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Breaking new ground in the year ahead

Fleet Financial has grown substantially since it was formed in 1996. Five people were involved in the Belfast company when it was formed by senior managers who had run the contract car management operation for Charles Hurst. Today Fleet Financial has 25 staff.

The trigger for the formation of Fleet Financial had been the takeover of Charles Hurst by the Lookers group, which, the founders of Fleet Financial believed, would not retain some large contract management clients.

That created an opportunity for senior staff to start their own business, which they have done very successfully.

Growing year on year
Today Fleet Financial operates not only in Northern Ireland, but also in the Republic and in Great Britain. It is responsible for around 3,200 cars provided to commercial clients – over 700 of them in Great Britain, about 200 in the Republic and the rest in Northern Ireland.

The company was formed with the backing of £60,000 in share capital and support from Lombard, which agreed to provide the financing for contract clients.

“Since then we have been a local success story,” said Philip Miley, the company’s sales and marketing director. “The business has grown, year on year. We would be recognised in Northern Ireland as the market leader in contract hire.”

When asked the factors behind the success, Miley listed several. “We have a good team of people,” he said.

“There is continued and consistent innovation. But our main USP is the extra comfort and standard – we provide a high level of customer service. “We are in a service sector. In our industry, price is important. You have to be competitive. “But the real test in our sector is what happens when something goes wrong. “We get our customer back on the road quickly and we have the structure to do that.”

Fleet Financial boasts of having the full range of business clients – from traders who run two vans, to major plcs with large fleets. Recent contract wins include providing all the vehicles in Northern Ireland for Sky and winning a large contract with the drinks business, C&C Group.

A big win
“That was a big win for us,” said Miley. As part of its commitment to service innovation, Fleet Financial has won praise from customers for two recent developments.

One of these is the online ‘Fleet Navigator’ function, which allows fleet managers to monitor the state of their fleet, its size, maintenance history and other details. The second new innovation is moving beyond the restrictions of the standard four-year lease term, to offer short-term lease arrangements for as little as a month.

“It is short term hire for our clients,” said Miley.

Fleet Financial has ambitions for annualised 8 to 10% growth, which is focused entirely on Great Britain. “Growth in Great Britain has been on the back of Northern Ireland based businesses,” Miley said.

“That made clear to us we could compete in Great Britain. “Our strategy for the next level is Great Britain mainly.” That strategy will include taking on staff there for the first time.

The key factor in fulfiling the strategy will be the determination of the company’s staff to succeed, said Miley. “We are very passionate about what we do,” he said. “We are very proud of what we have achieved. The thing that excites us is the potential out there.”

Post by Paul Gosling of the Belfast Telegraph