerships purchased by Brian Hoggart.
Brian initially sold Volvos, Jeeps and Daihatsus (remember them?) through the 1980s and soon the range expanded, as did his group of dealerships across northern England. During the summer holidays, a young lad called Richard Hoggart would spend his days valeting cars across the lot.
Little did he know then that Dean Smith Garages would later evolve and transform into the DSG Group – a collective of FinTech companies striving to help people finance the cars they want.
In 1989, DSG decided to branch out into the financing side of the industry and began trading. The finance department aimed to fund the sales of cars from other garages using a hire purchase model – the same model we have been using for over 30 years!
After completing college in the summer of 1990, Richard joined the DSG team as an office junior. He worked his way up the company and became a field rep for Cheshire the next year. During his time in this role, he visited dealerships looking for opportunities to finance cars.
Whilst the finance department continued to grow, the recession of 1992 heavily affected dealerships and interest rates soared. As a result, DSG decided to stop lending their own money and became brokers. Richard had faith in the new model and stayed on to see DSG through this challenging time, later becoming a manager.
In 1995 Richard began to put together his DSG dream team which included several experienced individuals with relevant experience from reputable companies. One of the people he hired was Mark Gow – who has now been a director here for 20 years.
Dean Smith Garages was acquired by Pendragon PLC in 1998 and Richard decided to lead a management buy-out of the finance division, which was successful. This saw the start of DSG Finance as a stand-alone company.
The financing department was showing signs of growth and so when Brian decided to sell the garages to Evans Halshaw, Richard saw this as the perfect opportunity to break away from the company and push DSG Finance to the next level.
After Richard led the management buy-out, Mark Gow became an equity stakeholder himself. The company soon built up a strong financial base, which allowed them to restructure to focus on franchised dealers during the credit crunch.
As time passed we decided to expand our collective, with Unity Facilities Ltd joining DSG Group in 2001. Originally a platform for helping small brokers gain access to a panel of prime and non-prime lenders, which offered an array of products; now a lender in their own right.
Another early addition to the DSG family was New Car Leasing, DSG’s contract hire and leasing arm which has been offering low-rate, affordable business and personal leasing deals ever since. In June 2004 it was rebranded as DSG Auto Contracts and in January 2020 the brand relaunched again, this time as Leasing.cars (we think this name will stick!).
DSG later decided to acquire specialist broker Bridford LLP and entered into the prestige car finance market. The group then underwent a large investment process with Promethean investments, who acquired 50% of DSG in 2015.
This allowed more developments to take place, such as the launch of Magnitude Finance. This took place in 2016, the very same year we began to roll out proprietary technology for distribution.
By 2017, Magnitude achieved massive growth and for the first time in the company’s history, DSG hit £10,000,000 revenue in a year! That’s when we decided to expand the group and Connected Car Finance (CCF) was born in 2018.
We created CCF to tap into the used car market and the brand shortly became very independently successful. This was due to its inclusivity of offering car finance to a wide range of customers.
That’s how we came up with the brand name ‘Connected’ because our aim is to ensure that used car dealerships can connect with more customers. They do this by providing a fairer experience for all customers, regardless of whether they have good or bad credit.
Our passion and drive to invest in innovative ideas enabled DSG to break into different markets, whilst remaining under the car finance umbrella. That’s how the group went from strength to strength.
Next came Igneous Asset Finance in 2018, a company with a sole mission to reach new levels of service in loan solutions. They bring the personal touch back, with their high-quality approach to asset finance, the fastest-growing finance option for business!
2019 was a great year for the company, as we saw sales rise from £10 million to £20 million. This lined up with the launch of Flow Car Finance in 2020.
Since the turn of the millennium, we have been all about growth. More team members, more happy customers and more opportunities.
In 1998 our revenue totalled £373,000, by 2019, we reached £22 million and in September 2020, we reached a total of £40 million advanced in one month!
DSG has high expectations for the future. We plan for Unity finance to become a major lender. This would see a large shift towards independence and create exciting new opportunities for the company.
We’ve come a long way since our humble beginnings in Hyde, thanks to the leadership of Richard and the management team. However, it isn’t just the financial aspect of the company that has grown.
Many things have changed since Dean Smith Garages. Richard and Mark no longer look like the cast of The Godfather, like they did in the above picture from ‘95. Although, in their defence, the motor finance industry was a lot more cut throat back then! Society is also in a very different place now and DSG has adapted along with it.
We took a long hard look at the world we live in today and we knew that we had to make some changes. That’s how sustainability and wellbeing became our company’s new core values. You can find out more about that here and here.
Now through Unity and Flow, we plant one tree for every single car sold on finance, through our partners Mossy Earth. What’s more, we partnered with PeoplePlus as our people are our priority and their mental health matters.
Richard decided to invest heavily in wellbeing because in his own words he wants the workplace to be ‘a positive factor on the lives of the employees, even outside of the office”.
Against all odds, DSG has survived and thrived through three decades, three recessions, one global financial crises and one pandemic. If it wasn’t for our commitment to the continuous improvement of the business, we may not have ever made it this far. We have adapted our culture, values and services along with the times and invested in the things that really matter – like our people.
We have created a positive working environment and forged partnerships that have allowed us to flourish and this is only the beginning.