Kristi Webb was named president and chief executive officer for GE Capital Fleet Services in September 2012. Webb succeeded Clarence Nunn, who was appointed chief commercial officer for GE Capital, Americas.
Webb was previously general manager of GE Capital’s Dealer Finance business, which provides wholesale and retail leasing services to dealers and resellers across a wide range of commercial products. Since joining GE in 1998, Webb has held key leadership roles across the company in marketing, operations, and quality. Prior to her general manager role at GE Capital Dealer Finance, Webb was chief marketing officer at two other equipment finance businesses at GE Capital, and served in leadership positions with GE Plastics and GE Advanced Materials Automotive in the Netherlands.
AF Editor Mike Antich interviewed Webb to learn more about her plans as president and CEO of GE Capital Fleet Services. Below are interview excerpts:
AF: What have been the key factors responsible for GE Capital Fleet Services’ growth in recent years?
Webb: We’ve maintained a strong focus on listening to customers to better understand what they need to manage their fleets effectively. We’ve also continued to make big investments in customer technology. As a business, we’ll continue to focus on those critical success factors, and we’re excited about the path we’re on.
AF: What’s your forecast for the balance of 2013?
Webb: We feel good about 2013 and we believe our growth will continue.
We’re going out and winning new business, and we’re also winning business back that we once had with former customers.
The people of GE are service-oriented by nature. We want to earn our customers’ business every day. We believe we’ll continue to grow because of the quality of our people and their passion for helping our customers and the industry.
AF: Now that you’ve acclimated yourself to the business, have you had a chance to formulate your goals as CEO and president?
Webb: Yes. My goals are to grow, simplify, and empower in 2013. This year and beyond, we want to grow through product and service innovation, and we’re excited about the progress we’ve already made in this space. We’re also creating new partnerships to deliver the best solutions for customers in areas that are important to fleet managers, like safety, compliance, and analytics.
Another one of my goals is to make things as simple and easy for our customers as we can. As part of a global company, we know that we can easily become complex; however, GE has placed a great deal of focus on simplicity. One of the ways this GE-wide initiative translates at GE Capital Fleet Services is by creating a simple, direct path between our customers’ needs and the solutions we provide. Our combined team of account managers, strategic consultants, truck engineers, product specialists, analytics experts, and call center specialists bring about 10,000 years of fleet management experience through the doors of our offices every day — we want to give customers as much direct access to that knowledge and support as possible. Finally, I want to empower our people to make faster decisions for our customers.
AF: What is your near-term forecast for the industry?
Webb: One of the things I’ve learned is that fleet managers intersect HR, sales, procurement, quality, brand management, safety, and other functions. Fleet managers play a pivotal role in the organizational ecosystem. In addition, fleet is one of the most technologically savvy industries that I’ve been in, and I’ve been in and around technology most of my career. This industry lives and breathes technology. You see it everywhere, with the OEMs and with third-party fleet providers. Technology surrounds the value proposition of fleet. Fleet managers are looking for technology to help them do their jobs, run their fleets, manage processes, and enhance productivity.
At GE, we’re already seeing this happen with our own customers, and as an industry, we’re just getting started. The future is very bright.
AF: What’s your long-term forecast for the industry?
Webb: In a word: positive. There’s a healthy tension in this industry between fleet managers and fleet management companies. We’re continually pushing each other to do more.
At GE, we’re setting ambitious goals with our customers to raise the bar on productivity, savings, safety, and other key metrics. By working together, and with the help of our business partners and suppliers, we’re achieving incredible results. It’s rewarding to work with customers who are so passionate about their profession and their industry, and it gives me confidence about where our industry is headed.
AF: Are there specific products and services that GE is offering or will be offering in the future that will offer the greatest opportunities for growth?
Webb: I believe the space around analytics, reporting, and the value of big data, will be a differentiator for us. As a company, GE is known for our analytical ability. Our businesses are working to build and power what we call the Industrial Internet. And, at GE Capital Fleet Services, we’re in a great position to help our customers extract and create value from their data. Imagine what we can learn from the millions of vehicles on the road and all of the data coming out of those vehicles all day long, every single day — on the driver, the route, and the vehicle itself. There will be so much data that can be digested, assimilated, and aggregated that it’s going to be able to help companies, not just fleet managers, run their fleets as a work tool much more efficiently and change the way they do business. This is a very exciting development and a big opportunity for our customers, for their businesses, and for GE.
AF: One of GE’s corporate goals is the ecomagination initiative. You operate one of the largest alt-fuel fleets in the country. How are you assisting your client base in meeting their corporate sustainability and green fleet initiatives?
Webb: We have the ability to talk about alternative fuels as a user, based on what we have learned about our own sales fleet and our drivers’ behavior. In addition to operating a fleet management company, GE also employs some very talented fleet managers who are methodically introducing a variety of EV, CNG, and propane-autogas vehicles into our own company fleet. We’re learning a lot from their experience that we’re passing on to our customers who are integrating alternative-fuel vehicles into their fleets.
At GE, our role is to educate and help our customers make the best decisions for their fleets and organizations. We built and opened our Vehicle Innovation Center at GE Capital Fleet Services’ headquarters so fleet managers can learn about and test drive a variety of alternative-fuel vehicles in one location with our experts on hand to help them make the right decisions for their fleets.
When it comes to alternative fuels, there isn’t a road map that says, “This is the path.” There are many paths, and the OEMs and other suppliers are creating more options all of the time. We’re helping our customers take a variety of different approaches to alternative-fuel vehicles and we’ll continue to help our customers evaluate the technologies and make decisions in the years ahead as infrastructure expands and total cost of ownership goes down.
AF: Do you have a roadmap as to how you’re going to implement technology internally within GE? Could you share with us, at a high level, how it will evolve over the coming years?
Webb: In 2010, we began making strategic investments as a business to improve the experiences that users have with our technology. We put some of our best people on the project, sending them all over North America to visit customers at their job sites to see how they actually use technology. Then we added digital and user experience experts to the team — and by combining our own expertise with the insights we learned from listening to customers — we’ve built a robust technology roadmap that we are very excited about.
A lot of the work we’ve delivered so far has focused on the driver and the driver experience. Feedback from our customers on the new driver technology has been overwhelmingly positive. What’s even more exciting is that we’ll soon be launching a major upgrade of our MyFleetOffice platform to give fleet managers a powerful new suite of fleet administration and decisioning tools. We’re doing all of this to make work simpler, easier, and more productive for our customers.
AF: How do you see fleet management companies changing in the coming years?
Webb: I see fleet management companies becoming more and more capable of helping fleet managers move to proactive and predictive fleet management. Today is largely about reporting trends over time. Tomorrow is going to be about alerts and exception reporting that helps fleet managers address events before they happen. Data is driving us down that path.
It’s difficult for fleet managers to integrate internal and external data sources and make sense of it all, so I think fleet managers are going to depend more and more on their fleet management companies to help them sift through all of their information and create value from it.
We’ll always be an industry rooted in strong relationships and customer service, and I think we’re going to forge stronger relationships and offer even better service through proactive, predictive analytics.