Taking care of business: Arval CCO Bart Beckers on cross-border risk management
Risk management is an integral part of fleet operations but can be a challenge for companies operating across borders. Bart Beckers, chief commercial officer of Arval, explains to Curtis Hutchinson how businesses are addressing this issue.
Companies operating across international borders are continually looking to achieve the best possible economies of scale through centralised management. This approach can range from the travel and accommodation for business trips to the procurement of goods and materials, to IT systems. Savings achieved in such areas can go straight to the bottom line, allowing more funds for investment and growth.
Risk management should be high on the agenda for all businesses running company cars, with legislation ensuring that processes and procedures are in place with clear audit trails. The challenge facing businesses operating across international borders is how these rules should be applied across the business to protect staff equally while adhering to local regulations.
Arval has developed a top-down approach to risk management but advocates buy-in from employees to make policies work in day to day operations. Last year, the company managed 1.1 million vehicles in 29 countries, mostly in Europe, but also across Latin America, North Africa and Asia, giving it a valuable perspective on how risk should be managed on a truly global basis.
Bart Beckers, Arval Group’s chief commercial officer, is passionate about the subject and the nature of his job leads him to take a global view while drawing on his experience as a previous head of UK operations and as the former managing director of LeasePlan in France and Belgium.
How do you advise fleets to address risk management when they operate across different international regions?
You always have to look at the local specifics. There’s a lot we can do for clients at an international level, starting with policies and strategies, but it always come down to finding the right balance between what you can do at international level and the specifics you always have to take into account when you focus in on a particular country.
In the UK, for example, Duty of Care rules are very important for corporates but that is not necessarily the same as other countries in Europe and globally. All the things you have to do in the UK to protect your staff, and to be seen to take these things very seriously, there is no comparison whatsoever elsewhere. Even within Europe you see quite a difference between countries, but it always comes down to having enough generic best practices that you can use as a check list with your clients to go through that you know exists in different countries and there’s always things you can bring into discussion.
If a company is based in the UK should it use its Duty of Care procedures and processes as a blueprint globally?
Yes. Absolutely. Even if you don’t have to do this for local legislation purposes I still think that what we see in the UK, which are demanding rules, is something corporates should observe if they take risk management seriously; by not doing so might mean you are not taking enough care of your employees as part of your management policy.
Of course, you cannot impose this on clients, and we never do, but we would recommend living by those Duty of Care principles and then adapting them to the local situation. With countries such as France and Germany, for instance, this process is sometimes tricky to put in place where you have to go through a very complicated process in terms of works council consultations. But we would always recommend the client adopts the highest standards wherever practically possible and when we talk about high standards very often we refer to the UK as a being the standard bearer for safeguarding employees.
Do centralised risk management policies work, or do they need to be significantly customised to adhere to local laws?
Generic solutions are always the same but local legislation requires you to really go into the fine details. You can find similar, if not identical, training courses for drivers. Also driver licence checking exists in most European countries but the way to carry it out can differ from one country to another, so you will always execute on issues like that locally. It’s a matter of the right combination between international strategy policy definitions but always making sure that you have checked the local requirements as well.
How has the introduction of GDPR impacted the way risk management is implemented across territories?
GDPR is not new in itself but it has forced all of us in the industry to become even more stricter in terms of how to run procedures and processes. It does have an impact, but the underlying rules have always been there; GDPR reinforces them. People talk about fines but in all honesty these rules have existed for a number of years, so it has alerted most of us in the industry that you should take this topic very seriously.
If you take your clients seriously then you must always advise them to include GDPR in their car policies because of course they will be asked to deliver information and abide by the rules.
Using telematics as an example, as it is being used more and more by fleets, when it is used to monitor a vehicle, then it implicitly also monitors the behaviour of its driver. Staff need to be aware that these devices are on board and should be given the opportunity to opt out or to decide that some parts of their journeys should be treated as private and should certainly not be used for other purposes.
Can telematics be used to nurture a culture of safety amongst drivers?
These devices can be used as a way to improve driving behaviour in conjunction with appropriate driver training. This is the type of generic risk management solution that we are offering more and more of. With staff consent it can be used to offer tailor-made solutions, in terms of driver coaching, for individual people who you know, through telematics, need it.
Is a successful risk management policy all about getting buy-in from employees?
Yes. It’s important to always explain to the staff that it is in their own interest because they are the first ones to be hurt if there is an accident.