CitiCapital Fleet to Invest Heavily in Technology While Building on Fundamentals
Technologies, such as telematics and wireless communication, will change fleet management more dramatically in the next five years than all the changes that occurred in the prior 10, says Pat Staudt of CitiCapital Fleet.
The successful companies of tomorrow are those that continue to be on the leading edge of technology, said Pat Staudt, who was appointed president of CitiCapital Fleet in June 2001.
"We are stepping up the investment in technology in our organization," said Staudt. "We are planning to invest significantly in our Web-based system, wireless technology, and push technology to strengthen our overall infrastructure."
Ultimately, CitiCapital Fleet is working to phase out its entire legacy PC-based fleet management system and transition to a totally Web-enabled environment.
"Web-enabled systems provide a myriad of benefits, including improved accuracy, real-time interface with clients, and the ability to instantly upgrade and make improvements, unlike in a PC-based environment where you have to wait for new software versions," said Staudt. "Our goal is to provide our clients with essentially the same range of services they now enjoy on our PC-based systems, but with the added functionality and ease of use that comes with the Internet."
Encouraging this transition is the fleet management company's parent organization, Citigroup, which is the largest financial services organization in the world. (Citigroup acquired the parent company of Associates Fleet Services, the former name of CitiCapital Fleet, in November 2000).
"Citigroup is extremely focused on technology," said Staudt. "We are currently looking at best practices within the Citigroup organization in determining the best investments in technology and how to leverage this in our organization."
Currently, CitiCapital Fleet is testing a fleet application using wireless technology in its own fleet of company vehicles. Although Staudt was not at liberty to divulge the specific nature of the application, he did describe the generalities of the system and some of the potential benefits.
"Presently, we rely on drivers to provide vehicle information to us. With this test, we are investigating how to automatically collect vehicle data, such as maintenance information, via telematics technology and, secondly, how to push that information back - real-time - to the driver and fleet manager once certain events are triggered," said Staudt. "We see this as being a big application in fleet management. At the moment, the purpose of our test is to get a real-world understanding of this application, how to import this data into a Web-enabled environment, and, once this data is collected, how to manage the process-in-house."
Telematics Will Bring Dramatic Changes in Fleet Management
What will add momentum to the changing nature of fleet management is the migration of telmatics technology into fleet vehicles.
"In the near future, the auto manufacturers will be installing, or adding as options, a host of telematics devices in their vehicles," said Staudt.
Compared to today, the way fleet managers will be using technology in the future will be dramatic. "The wireless world is going to change everything," said Staudt. "Telematics is going to foster a whole new era of fleet management. You can expect the changes in the next five years to be more dramatic than those we have seen in the previous 10 years."
Fleet Managers Are Embracing New Management Technology
There has been very little resistance among client fleet managers to embrace new fleet management technology. As evidence of this, Staudt says that more than half of 2001-model-year orders by CitiCapital Fleet customers were placed via the Internet. The speed of customer acceptance to Web-based technology has surprised even CitiCapital Fleet.
"We didn't project to be at this level for another 12 months," said Staudt.
How Will Technology Impact the Fleet Manager?
The adoption of new technologies to manage their fleet assets will cause the fleet manager job function to continue to evolve, said Staudt. "But I don't see the role of the fleet manager changing dramatically. What I do see changing are the tools and the way fleet managers interface with their drivers, fleet management companies, and the auto manufacturers. This new technology will allow fleet managers to be more cost-effective for their companies and allow them to facilitate policy, across a number of different corporate functions," added Staudt.
Staudt also points out that while CitiCapital Fleet's unprecedented investment in technology will be a primary focus, he is committed to the fundamentals. "Let's face it; you can have the greatest technology in the world, but if you don't have the right people and well-defined processes and procedures, you will not deliver the service the customer expects and deserves. One of my favorite themes," Staudt said, "is 'do things right and do the right things.' This only happens if you have the right people using the right technology with the best processes and procedures. I am absolutely committed to ensuring that CitiCapital Fleet has all of these things and that, when it comes to fleet management, we are at the top of the game."
Leveraging Synergies With Citigroup
One of Pat Staudt's first objectives as president of CitiCapital Fleet was to complete the integration of his company into Citigroup, following its acquisition in November 2000.
"We are part of the global relationship banking side of Citigroup, which includes all corporate banking and most of the institutional relationships." Said Staudt. "There is a major fit between this business and fleet management services. Very early on we did analysis of our client base compared to the global relationship bank, and the study confirmed that there is a strong overlap of customers. Currently, 30 percent of our customers are also Citigroup customers," added Staudt. "It is our objective in 2002 to cultivate significant business opportunities with current global relationship bank customers who are also interested in fleet management services."