Last January, Union Leasing acquired the fleet leasing business from Walser Automotive Group, a Minneapolis, Minn.-headquartered large regional dealer.
Union Leasing, which is based in Schaumburg, Ill., acquired Walser Financial Services, which includes a business unit operating as Walser Leasing, because it “expands Union Leasing’s total service offering while delivering enhanced services, technology, and expertise to Walser’s current customer base.”
“Walser offers us the opportunity to expand our services footprint and industry expertise, which is integral to our short-term growth plans and leverages our personal touch approach to providing a superior customer experience,” said Kent Boskovich, president of Union Leasing.
The sale did not include Walser Specialized Services, which provides fleet acquisition services to car rental companies and other commercial or leasing clients, including larger fleet management companies.
Union Leasing has set a corporate goal to continue to diversify its vehicle portfolio with “steady, sustainable growth, and to provide products, services, and technology that serve today’s customer in ways they value.”
The acquisition increased Union Leasing’s portfolio of managed vehicles by 15%. Union Leasing is a subsidiary of Sasser Family Holdings Inc.
To learn more about Union Leasing strategy regarding the fleet leasing business from Walser Automotive Group, AF interviewed Boskovich. Below are excerpts from the interview.
AF: Congratulations on the Walser Leasing acquisition. Can you provide us with an update on how the integration of the Walser portfolio is proceeding?
Boskovich: Thank you! It’s a very exciting time for Union Leasing. We’ve stayed focused on our growth strategy and recently completed two very critical milestones with the acquisitions of Express 4x4 Truck Rental and Walser Leasing. Our criteria for acquisitions is grounded in our commitment to financial growth, differentiation, and our commitment to continued superior customer service to our current and future customers.
We evaluate potential acquisitions based on sustainable financial growth, adjacent and/or complimentary opportunities for our customers, and by asking key questions like; does our value proposition fit with the new customer base and is there a cultural fit of the new employees we may inherit with an acquisition? With any acquisition it is critically important to maintain our industry differentiated superior customer service and to remain the dominant, mid-market, full-service leasing company.
The Walser Leasing acquisition fits well in all of those areas and has very quickly demonstrated its value by expanding and transitioning to our in-house services offering.
AF: Looking back, how would you assess the success of the Express Truck rental acquisition? Were there any lessons learned from that acquisition?
Boskovich: Express 4x4 Truck Rental’s success as a premier truck rental provider and unique business model met our goals for financial growth using an adjacent and/or complimentary business. The Express acquisition is uniquely suited for Union Leasing due to the added ability to provide both companies’ individual customers with expanded products and services. With this acquisition, Express is now backed with financial strength and additional capital to enhance an already responsive product and services offering — unmatched in the truck rental industry. Union Leasing’s financial support has led to Express 4x4 Truck Rental’s exponential growth three years running.
We have been fortunate with the Express acquisition in that their management team is committed to the same high standards of customer service that Union Leasing is known for. Although the systems integration presented new challenges due to the differences in our respective businesses, the cultural fit of their family values-based team was a perfect match.
AF: Does Union Leasing continue to have an appetite for additional acquisition?
Boskovich: The Walser and Express Truck acquisitions are consistent with our long-term goals of achieving steady, sustainable growth while remaining agile and responsive to our clientele’s needs. Financial performance is an important consideration, but using a client-focused approach is a primary driver of our acquisition strategy and has driven Union Leasing to become the dominant, mid-market, full-service leasing company in the fleet management industry. We will continue to be diligent in identifying and evaluating potential opportunities for additional growth through acquisitions, while being mindful of the importance of maintaining the right cultural fit for new staff and clientele.
Organic growth also plays a key role in our growth strategy as well. We have put in place regionally focused field sales teams and expanded our footprint in new geographic markets, and our robust internal support team ensures our continued commitment to high-touch customer experience levels.
AF: How do you identify potential acquisition candidates that you feel will be a good culture fit with Union Leasing?
Boskovich: To ensure profitable, sustainable growth, providing an exceptional customer experience is key. The people within a company who serve our clientele are central to executing Union Leasing’s short- and long-term goals for sustainable growth. Industry-adjacent and/or similar companies that focus on delivering high-touch personalized customer service are a potentially solid fit for Union Leasing. In addition, companies that provide value-added products and services that would be mutually beneficial for both parties’ customer base are potential candidates for acquisition.
The fleet management industry continues to evolve and customers, as they search for cost savings, continue to become increasingly dependent on fleet management companies. The need to build long-term relationships by becoming an extension of our customer’s team will remain in place. Listening to our clients and anticipating and meeting their needs through superior customer service is how Union Leasing does both, and our investment in technologies and infrastructure that enable us to anticipate their needs has been key to establishing Union Leasing as the dominant, mid-market, full-service leasing company. These investments are inherent to our growth strategy and a key decision criteria for growth and acquisitions.
We are always thinking about how acquisitions will impact our current customer experience and how we ensure seamless, high-touch service prior to, during, and after acquisitions. Our focus on systems improvements and proactive resourcing are just two of the ways that we keep our clientele’s needs top of mind.
AF: Is Union leasing solely interested in expanding its fleet leasing footprint or would you be open to an acquisition strategy focused on diversification of your business model?
Boskovich: One of our criterion when evaluating a potential acquisition is weighing whether moving forward would enable us to deliver more service and enhanced value to our current clients, as well as the new clients that come with the acquisition. The Express 4x4 acquisition is an excellent example.
Acquiring Express 4x4 Truck allowed us to provide them the financial backing to better serve their customer base using additional capital for improved replacement cycles and enhanced delivery processes. Union Leasing’s customer base has also benefited through our ability to provide a flexible-term rental offering for our customer’s short-term requirements driven by fluctuations in their unique markets.
The Walser Leasing acquisition quickly expanded our vehicle fleet and is mutually beneficial with added services available to the new customer base and the benefits of scale it provides Union Leasing. As with Walser and Express Truck, we intend to remain focused on creating adjacencies that enhance the overall client experience.
AF: What is your assessment of the current fleet market?
Boskovich: The fleet management industry is experiencing a period of instability and the industry is getting smaller. Union Leasing believes this presents an opportunity for us to continue growing our business. Even during periods of instability, existing and potential clients are looking for a stable fleet management company that is flexible and can respond to their unique needs and demands. We are well-positioned to continue growing based on our value proposition of responding to and anticipating our clientele’s needs and having the right people, processes, and technologies in place to deliver superior service in ways that matter to our customers.
AF: There has been significant consolidation in the fleet leasing market, with perhaps more consolidation to come. What is your opinion of the overall consolidation of the fleet leasing market?
Boskovich: We have been intentional about serving the small- to mid-size fleet market, so the consolidation of the fleet management industry is something we view as an opportunity for companies, such as Union Leasing, that cater to mid-size and smaller fleets to grow. Consolidation also creates an opportunity for clients to be more selective in choosing a fleet management company that caters to their unique needs and has the people, processes, and technology resources in place to meet and anticipate them. Today’s customers require the fleet management company they choose to be flexible and have the ability to manage their fleet in ways that do not disrupt their own internal processes. Solid decision making and experience based value are an absolute requirement of success.
AF: What is your strategic plan to ensure ongoing growth for Union Leasing in the next five years?
Boskovich: Our goals for Union Leasing’s long-term future continue to be steady, selective, sustainable growth and maintaining our agility and responsiveness to our clientele. In the near term, our focus remains year-over-year growth by expanding our services to existing clients and bringing on new clientele organically and through acquisitions. One of the advantages of being a family-owned subsidiary is having the flexibility and capacity to make decisions for the long haul, rather than operating under the same restraints of quarterly pressures of larger, publically owned businesses. This helps shape our acquisition strategy and our approach to delivering high-touch service to our clients and functioning as an extension of their team.
AF: Where do you foresee the fleet leasing market being five years from now?
Boskovich: One thing is certain, in five years, the fleet leasing market will be different — maybe vastly different — than it is today. More important, our customers will be evolving in ways that significantly change the products they need and way in which they will be served. Union Leasing will continue investing in people, processes, and technologies so that as market conditions change and customers’ needs and requirements evolve, we will be ready and able to meet the new challenges — five years from now and beyond.