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GE Capital Fleet Services Foresees a 'Reset' in Fleet Management

GE believes a “reset” has occurred in the macroeconomy that will ultimately transform the fleet industry. That is, the way business was conducted prior to the economic crisis won’t work in today’s new world. GE is taking this reset opportunity to reposition its business.

September 2009, by Mike Antich - Also by this author

Clarence Nunn is president and chief executive officer of GE Capital Fleet Services. Previously, Nunn was the chief commercial officer at GE Capital's Commercial Distribution Finance business in Chicago. Since joining GE in 1992, Nunn has held key leadership roles in sales, marketing, product development, and quality within several GE businesses in the U.S. and Canada, including GE Plastics, GE Capital Canada Equipment Financing, GE Vendor Financial Services, and most recently, GE Capital's Commercial Distribution Finance.

AF interviewed Nunn about his perspective on the commercial fleet market and the go-to-market strategy for GE Capital Fleet Services. Joining the conversation were John Righini, chief marketing officer, and Jeff Schlesinger, vice president, strategic leadership.

Here are excerpts from the interview.

AF: How has the economic downturn affected GE's go-to-market strategy?
Nunn: Our go-to-market strategy starts with our chairman, Jeff Immelt. Jeff believes a fundamental "market reset" has occurred. That is, the way business was conducted prior to the economic crisis won't work in today's new world. The old days are gone.

It is then each GE business leader's job to take that direction, apply it to his/her business and run it accordingly.

GE Capital Fleet Services is taking this reset opportunity to reposition our business. As part of the bigger GE, Fleet Services can leverage the resources of other GE businesses, and it is especially important to do so in this new environment. It is my job as CEO to make sure we take advantage of that opportunity and reach out to our colleagues across GE. We've worked with GE Global Research Center, GE Asset Intelligence, and GE Energy to share information, technology, and galvanize strategies related to our telematics product. This is a good example of how we leverage GE resources, yet make the solution our own to fit our customers' needs.

In addition, we are focusing on improving our customers' experience. One of the things we pride ourselves on at GE is trying to anticipate customer needs. We use tools like our client advisory board, which is comprised of strategic customers to give us candid feedback. This involves listening well and responding to what we hear, but the other piece is trying to anticipate those needs and bringing solutions to the table. It is valuable to talk with our customers not only about what's happening in today's market, but what we anticipate happening in the future. At GE, we call it "seeing around corners."

We are also looking for more innovative ways to help our customers tomorrow.  GE, as a corporation, is a microcosm of what is happening in the economy. This gives us the ability to understand what's coming and advise our customers. They don't have to react to the information immediately, but they know their relationship with GE gives them access to this type of insight. So, it's going beyond fleet management to helping customers recognize the bigger picture.  For example, GE made a recent announcement it was investing $100 million in a new battery venture. At GE Capital Fleet Services, we have access to that information, which we can relay to our fleet customers, or we have the capability to let customers do a deep dive into a topic like auto industry trends, where we have a specialized team at GE Capital we can tap into.

There are a variety of issues fleet managers ought to be thinking about, and they should be holding their fleet management companies accountable to deliver this type of information to them. Working with a company like GE provides the opportunity to help you grow your overall business strategy beyond cars and trucks.

AF: In a prior conversation, you said our industry will transition from fleet management to information management. How so?

Nunn: When you and I talked at this year's NAFA conference, we talked about transitioning from a fleet management company to an information management company. This involves getting all the data we collect and connecting the dots for customers. Our vision is to make our customers more profitable by not only providing them with everything there is to know about their vehicles, but also by improving their ability to manage their own customers, inventory, and, ultimately, their supply chain.

We know that as a fleet management company, if you are just capturing real-world data without performing thoughtful analysis of that information, you can't help customers make decisions that have real impact to their business. That's where information management comes in. We will continually ask ourselves, how do I take this information and package it to make GE Capital Fleet Services a better supplier to our customers, a better customer to the OEMs, and improve relationships with all fleet industry channels? We have a unique opportunity to achieve this and now is the time.

We're not completely there yet, but I think the message on a go-forward basis is that this is where we're headed.  

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