UBench International: give your business a new lease of life - Peter Verbraeken
With today's business environment becoming more dynamic than ever, organisations must work harder to remain competitive and meet customer needs. Finance Director Europe talks to Peter Verbraeken, director and co-founder of UBench International, about the company's revolutionary new leasing management system.
The financial crisis has cast a long shadow over companies worldwide. On top of the obvious economic costs, organisations now face long-term pressures to operate in smarter and more cost-effective ways. Improving internal processes has become a primary way of gaining a comparative advantage.
For car-leasing companies working in a fiercely competitive market with price-sensitive consumers, this is particularly important. Fleet managers are used to running large capital-intensive fleets; many have tens of thousands of vehicles stretching across borders with different fiscal and legal landscapes. Staying cost-effective across the entire leasing value chain is absolutely critical in this type of environment.
This is why information technology solutions are becoming so popular. And it's not just in car leasing - across countless, different industries, new technology is removing the complexity of legacy systems, which remain a barrier to corporate agility in so many cases.
"Back in 2002, barely anyone was talking about the cloud," says UBench International's director and co-founder Peter Verbraeken. "Now it's the new buzzword. It remains the case that, for many businesses, a primary barrier to business agility and cost optimisation is IT complexity. In order to achieve business goals and serve your customers better, IT systems must be able to quickly and easily deliver on the ever-changing needs of the business while supporting innovation."
UBench International was founded in Belgium by a group of industry experts interested in simplicity and helping leasing companies optimise their operations through technological transformation.
"We started UBench because too often the automotive industry is about administration rather than drivers and cars," explains Verbraeken. "So we decided to make a collaborative framework that allows different companies to engage with everyone in the value chain; with all the partners, suppliers, customers and employees to create a single virtual enterprise connected in real time."
The idea was to develop an entirely new vision of total car life-cycle management that could support real-time remote sensing and highly automated workflows.
It certainly seems to have worked: the UBench management system claims to achieve a 35% reduction in administrative costs for leasing companies, with a corresponding reduction to each vehicle's total cost of ownership. For insurance companies, the benefits are equally striking - a 50% reduction in adjustment costs, stemming from streamlined processes and shorter cycles.
"We wanted to realise a lower cost of ownership as well as enhancing the mobility service for the driver," says Verbraeken. "By looking at the business across company borders and optimising the performance of the overall 'community' of suppliers and partners, our customers directly improve operational performance - enhancing employee productivity, reducing cycle time or elevating customer retention rates.
"These operational performance improvements can, in turn, yield significant improvements in financial performance across multiple dimensions, including earnings growth, cost reduction and asset leverage."
UBench currently offers six different services as part of its automotive services, all of which can be accessed as software or information and then delivered on demand, over the internet, without the need for local storage. The product is designed to cover events that occur across the car life cycle, from accidents and maintenance to the handover of cars to second-hand dealers. The company's services include:
- UBClaims - an accident management service embracing all parties in the claims chain, independent body shops and dealers, surveyors, Aon claims offices and customer drivers
- UBTech - a maintenance and services contracts service
- UBSales - an end-of-lease service that includes notification, inspection transport, storag and auction
- UBRent - a service that includes the BMWi test drive tool and Mobility Service Cards.
Companies that use UBench products include resounding names from financially solid customers such as Alphabet, ALD Automotive, Leaseplan, Athlon Car Lease, BMW, Renault and Volkswagen, and corporate fleets including Cofely, Deloitte and GDF Suez, as well as international insurance broker Aon, which have signed long-term agreements with UBench International. The UBench concept and its related operational platforms enable the company to achieve its aim of differentiating its service offerings in a competitive and drastically changing automotive market.
One of the company's major clients is the BMW Group, which is using two different services: UBTech to manage their serenity contracts (monthly maintenance contracts that can be bought without the hassle around maintenance); UBSales to serve a variety of needs from notification through to inspection, transport, storage and auction; and UBClaims, the core product for accident and insurance claims management.
A mobile future
With the right product in place, the future looks strong for UBench International. The company is already globally focused, with activities in Belgium, the Netherlands and Poland, and further expansion is planned into France, Germany and Spain in 2014.
"There are lots of interesting developments," Verbraeken says. "One of the important changes, for example, is that the cloud is about to offer mobile solutions, allowing connection in real time. We want to get closer and closer to the driver - reaching out to the customer rather than making them come into the dealership.
"It's about high-speed, high-convenience solutions that are integrated with your back-office system. This is what UBench is offering to the market and where we see things developing even further," he concludes.