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Rebranding to Merchants Fleet Management: An Interview With CEO Glen Villano

The Singer brothers, Gary, Robert, and Jeffrey, along with brother-in-law Michael Sydney, continue to develop the family-owned business founded by patriarch Irving Singer over 50 years ago. Merchants has since grown to become the nation’s 10th largest fleet lessor.

June 2013, by Mike Antich - Also by this author

On April 16, 2013, Merchants Leasing changed its name to Merchants Fleet Management. The change acknowledges the growth of the company’s fleet portfolio, the breadth and depth of its service offerings, and its consultative approach to fleet management.

Merchants has grown from a regional lessor to the 10th largest in the nation, while committing to investment in technology and in-house expertise and talent. In the past four years, the company has experienced record growth, representing a cumulative 60-percent increase in company size.

“We are very excited about the name change to Merchants Fleet Management as it reflects our commitment to meet and exceed the long-term and expanding needs of our customers,” said company CEO Glen Villano.

To learn more about the implications of the name change to Merchants Fleet Management and to get an update on the company’s current initiatives, Automotive Fleet recently interviewed Villano. Excerpted below are highlights from the interview.

AF: Why was the company renamed Merchants Fleet Management?

VILLANO: The renaming reflects a reality of our evolution and growth. We have been in this business for more than 50 years with strength predominately in the leasing sector. In recent years, we have progressed by introducing a comprehensive range of fleet services for our customers to meet their needs.

We offer those services as solutions. The renaming reflects the fact that we offer a 360-degree approach to our customers, providing one-stop, integrated shopping.

The name change also reflects that we are much more consultative in our approach. We do not take a one-size-fits-all approach to our customers’ challenges. We believe the name best matches who we are and what we do today and what we aspire to do tomorrow.

AF: When did the company leadership first start thinking about changing its name?

VILLANO: Every year we do a very deep dive into strategic planning. The strategic plan is based on customers’ needs, how those needs are evolving, and how our business matches those needs. You will notice that everything, including our name, starts with the customer. Our slogan is not “We go Further,” it is “Go Further.”

I joined the company approximately five years ago. During the first strategic planning meeting, we absolutely understood that there was significant market demand for many fleet management products, most of which we had in some form, but we needed to work on the integration of them. We have centered our focus on solutions that serve major impact areas: cost containment, compliance, and operational excellence. These products solve practical, real-world challenges, and integrate information within our systems to provide our customers with the best advice possible.

We absolutely believe companies that don’t offer a consultative approach aren’t best meeting the needs of customers. As a consultative company, our goal is to be able to provide the best-in-class services to our customers.

AF: Merchants has experienced a 60-percent cumulative growth over the past four years. What were the factors that contributed to this growth?

VILLANO: Most of the growth has occurred in the past four years. It is a combination of the acquisition of ALD Automotive USA a little over a year ago and organic growth.

Further, we are appealing to a wider variety of customers by offering more than the standard approach to fleet management. Our belief is that our customers will glean the greatest value by tailoring what we offer, and not just offering a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all approach, we can best serve our customers’ needs.

AF: How would you characterize the 2012 calendar-year and what is your business forecast for Merchants this year and the next?

VILLANO: Last year was a record-breaking year for us in terms of the number of customers, business revenues, and profitability. We are a very sound company with an incredibly sound future.

Our fleet management system was launched in November 2012, giving us many more capabilities than we had in the past.

We have completed the senior leadership team. We have assembled some of the best talent in the industry, bringing with them years of experience, who are now among our top producers after just a couple of months. The number of staff has increased over the past two years by more than 30 percent. Across Merchants’ fleet management and automotive retail segments, our total staff is just under 300 people.

Besides offering fleet management services, we also offer a short-term leasing solution and insurance, which many other companies aren’t able to provide. One of the challenges that many fleet companies have is offering both open- and closed-end leases on the same system. Our fleet management system accommodates both.

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