How long have you been working in the fleet management industry?
I’ve been working in the fleet industry since 2001. Six years in the UK with a major bank owned fleet leasing company. I migrated to Australia in 2007 and have continued to work in the industry since I arrived.
How did you first get into fleet management?
Coming from the UK midlands, many of my family worked with iconic UK auto manufacturers such as MG Rover, Austin, Aston Martin, Jaguar and Land Rover. I’d grown up with cars. I really didn’t feel inclined to a role in the dealer environment and wanted something more corporate. A family member offered me a role working within the fleet leasing industry generating leasing quotations for brokers. Humble beginnings you could say.
Describe your current role?
I am currently the Head of Alphabet for Australia. Alphabet is a wholly owned subsidiary of BMW Group Financial Services and we are present in 18 markets and growing. We are the only non-European division of Alphabet and currently we manage over 550,000 vehicles, placing us in the top six leasing companies world-wide.
Our business here is somewhat different to the European markets as we are primarily involved in Novated leasing. However this is changing as we begin to focus on a more holistic approach to managing more corporate fleets as well as the Novated leases for employees. It’s an extensive role that covers many facets of the business, there’s not much down time I can assure you.
What changes have you seen across the industry in last five years?
I think the major one was seeing more and more auto brands on the road here in Australia, which I think was inevitable. Having seen the transition in the UK from thirsty large vehicles towards more compact smaller engine vehicles, I’ve seen the same thing happen here. It’s made the market more competitive on the upside but added more complexity in terms of fleet management.
In a global sense the GFC also affected our industry as many financial institutions viewed fleet business as non-core, it has caused the consolidation of some of the larger fleet leasing companies. I’ve also met some great people who have come into the industry from other associated networks and the benefit is we’ve acquired some great knowledge which has progressed our industry dramatically in recent times.
What products does Alphabet Fleet Management offer customers?
We currently offer your traditional fleet leasing arrangements from Operating Lease, Novated Lease and other commercial finance products along with insurance. We also have a vibrant partner channel with our introducers who enjoy promoting the BMW Group Financial Services products to their customers with many unique propositions.
In addition to finance products we have some market leading innovations that are tried and tested in Europe we are currently launching in Australia. Two such products are AlphaCity, corporate car sharing and AlphaElectric, electric vehicle consultancy for fleets. Alphabet is winning many accolades in Europe for these mobility products and we hope to do the same here in Australia.
What has been your biggest challenge to date in your current role?
Getting the message out to the masses about who Alphabet are because we have a great story to tell. I believe we offer fleet/procurement personnel including employees an alternative in terms of new innovative approaches to cost reduction strategies for fleets as well as solutions for the mobility of employees.
Our business is about moving people from A-Z in the most efficient manner – our ambition is “to be the leading provider in outstanding business mobility”.
Where do you get new ideas from?
We can’t underestimate the power of what information a Google search can bring to our fingertips these days. I’m inspired by so many sources and I never want to stop being open to the possibilities and learning from other industries totally disconnected from our own.
Aside from that, just connecting with great people in a networking environment and using social media ideas are all around us. I think the Australia fleet leasing industry is about to go through a radical shift in terms of the advent of the sharing economy (car sharing, AirB&B, Uber etc) as we move away from traditional leasing and ownership models we’ve been accustomed to.
What are the top three challenges for a fleet manager today?
I think the reality is that the challenges are truly unique for each customer but there are some common themes we hear:
1) Cost management – vehicle fleets traditionally are the third largest overhead next to property and people for many medium to large businesses and they are therefore under constant pressure to provide the best tool for trade for their people in the most cost effective manner.
2) Employee safety – finding a standard tool of trade vehicle that meets the safety standards in order to keep the organisations most precious assets safe as they move around is important. I don’t believe any fleet manager should ever compromise on safety to reduce costs, there is always a solution.
3) Environmental sustainability – corporate image is important, and we all have a part to play in supporting the ecosystem that supports us. Lets face it everyone loves the sound and power of a V8 but times are changing. If you have never driven an electric car, you should. I appreciate that the infrastructure isn’t quite there yet here in Australia but we are getting there, we just need some support from government and private enterprise. Australians have a great appreciation for innovation and if people see the benefit they will adopt it. There are ‘hybrids’ that will help us make the transition from combustion engines to alternative fuels, and whilst you can’t beat the roar of a V8, the thrill of an EV is second to none.
Alphabet’s approach to eMobility is one such recommendation I would make to every fleet manager when considering how to overhaul a fleet and address the three issues above.
Do you think car sharing will replaced the traditional pool car fleets?
I’m passionate about this topic as all are at Alphabet. I believe it will but it might not be the form that we see it in today. I think like EV’s, we are in the Motorola flip phone stage of the iconic change. We have a corporate car share solution but there are already some great public solutions. I think we might see these fuse at some point – but we also must consider ride share which is about occupancy and further down the track driverless cars.
AlphaCity enables both business and private usage allowing fleets to reduce costs whilst operating a pool fleet. Car sharing is already working in Europe and the US really well. If you happen to visit cities such as Munich or San Diego you will see that city officials feel that car sharing addresses many urban issues from a congestion and environment. Just about every major city in Australia currently has some sort of feasibility study ongoing on this topic. I would really like to see an organisation or city council lead by example.
What’s your tip a new person starting a career in fleet?
Network, network, network. Whilst we are a close community, there is a huge amount of knowledge in our industry from a variety of backgrounds, we need to get better at ‘sharing’ our knowledge. This is something I love about our industry, there are lots of moving parts and opportunities to delve into new challenges.
I believe that the fleet industry really can be one that advocates change in the movement of people whilst playing a role in enabling more people to experience some great innovations from within the industry. Talk to people, share your own insights from other industries you might have been involved in and look for ways to have an impact and bring fresh ideas to the table.