Business Lease Group is leveraging its strengths in the Netherlands and Eastern Europe to grow to the next level. Setting out the course is Vincent Peeters, who officially took over as CEO from Harm Nijlunsing on 1 December 2016: “We’ve been too modest: we are more versatile than most people, also internally, realise”.
Vincent Peeters previously had been Managing Director of the Group’s Dutch business. He is keen to meet the challenges of his new role: “Business Lease is a great company: we’re a mid-sized company, yet we remain compact and agile, with a young and dedicated staff and a focus on innovation”. Joining us for the interview was Robbert van Muyden, International Sales and Marketing Director.
Mr Peeters, did you have to think hard about taking the Group’s CEO job?
VP: “Not about the job itself. But the timing was an issue, considering the ongoing transformation of our Dutch business from a classical lessor into a much broader-oriented mobility provider, not just for B2B but also for B2C. That work is about 60-70% done, and I would have preferred to have left it at 80%. So, I did think about staying on another year. But we've found a great successor, Diederik Barten. And the organisation has enough knowledge and maturity to complete the transformation”.
Can you give us a quick overview of your fleet's scope and geographic spread?
Robbert van Muyden: “We manage over 44,000 vehicles, of which 17,000 in the Netherlands, 11,500 in the Czech Republic, 5,600 in Poland, 4,300 in Slovakia, 3,600 in Hungary and 2,900 in Romania. We're in the Top 3 in the Czech and Slovak markets, and a local hero everywhere else. We're true Eastern Europe specialists. Our strength is the fact that we work with the same systems, processes and solutions throughout our markets. Add our local expertise, and we are more than averagely attractive for corporate clients”.
Is your strategy in Eastern Europe different from the one in the Netherlands?
VP: “There is common ground on recruitment, values and systems. But the markets are different, so we do need different strategies. In 2017, we will focus on scaling up in Eastern Europe, especially in Operational Leasing, Renting and Fleet Management. In the Netherlands, our focus will be more transformative: slight growth in B2B, strong growth in B2C via Private Leasing and Uber, and growth of our consultancy”.
RvM: “Operating two different strategies doesn’t mean we can’t share knowledge and tools. The Telematics solution now being rolled out in the Netherlands could come to Eastern Europe soon, as the basic need is the same”.
VP: “The Dutch market is our testing ground for new products. In Slovakia, the demand for Private Lease is increasing. If this persists, our existing Private Lease platform can be imported from the Netherlands in a very short time”.
What are your targets for this year?
VP: “We have a well-oiled sales engine for our local and international clients in Central and Eastern Europe. If we further improve on that, I see us moving beyond 50,000 vehicles this year. We also want our Dutch organisation to take the final steps to becoming a mobility consultancy”.
What specifically will you do in Eastern Europe?
VP: “There is plenty of market space across the region for Operational Leasing, Renting and Fleet Management. We’re also opening locations focused on SMEs in Poland and Romania. We’re not planning any more subsidiaries, but if we hit our targets, we will consider further market expansion, in both Eastern and Western Europe”.
Mobility is a highly competitive space. How will you turn a profit?
VP: “By providing a broad range of mobility services to solve the issue of employee mobility for our clients. This will make us less interchangeable with other lease companies, and lead to more stability in our customer portfolio”.
“We also benefit from our close cooperation with other parts of the AutoBinck Group. Last year, the AutoBinck Group acquired Radiuz, a provider of corporate multimodal mobility cards. That allows us to extend our mobility offer, giving our customers one less thing to worry about. But we do need to realise that in a market close to maturity, we may have to settle for lower margins. Private lease is a good example. It’s a fast-growing segment, but its margins are substantially lower than B2B full-service leasing”.
Which of your new services and mobility offers will grow fastest?
VP: “I expect Private Lease will grow to 10% of our total fleet this year, and will increase exponentially over the next few years”.
“I also expect a lot from Telematics, linked to managed maintenance, within the framework of predictive Fleet Management. Public transport use will increase, as employees move from classic nine-to-fives to more flexible work formulas. Bicycle leasing could become interesting. We can roll this out within three months. And we will integrate it into the mobility concept we are developing with Radiuz”.
What’s your relationship with Uber?
VP: ““For some years already, we’ve been leasing cars to Uber drivers in a number of countries. We initiated this via our Private Lease offer, allowing the lessee to reduce cost by participating in a car-sharing scheme or by driving for Uber. Which is how that relationship started”.
“It’s been an interesting learning curve for us. Uber is great at keeping the time between plans and their execution short. That challenged and stimulated us to do the same”.
Do you need to be quick to be successful in the new mobility space?
VP: “Absolutely, there is no other way. This is proving hard for a lot of manufacturers, lease companies, and other traditional fleet suppliers. But I can only talk for us, and we are making the switch. An example: our 2016 target for Private Lease and Uber was around 300 cars. We hit that much earlier than anticipated, so we needed to up it to 500, then 1,000 and eventually 2,000, which forced us to adapt and act. Of course it was a challenging experience, but also rewarding”.
What can you tell us about Business Lease that we don’t already know?
VP: “Well, we’ve been too modest; our range of mobility services is wider and more versatile than most people realise”.