PHH recently held its annual Fleet Roundtable for its clients and supplier partners. How did you develop the agenda for the event?
Preparations for our annual Fleet Roundtable start almost as soon as we complete the prior year. We use information from client surveys to find out what’s most important to them, we have our finger on the pulse of hot fleet topics that people want to know more about, and we always try to bring something new to the table that’s a step ahead of the marketplace. We really try to create an agenda that has the right mix of presenting new information and giving attendees the opportunity to interact and learn from each other.
Our outside speakers focus on broader issues that are relevant to our attendees as business managers and leaders. This year’s speaker focused on change management and overcoming challenges.
We kept hearing, “Okay, PHH, you give us great data, you give us great ideas, we have these wonderful collaborative sessions where your expertise and our objectives come together but the hardest part is then how to execute it, how to achieve the results while navigating our own organizations.” We think that bringing change management principles into play is an important part of that overall recipe for success.
One of the keys to the Fleet Roundtable’s popularity is that we bring people together and give them an opportunity to share ideas and get the benefit of each others’ experience — whether it’s fleet managers, procurement managers, supplier partners, global alliance members or PHH leaders.
Speaking of your global alliance, what are the keys to successful global fleet management?
To implement a successful process, we believe you need to take a step-by-step approach.
First of all, it’s important to help our clients get inventory information and visibility from across all the geographic theaters where they do business. That’s not an inconsequential thing — it means pulling together information from a variety of systems and a variety of practices and programs.
Then we bring local market expertise into play. That is where we leverage our partnerships with Arval in Europe and the BRICT countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and Turkey); with sgfleet in Australia and New Zealand and with Mareauto in Ecuador, Columbia and Peru. We also have relationships with FaciLeasing in Mexico, Avis Fleet in Southern Africa and Sumitomo Mitsui in Japan and Thailand.
Being able to bring data together with the local market expertise provides a platform to share best practices, not just from North America but from each relevant country. Everyone is looking for ultimate policy harmonization and the opportunity to find and control cost savings, purchasing power, staff and asset productivity. But there are local market nuances that cannot be underestimated when it comes to change management.
We find that bringing the information, the conversation and the expertise together makes it possible to help our customers chart a multi-year, multi-step course toward achieving the value of global fleet management within their organizations.
How does PHH support global fleets?
PHH often begins working with a fleet manager who has inherited global fleet responsibilities. We pull data together to understand the current state of the fleet and then create an inventory of policies and documents.
Then we establish how the client wants to work with us. For instance, for some of our clients, we build a global account management structure that matches their organization. They may have a single point of contact who interacts with a single point of contact at PHH. In some cases, the point of contact may not be based in the U.S. but in another country where we have partnerships with a variety of alliance members. Whatever works best for that particular client.
Then we match the client up with local market partners so they benefit from the global oversight, perspective and analytics that PHH Arval and our alliance partners can provide — and also have the local knowledge to customize their program so it fits their needs.
We talk to a variety of global clients and our global alliance partners to get a pulse check on what is going on in the global fleet marketplace. We hear certain universal themes: cost management, asset productivity and utilization, staff productivity, and driver compliance with policy. It doesn’t matter what language you speak or what currency you use, those fleet issues are true across the board. We also understand where the differences between countries occur – such as taxation, environmental standards and CO2 emissions, vehicle sourcing and the types of vehicles that are appropriate for jobs.
Perhaps our greatest role is to facilitate conversations that transcend borders. The discussions center on opportunities for centralization, cost management, policy harmonization, global analytics and reporting – always understanding what needs to be country specific and local market specific. That is really the balance that we try to strike with our clients.
What are some of the trends you are seeing with global fleets?
One major new trend we see evolving is a change from just looking at a roll up of data or information to really understanding the bigger picture. For instance, how can policies be harmonized? What sourcing opportunities can we take advantage of? How can we enhance savings by choosing common suppliers across different markets? How can we engage our drivers to support policy and strategic goals? It’s that type of holistic outlook that can have a major impact on fleet results across global companies.
Is there anything in the works that is going to help global fleet managers better manage their fleets?
One of the things we’re working on right now is an extension of the Arval Analytics information management platform. We’ve moved beyond data aggregation to data utilization and business intelligence, ensuring value across the entire organization – from setting global policies to introducing new concepts into new markets.
The benefit of being part of an alliance that spans 40 countries and has 2 million vehicles under management is learning more about what’s happening in those markets. Each of the PHH Arval Global Alliance member companies can share real-life examples of solutions being implemented by clients to enhance revenue generation, cost savings and customer service, or implement more effective risk and compliance programs. This sharing of information, best practices, local knowledge and more is critical in helping global fleet managers implement and achieve business value.
Let’s talk about some of the regional differences.
Some of the differences in regions are so unique. In China almost every fleet comes with a chauffeur Taxation nuances exist in almost every country. As a result, it’s really hard to universally apply policies that transcend those borders because the social and political and cultural elements are so localized. I think that over time, certain financing structures and service practices may spread, but ultimately the taxation and regulatory environments either encourage or prohibit trends from moving across borders.
Europe has clearly had some enormous challenges as they have dealt with a severe recession over the past few years.
How has the recession affected fleet practices and policies?
In the wake of the worst economic downturn in our lifetime, we’ve seen some changes in the fleet sector. Sales and perk fleets are not really coming back. As ongoing mergers and acquisitions within industry sectors occur, those large fleets are not coming back. However, there are a lot of self-managed fleets that are recognizing that there may be a better way to do things. It may be because of opportunities to use their capital in a different way to fund core operations. And they’re taking advantage of opportunities to learn fleet management best practices that have been proven to work. In any case, we are seeing organizations that hadn’t historically outsourced fleet management look to fleet management companies to help them optimize their own business performance.
Are there any areas of the globe that are particularly shining right now?
We are seeing a lot of opportunities within Latin America, which in terms of proximity to North America and existing trade relationships may prove to be advantageous for expansion in the short term. There are a lot of U.S.-based multi-national organizations that have operations in Latin America. We’re very excited about recent partnerships we’ve established there that allow us to extend our global capabilities and value to our clients.
Michele Cunningham, vice president of Strategic Development, is responsible for developing and implementing PHH Arval’s “go-to-market” strategy. She has more than 20 years of business-to-business marketing and strategic planning experience in such companies as Random House, AT&T Capital Corp., and Williams Scotsman. Michele has a BA in psychology from the University of Virginia.