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Under the Microscope: We talk to Alphabet's new chief commercial officer Simon Carr

Date: 04 October 2017   |   Author: Rachel Boagey

We meet with Alphabet's new chief commercial officer to gain insights
into how the company aims to lead mobility change in the industry.
Rachel Boagey reports.

Everyone loves a good success story, and leasing giant Alphabet's humble beginnings in a Portacabin, almost exactly 20 years ago, are in stark contrast to where the company is today. 

After outgrowing its previous home in Hook, Hampshire, Alphabet has recently relocated to Farnborough, where it has an office that is now big enough for its 430 employees right next door to the HQ of its parent company, BMW.

A family culture 

Whenever you talk to someone from Alphabet, the thing that stands out most is the company's family culture. We are quite often invited to visit for a cuppa when we're passing through the area. "You feel it as soon as you walk in," Simon Carr, Alphabet's new chief commercial officer, tells BusinessCar. He has only been in the role since the end of June, but, he says, "it's surprising, actually, as it's based in a very large, corporate office, but the people in there are one big family, and it's a very nice, homely atmosphere to walk into
every day." 

Alphabet now describes itself as a leading provider of business mobility, and manages more than 147,000 fleet vehicles in the UK while internationally operating in 19 countries and supplying almost 650,000
vehicles worldwide. 

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Carr says, "We are completely driven by creativity, future vision and the passionate commitment of our employees. Of the 430 employees in our UK site, a third of them are aged 30 or younger, so we have been looking for a way to harness their talents and their great ideas and make sure they're all being heard."

In this most recent meeting with BusinessCar, Carr revealed a new initiative, which the company is calling its 'Enterprise Programme'. This allows employees to submit individual ideas for products to the senior executives in the company. "It's a really special programme, as it's one you don't see very often in large corporate businesses," says Carr. The programme, which is still expanding, aims to give everyone working at the company the opportunity to have their ideas heard.  

It also includes on-site mentoring from senior managers, who will help younger or less experienced employees gain opportunities that they may not have working elsewhere. "There were 160 applications in the first two weeks, so clearly it's not just us who think it's exciting," Carr says, although he notes that not every idea will be a winner. "Some we won't make any money on, and some may even lose money, but we believe every idea is worthwhile. There's no telling where this initiative will go, but we believe it will be a great innovation push for the
wider industry." 

Innovating in mobility 

Carr explains one of the key drivers for joining Alphabet was the company's reputation in the market and its commitment to innovation in mobility. "Mobility is one of the industry buzzwords, but it was in Alphabet's DNA right from the get-go," he says.

Carr says that Alphabet is different from a regular leasing company that comes from a background of finance and depreciation. "Of course, Alphabet does all that, but we also have a higher, greater vision and ambition for mobility," he says. "That's such an attractive thing for an organisation to offer an employee."

Alphabet has a number of unique products in the market, such as the AlphaCity car-sharing scheme that is designed to aid fleets with their various mobility needs. Such schemes can help ease the burden of administration; create an easy solution for drivers; help improve parking limitations at the office; and enable fleet managers to easily monitor and report the performance and usage of a particular vehicle. The popularity of these schemes is growing. In 2016, one million miles were completed on AlphaCity vehicles, with an average of 34 users for each vehicle.  

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"Within months of replacing its pool car fleet with an AlphaCity advanced car-sharing scheme, the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, and its council, is on track to achieve an annual saving of £100,000 on staff travel costs, as well as a 90% reduction in the time required for pool car administration," explains Carr. "The car sharing solution has saved our customers cash, and has made their drivers and employees happier. If there's a bunch of boxes to tick, AlphaCity ticks every single one of them." 

The next step for AlphaCity is widening the choice of vehicles that Alphabet has in the scheme. At the moment, Carr explains, it is just BMW and Mini vehicles, due to the partnership of the companies. "Maybe we will extend that beyond the BMW group,"  he says. "There are little niches like LCVs, for instance, that might be suited to that prospect, but it is something we haven't really spoken about until today." 

"Mobility is one of the industry buzzwords, but it was in Alphabet's DNA right from 

the get-go."

For many Alphabet customers, traditional leasing of the car or van is the number one way they operate their business. "For these customers, we make sure they're leasing in the cheapest, most efficient and safest way," says Carr. 

"Even though there are these big and exciting topics in terms of long term and future trends, there's no doubt that the car and the van will remain the main form of transport for the foreseeable future. And that's where we will continue to develop our products and services." 

The company prides itself on giving a guiding hand to clients when it comes to industry trends. "These could include shorter-term concerns like the new Worldwide Harmonised Light Duty Test Procedure (WLTP), and we're at a great place to do that with lots of expertise at navigating the legislative changes that happen frequently in the fleet industry," says Carr. 

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Longer term, Alphabet will continue to advise and lead the industry on mobility topics such as electrification and car sharing. The company has more than 9,000 electric and hybrid vehicles in its fleet and is a leading organisation in alternative fuel and electric vehicles. In 2016, for example, 10% of all OLEV eligible vehicles were registered to Alphabet. 

Carr says the company is also launching a new tool that will help drivers identify which powertrain would be better for their journey. "It will be about consulting their needs, understanding the right use and applying the right drivetrain for that use. We believe this is vital for the industry going forward," he says.

Car sharing is the future 

Car sharing is a topic Alphabet never tires of talking about, Carr says, "We're seeing the leasing numbers grow, supported by personal leasing. Something that wasn't commonplace ten years ago, the general public are now more comfortable with. There is less sensitivity about how an individual gets in the car in the
first place."

In fact, Carr believes car sharing could have multiple benefits for fleets, and is  more environmentally friendly than giving employees a cash alternative to choose their own car. "Car sharing is not a hassle if managed in the right way. By providing employees with cash alternatives, the drivers will go and choose dirtier cars than they would have in the company car scheme. If our overall aim is to take into account environmental considerations, we're not doing ourselves any favours by following that path," he says.

Ultimately, Alphabet believes in a personal consultation and tailor made solutions for the future of successful fleet management. "Advising fleets is our raison d'être," explains Carr. The company is a member of the BVRLA, making it better placed to support and advise fleets to deal with upcoming regulatory changes or trends.

"We are a strong business providing great advice to fleet managers, helping them through all sorts of tricky situations," Carr says. "We have been doing that for 20 years now, which makes us very good at it. We can give quality advice to fleets,  even when they're unsure of rule changes and how the changes may affect them." 

Over the next 20 years going forward, Carr says, the company will continue to invest in innovation and will look for more efficient ways to run fleets. 

"We will do anything we can do to support fleets, and therefore play a role in helping the industry lead the change rather than be led by it," he says.

As far as Carr is concerned, it's his aim to help Alphabet continue that journey. "I have put my shoulder behind the direction Alphabet have already chosen in the industry, so I am very much a part of their future movements," he says. It's that desire to push innovative ideas and products forward that Carr believes will make a difference in the wider industry, and will lead to a more efficient and intelligent future for mobility. 



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