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Alphabet eyes expansion among small firms making switch to EV

Alphabet is expanding its consultancy team to help small fleets switch from internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles to electric.

The vehicle leasing company says it wants the SME (small- to medium-sized enterprise) market to have access to the same level of expertise as its larger corporate customers.

Spencer Halil, chief commercial officer at Alphabet, told Fleet News: “We see that as a huge opportunity, because, as things stand, for most of our SME relationships, it’s almost a vehicle-by-vehicle transaction.”

Halil believes, with the right support, that can instead become a fully fleet-managed service. “It’s great for us as a business as well,” he added, “because, as we diversify our corporate portfolio – so it’s not all 300-, 500- or 700-car fleets and it’s spread across a larger number of smaller fleets – then it’s a much more sustainable proposition.”

Alphabet did not disclose how many people it will be recruiting to its dedicated consultancy team, but said it had started the search for the person that will lead the new division and will be hiring a number of new people throughout 2022.

Halil explained: “It requires a few more people, but ultimately it’s a people business and we’re willing to make that investment.”

Alphabet has an SME direct team, but Halil says that the vast majority of its business comes through its broker introductions. “We’re not going to move away from that channel as a source of SME business,” he said. “It’s really important to our volume.

“We’ve got some long-term relationships and we will support them with that consultancy offering, but we’re going to look at ways we can scale up our SME direct (business) as well.”

Halil suggests that could involve a partnership approach with aggregators, drawing on his experience with Alphera Financial Services. “The hardest thing is the acquisition of that relationship,” he said.

Having worked in motor finance for 26 years in the retail sector, Halil is a newcomer to the world of fleet and leasing. He joined the BMW Group in 2006 to start Alphera Financial Services, before joining Alphabet as chief commercial officer in February, replacing Simon Carr.

He said he was both surprised and impressed by the sector’s dynamism. “There’s so much change going on,” he said. “Electrification, digitalisation of the sale and just the sheer complexity and amount of customer touchpoints, and different types of customers – there’s a lot to get your teeth into.”

Operating in many different channels, both direct and indirect, and offering products from personal contract hire (PCH) to salary sacrifice, Halil says the challenge for Alphabet is making sure the journey is simple, easy and as seamless as possible.

Digitalisation of services and a consultancy-based approach for complex subjects such as electrification will help.

He also acknowledges an expectation in the fleet and leasing sector that the driver will become more engaged. Halil explained: “It’s become more and more important for the lease company to better understand how the drivers feel, what’s their experience of working with us, not just the fleet manager.

“As we have more self-service, more digitalisation, more complex product offerings, it’s really important that we have a good communication channel with the people who use our products and services.”

For Alphabet, says Halil, it is also about making sure the products it offers to its customers are the things  they want and the things that they need.

“That also means cutting through the noise to some extent,” he said. “Just because everybody thinks mobility-as-a-service solutions like subscription are the new, most sexy topic to talk about, is it what our customers really want at this time?

“Maybe it’s what they’ll want in five or 10 years’ time, but let’s make sure we’ve got the basics right first.”

Sustainability and technology

Alphabet recently refreshed its branding with a redesigned logo and corporate identity to reflect a new strategic focus of the company – sustainability and technology.

The leasing company’s UK division, which was ranked sixth in this year’s FN50 with a risk fleet of more than 132,000 cars and vans, will also have a new a man at the helm from January 1, 2022.

Mike Dennett, CEO at BMW Financial Services (GB), will also become CEO of Alphabet (GB). Current CEO, Nick Brownrigg, who has held the role since 2016, will take up a new position as CEO of BMW Group Financial Services in the Netherlands.

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