The original title for this feature was going to be “Will Lloyds TSB Autolease ever be number one again?”.
That was the question pencilled-in for the top of this page on September 17.
Then, on the morning of Thursday, September 18, the BBC announced that Lloyds TSB was set to take over HBOS and almost everything changed.
You see HBOS, the short name for the Halifax/Bank of Scotland operation, is the financial powerhouse behind the UK’s biggest leasing company – Lex.
Lloyds TSB owns Lloyds TSB Autolease which sits at number two in the FN50.
Lex has a fleet of more than 251,000 vehicles; Lloyds TSB Autolease has more than 129,000.
Put them together, as most analysts are predicting, and you have a “mega-leasing company”, a “leviathan”, a “colossus”, a “monster”. Whatever your preferred epithet, it will be bloody big.
But the whole scenario was quite fascinating.
It followed weeks of rumours that Lloyds TSB Autolease was up for sale (rumours that were always strenuously denied).
Yet here we have that company’s parent on the verge of taking over the parent of the industry’s number one.
In the heady days that followed, the bosses of both organisations stuck to the “business as usual” line, which seemed a bit hopeful given the inevitable speculation around the possible sell-off or merger.
But Nigel Stead, managing director of Lloyds TSB Autolease, has also brought some modest reality to the positions of the leasing businesses.
“When you look at what has happened with the two banks and the issues that need to be resolved, we come a long way down the list,” he said.
“The two leasing businesses, while significant in themselves, are, in the bigger picture, not so significant. This may not be wrapped up until the turn of next year.”
So with Nigel considering the long-term future, Fleet News has a more pressing deadline and with an agreement not to ask any more questions he simply can’t answer yet, we shift to fleet management.
What advice does Nigel have for fleet managers in the face of a constricting economy and ultra-tight cash flows?
What should fleet managers be doing?
“I think first you have to look at the overall business in which they operate.
Rising energy and raw material costs are all having a serious impact on business expenditure.
At the same time sales are slowing.
It means that companies are looking at cost reductions and the fleet and company car policy is just one area where reductions – possibly big cuts – will be sought.
“So, the fleet manager is under tremendous pressure to find ways of managing the fleet more cost-effectively.
"Our aim is to help them achieve that, but not by narrowing our focus to just the cost of running the fleet.
"We’re looking at the company’s approach to work and the environment, how people work and how efficient they are. It’s about opening up the discussion to other areas of the business.
“For example, congestion.
"Some 25% of journeys are spent in traffic jams. So if you can find a way of saving that 25% while making the person more productive, that’s a huge gain.”
A proactive customer approach certainly seems to be a Lloyds TSB hallmark.
The company’s Louise Ricketts was awarded the FN50 Customer Service of the Year award – the second time a Lloyds TSB staffer has won the award in three years.
Lloyds TSB is also the current holder of the Fleet News Best Fleet Leasing & Management Award.
And it’s also won the influential customer service Landmark survey.
To what does Nigel attribute this success?
“We’re very pleased with the accolades, but we’re never complacent. I think it represents the collective output of our company.
"We want to be excellent in every sector in which we operate.
"I also think that during our integration period of 2002-05 having a stable senior management team also helped our consistency.”
What will happen to that consistency and stability over the next few months is anybody’s guess, but no-one can doubt Nigel’s commitment to his organisation and its customers.
If he can deliver “business as usual”, he will.
But in these turbulent times, does such a state even exist any more? Not for us, it doesn’t – we need to think of a new headline.
Nigel Stead CV
Following posts as managing director at Velo Group and at JCT600 Contracts, Nigel was appointed managing director of Black Horse Vehicle Leasing in 2000, part of Lloyds TSB Group.
Nigel was involved in the acquisition of ACL autolease a year later, forming today’s Lloyds TSB Autolease, before pouncing on First National Vehicle Holdings in 2002 to create what was then the UK’s largest fleet management and funding organisation.
Nigel is chairman of the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association’s leasing and fleet management committee and also chairs Fleet Synergy International (FSI), as well as being a non-executive director of Motability Operations.
Married with two children, Nigel enjoys flying, motorsport, fell walking, food and wine.
Tip from the top: Golden rules for success
In a professional sense, it’s articulating your vision for the business through the business. Trust and motivation – that desire to do better every day – are key for me.
In moments of frustration, what do you kick?
I don’t. I rarely lose my temper. I just go quiet.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Never give in.
What’s in your garage?
There’s a Ford Focus, a Mercedes-Benz SLK and a Porsche 911 – I was a bit of a car buff when I was younger, and I still am.
What key tips would you give a fleet manager for running an efficient fleet?
Look at the overall value provided and not just the cost.
You’re keen on motor racing. If Nigel Stead was an F1 team manager, what team would that be? And why?
I’d be team manager of Honda. It’s a surprisingly under-performing team at the moment. But Honda is a fantastically competent engineering company that has really embraced the environmental issue. There’s a
great opportunity for Ross Brawn to return Honda to
Do you ever consider doing something other than running a car leasing company?
I would have been a jet pilot in the RAF. Alas, I’m not clever enough and my eyesight would be unacceptable!