Athlon Mobility Consultancy: holistic mobility management - Alexander Prinssen

While most finance directors already struggle to understand total mobility costs, the changing labour market is now also demanding more flexible solutions. Alexander Prinssen, vice-president of Athlon Mobility Consultancy, and Johan Serrien, director of mobility operations, discuss how a holistic approach to mobility can bring financial clarity and greater employee freedom to mobility.

Could you briefly introduce Athlon as a company?

Alexander Prinssen: We are a car lease provider. We operate in around 20 countries, half through partners and half with our own branches. We have about 250,000 vehicles on book, most of them on an operational lease.

Our HQ is in the Netherlands, where we are the market leader and have close to 110,000 vehicles. Athlon Car Lease is part of De Lage Landen International, a subsidiary of the Rabobank Group.

In 2012, we set up Athlon Mobility Consultancy. This is a completely separate entity. It was born out of our realisation that the fleet market is evolving.

What new directions do you see the fleet market taking?

AP: It's important to bear in mind that the labour market is becoming significantly more flexible. A lot of companies are laying staff off. Once out of a job, many of these people will not return to a permanent role. Instead, they will work on a self-employed basis. This means the labour market is becoming significantly more flexible. At the same time however, the average lease contract is as long as four years. This doesn't match the market's requirements.

What needs to happen is for mobility to be organised in a more flexible way, and we are now seeing an increasing number of large corporations pursuing this agenda.

This was the main driving force behind the establishment of Athlon Mobility Consultancy. There are two major streams within the business: mobility consultancy and mobility management.

How can your mobility consultancy services benefit finance directors?

Johan Serrien: One of the key problems facing finance directors is their total cost of mobility is spread across different areas of the business - some might be in HR, others in procurement, still more in sales or finance.

So, while they often know what they spend on lease cars because a report is provided, I think only about 5% have a very good understanding of what they spend on mobility throughout the entire company on an annual basis.

One of the things we do is take a holistic view and bring together all these different cost transactions, allowing finance directors to see what the total cost of mobility is.

AP: Our mobility consultancy is generally targeted at the Netherlands, Belgium, France and Germany. That's partly due to these being the most mature markets we operate in directly and also because we are seeing some mobility movement in these areas. At the moment, most mobility consultancy from other companies is only at the local, rather than the international, level.

And what about mobility management?

JS: There are usually two factors that are vital when it comes to mobility management, and those are cost savings and sustainability.

However, we have also noticed a new, growing trend in the market - the employees using the mobility are becoming a great deal more important to their employers. More and more indviduals want to make their own mobility choices. They want to decide whether they are going to use public transport, a bicycle, a car or whatever.

Doesn't the trend for increased employee choice make keeping on top of mobility costs harder?

JS: We have developed a system that is employee-centric and ultimately enables finance directors to keep better track of total mobility costs.

Let's take an example: if an employee uses a company card to pay for a train, the transport provider will invoice the company with some operational and cost information. Our mobility management system, Momas, will treat this transaction in two ways: firstly, in a financial format linked to that employee, with the transaction booked to a certain cost centre with a specific account number; and secondly it will also be integrated with the human resources side of the employee's business.

This is because the cost of that train ticket could have an impact on the employee's contributions, and there could be complex details relating to compensations, benefits and so on.

So you bring together the different sides of mobility?

JS: We bring together the financial business controls with an understanding of how the different services, products and solutions affect an employee's mobility budget.

These two pillars give a clear perspective of the total cost of mobility for a department or even for a certain employee.

Are there other benefits to taking this holistic view?

AP: If you look at the typical business model, only around 20% of employees are, on average, eligible to have a business car, but there are still a huge amount of mobility costs in that remaining 80%, such as car rental claims or expenses.

What we do is bring everything together and manage it in a proper way. Not only does it let finance directors see everything more clearly, but it can also lead to significant savings. Economies of scale can be realised. Additionally, if more volume is available, concepts such as car sharing become possible, which also increases sustainability.

What really separates your system from the competition?

AP: In most cases, applications are based around the asset or the objective; Momas is focused on the employee. This makes it unique.

It's also a proven concept: we have approximately 40,000 mobility management contracts running. This is not only to do with car leasing; those 40,000 contracts could be any sort of mobility solution.

What are the key steps you take in assisting your customers?

AP: The first thing we do is the baseline consultancy. Our team comes in and asks a finance director some simple questions: do you know how much you spend on mobility? Are you aware of the policies you offer? That sort of thing. Once the answers have been received, they are analysed and some recommendations are made.

Next, we come up with solutions. If it's in our product suite, we provide it. If we don't have it, we partner with other companies, or the customer might just use another supplier. Then we discuss how this can be managed from an HR and finance perspective. This is where mobility management comes in - you need a tool to control it in a proper, cost-efficient way.

Do you see any significant trends impacting the mobility sector over the years to come?

AP: If you look at the future of mobility, the most important point is that it is all flexible. All the different solutions will be connected.

One of the other key trends is a move from possession towards use, especially among Generation Y. There is overcapacity in many areas, but, if we start sharing more, we could optimise use, resulting in lower costs and improving sustainability.

Urbanisation is another important issue. As more people move to Europe's major cities, problems like vehicle overcrowding and pollution are made worse. As a result, there is a desire for more sustainable mobility - solutions like electric cars, for instance. These trends impact our business, but it's important to remember that they also provide opportunities.

Alexander Prinssen, vice-president of Athlon Mobility Consultancy.