Ursula Wingfield, CEO of Alphabet Fuhrparkmanagement GmbH, a BMW Group company that provides holistic mobility solutions to businesses, has a bulging schedule. Usually she hops between office locations and meetings in her comfortable BMW 5 Series Plugin-Hybrid.
Each day she travels between the Alphabet Germany head office, Unterschleissheim, and the BMW AG headquarters in Munich, 24 kilometres away, or to another Munich suburb to meet her colleagues from BMW Germany.
Though she has nothing against spending time in her premium sports car, she admits she is glad to soon be moving into a new company building, together with key BMW departments including BMW Germany, BMW Financial Services, BMW Bank and of course Alphabet International headquarters.
“This will tremendously shorten the route to my meetings,” she says. Due to her own daily mobility requirements, Ursula certainly knows the needs of Alphabet’s business customers.
Ursula is a South African-born chartered accountant who took the helm at Alphabet Germany in 2015, having spent most of her career working around the world for the BMW Group. She rose to the rank of CFO at BMW Financial Services in South Africa before taking a leap of faith and moving to Toronto, Canada, with the German car manufacturer and taking on the same role.
Ursula returned to South Africa where she worked as CEO of BMW Financial Services before receiving a phone call from BMW Group HQ suggesting it was time to see what the head office is like, which led the leader to uproot again. “So, my family and I moved to Germany, fully packed with enthusiasm,” she says.
In August 2008, Ursula became Head of Strategy and Business Development at BMW Financial Services HQ in Munich, before becoming Head of Sales and Marketing at BMW Bank in March 2011. She left in December 2014 to take the top job at Alphabet Germany’s office.
“I’d been on the financial services side for quite a large part of my career so the next step was an amazing opportunity for me to make a significant contribution to the company that has given me a lot of support in my business development,” she says.
Ursula notes that when she joined Alphabet, its reputation in the market was, and is, that of an innovative company with excellent one-to-one customer service. She not only wanted to ensure the business elevated this image to an even higher level but also wanted to grow the business further. And several years on, things seem to be going well.
“In the four years that I’ve been here we’ve beaten records year-on-year in terms of our new business growth and the size of our managed fleet,” she reveals. “We obviously looked for where the growth opportunities were and how we could support our customers as they also grow.”
One of the areas the company looked at was the holistic approach of an eMobility solution to suit their customers’ mobility needs. In doing so, it was necessary to find specialised partners to cooperate with, explains Ursula, “as we were faced with the difficulty of not only adding electric vehicles to conventional fleets but also providing a complete charging infrastructure”.
Alphabet’s collaboration with Digital Energy Solutions – a joint venture between BMW and the Viessmann Group – has allowed it to go one step further and help businesses determine the optimal time to charge vehicles by analysing peaks in the customers’ charging usage. “We are the only business mobility provider in the German market that offers this service,” says Ursula proudly.
“With our holistic eMobility solution, AlphaElectric, Alphabet actively promotes sustainable mobility in companies,” explains Ursula, adding that a growing part of the Alphabet business is focused on eMobility. Impressively, in 2018 alone, new business with electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles grew by 155%.
Alphabet’s customers in Germany can also access a number of regional and nationwide eMobility funding programs that can be beneficial for companies.
Sustainable and holistic mobility solutions are a key pillar for further Alphabet business development. In addition to AlphaElectric, these include the corporate car-sharing service AlphaCity and the short- and long-term rental AlphaRent. “In short: our clients receive customised 360-degree solutions for their needs,” enthuses Ursula.
“We are very pleased that more and more customers are relying on our expertise and that we have been able to repeatedly increase our corporate success in 2018,” she continues. “This confirms our strategy of complementing our established core business of full-service leasing with a holistic consulting approach and, above all, flexible business mobility solutions.”
Not content with what is an impressive status quo, Ursula is a leader who always wants more. “Our vision is to become the leading provider of outstanding business mobility services,” she says confidently. “We can do that but only with the support of many departments of our mother company. At BMW the focus is on eMobility, autonomous driving, digital connectivity and mobility services.
She provides a description of how we may be getting around in the not-too-distant-future: “Once you book a vehicle from the company’s CarSharing fleet in the office via an app, the vehicle starts by itself in the car park and picks you up at the main entrance of the office building.
As you get into the car it greets you with your name and sets up your favourite entertainment package. You can journey autonomously from the car pick-up point to your destination. After you get out, the vehicle drives alone through the car wash and picks you up again after your meeting.
“Of course, that is still in the future,” Ursula muses. “Until then, we will solve current needs for our customers.” But, she says, the company must also position itself for the future in order to become the frontrunner as a service provider of business mobility solutions in Germany.
“The customer always remains at the centre of our activities.”
“The customer always remains at the centre of our activities. Everything we do, we only do for our customers. This is not an empty phrase,” says Ursula. “If we bypass our services and our products, we will not be able to keep our customers in the long term. In addition, we take care of our customers at eight Alphabet offices throughout Germany – directly and close to our customers.
Personal contact with our customers or with prospective clients is one of our distinguishing features in the competitive environment and is essential for a sustainable partnership.”
Another meeting beckons the executive – this time at the Business Development Energy Services department in Garching – and Ursula smiles before getting back into her car, “We have to let our customers experience eMobility. Once you have sat in a purely electric vehicle, you will not want to give it back.”