Chief executive of Agility Group, Keith Townsend, explains to editor Ralph Morton how the company’s recent MBO will help Agility Fleet take a more progressive approach to the funding market
AT the beginning of September, managing director Keith Townsend, along with operations director and long term partner Jacki Stevenson, completed a management buyout (MBO) of the business they had been running: Agility Group.
It took, said Keith, a significant contribution of personal investment, along with some outside funding to complete the purchase of the business which has a funded and managed fleet of 2500 vehicles.
“The majority shareholder approached me in October last year and said he wanted to sell his shares in the business,” explains Keith. “This was a fantastic opportunity for Jacki and myself.”
Keith says he believes this is now the moment for the Bromsgrove-based Agility Group to really develop its proposition in the leasing market through Agility Fleet, and in the health and safety sector through Agility Risk & Compliance.
“We always emphasise the benefits of Agility Fleet as an independent lease company. Historically this has meant being free from any ties to a particular manufacturer, funder or dealer group. Now, however, we are totally independent, with no other stakeholders to consult with.”
An opportunity to develop Agility’s FleetPartner broker programme
When Agility first started supporting brokers with its FleetPartner programme in 2014, Keith says it was less selective about whom the company supported, but soon discovered that it didn’t have the systems and processes required to properly support the channel.
It became clear to the team that a dedicated sales team and support function was required if brokers were to become a core sales channel.
However, while Keith says there will not be a sea-change in the number of brokers the company supports, there is no question Agility Fleet wants to develop its support for the sector.
“The commitment of the operational board to the FleetPartner leasing broker programme remains unchanged,” explains Keith, “but what we will be able to do now is divert more funding to this area of our business.”
We will be seeking to support more brokers going forward, working in partnership to benefit both businesses.Keith Townsend, chief executive, Agility Group
The FleetPartner programme is headed up by Richard Walsh and for the last 18 months Agility has been gaining some traction with dedicated broker support.
“We want to work with brokers that embrace our ethos – going the extra mile – and we want brokers that work with clients and give great service,” continues Keith.
What sort of broker is the right fit for FleetPartner?
Agility Fleet has a cautious approach to welcoming more brokers onto its FleetPartner programme Keith explains, saying the business is very selective about which FleetPartner the company is prepared to work with.
“We have worked with a large number of brokers in the past but we currently work closely with a small number of key FleetPartners. I would like to expand it – and we are ready to explore options.
“Now we know how to support leasing brokers we will look to take more on. We are looking for brokers that want to be creative and for whom customer service is paramount. We now know what leasing brokers want.”
We understand the end customer will always remain the broker’s customer and we will fully support them.Keith Townsend, chief executive, Agility Group
Challenges for the broker market
Keith says that with the twin issues of COVID and Brexit there are suggestions that funding could become scarcer as major funders become more risk averse.
“I do think liquidity will be an issue – so we have the opportunity to do something different. Much of our business from the last quarter came from brokers where the larger funders had turned away the business. We have a creative approach to underwriting differently so we can often craft a deal in a unique way.”
Turning to your wider business, where do you see growth coming from?
“In addition to our FleetPartner channel we also work closely with a number of key, strategic accounts where we have excellent retention rates due to our customer first approach,” explains Keith.
“Fleet management is fast becoming core to what we do. By being able to provide a ‘full service solution’, a comprehensive fleet maintenance agreement can be put in place. As part of our fleet management package we provide efficiency in maintaining the fleet with access to our service platform easing the administration workload and benefiting from reduced running costs.
“Following our triple ISO accreditation in 2019 we are now targeting larger blue chip corporates and public sector operators, seeing this as another major opportunity to grow our business.
“I also think that, as I’ve mentioned, liquidity is likely to be an issue. But we have a stable management team and, following our MBO, we can make strategic changes quickly. So I’m highly confident about our future now we have the chance to really shape it ourselves.”
Ralph Morton is the leading journalist in the leasing broker sector and editor of Broker News, the website which provides information and news for BVRLA-registered leasing brokers. He also writes extensively on the fleet and leasing market in both the UK and Europe.