Powered by Athene’s Commitment to Long-Term Growth
By Ed Pierce, Contributing Editor
After the questions raised in 2020 about Donlen’s future in the midst of the pandemic due solely to its parent company’s financial troubles, the outlook for 2021 and beyond looks exceedingly bright — for the company, its new owners, its employees, and its customers, says CEO Tom Callahan.
“The purchase of Donlen by Athene is a significant achievement for a number of reasons. First, Athene plans to invest in our company, its people, processes and systems. In fact, we recently raised over a billion dollars in growth capital with 60 investors, 30 of which were brand new to the platform and 30 were existing investors who are happy with our new parent.
“Now that the ownership has been solidified and we have the financial resources and long-term commitment to growth from Athene, all of our internal and external stakeholders are reassured. Athene wants to use Donlen as a long-term growth platform. They look at us as a high quality investment. That sits well with customers, employees, and investors, none of whom like instability or the perception that we could be sold at any minute,” notes Tom.
Tom explained that Donlen is viewed as a ‘forever platform’ by investors due to its consistent performance and strong, long-term customer relationships, but one with high growth potential through a combination of organic growth and acquisition opportunities.
He went on to say that there are new opportunities for Donlen because of new ownership: “They have taken a big interest in our technology platform and are looking to invest further in what we do. They have expressed an interest in building onto our product roadmap especially as it relates to autonomous vehicles, electrification, driver services, and other unique services that we are developing. The new ownership provides us with some great cross-sell opportunities, too.”
Technology & Fulfillment Provide Unique Sales Positioning
Tom notes that a few years ago, fleet management may have been described as a bit stodgy. Now there are many SaaS, or software as a service, platforms, and new technology-driven participants in the space. “That’s fantastic!”, he exudes. “We love the competition because Donlen has both software as a service and proven fulfillment capabilities. We have deep domain knowledge. It is an exceptional mix that provides the fuel to propel us forward.”
Having already earned a reputation as a technology firm, Donlen recognizes that continuous investment is the key to maintaining its competitive edge. Athene also recognizes the importance of technology, and they bring a proven record of such investments in their other businesses. Tom points to their ongoing work in the areas of electrification and autonomous vehicles that will dovetail nicely with Donlen’s own business model.
In addition to technology leadership, Donlen can leverage its extensive team of experts to address user needs, to identify trends, and to develop innovative solutions. Athene gives the fleet management company access to an even greater range of subject matter experts from outside the industry that can be applied to fleet management. “If history has taught us anything it is that we don’t know what all of the answers are going to be, but it’s good to know that we can leverage Athene’s experts to help us find and deliver the best solutions,” notes Tom.
Investing for the Future
Donlen has numerous investment plans related to technology underway, including accelerated deployment of cloud-based technologies, expansion of telematics, predictive analytics and driver services. Tom expects Donlen to raise the bar for fleet managers and even its own account managers to be more strategic. He related a story about a fleet manager who stated that his bosses wanted him to be more strategic, but he was constantly caught up in tactical concerns. He wanted strategic support from the fleet management company.
“We’re developing technologies where we could be better integrated and more insightful,” says Tom. “We will be even more proactive in handling strategic issues so that fleet managers can contribute at a strategic level. “ He adds that Donlen is investing in ESG, or Environmental, Social, and Governance, initiatives, including electrification technology.
Customers Expect Donlen to Grow with Them
As enthusiastic as Tom is about the prospects for his company, he sees the opportunities to enhance the customer experience as even more compelling. Based on ongoing feedback from customers, Tom explains that the major questions he heard last year were, “Is Donlen going to be around?”, and “Is Donlen going to be able to grow with us?” Today, his response is an unequivocal “Yes!”
“The stability of our new ownership definitively answers both questions,” he notes. “Our customers and prospective fleet customers can be sure that we have the necessary resources, and we have a singular fleet focus.”
“Donlen is eager to expand its relationships with clients large and small, and now we have essentially unlimited available capital to service any and all of our customer’s needs. With the backing and capital support of Athene, as a leading A Rated insurer with $200 billion of assets, Donlen has limitless capacity to provide leasing and management solutions to help our clients grow, and operate their businesses efficiently. Furthermore, we now have the strongest parent capitalization and access to capital across the market, which allows us to be a solutions provider to our clients for all weathers. This provides added stability and strength to our customers.
He adds that Athene understands the value of customer retention. They know that Donlen must provide its customers with a reliable and repeatable customer experience.
“From our owners’ point of view, we are supposed to be a reliable and repeatable generator of investment for their customer base,” says Tom. “From our customers’ point of view, I believe that they are very happy with the stability, with the continued investment, and with the focus on fleet, knowing that we will continue to be an industry-leading, standalone fleet management company.”
Tom concludes by admitting that from a growth perspective, a career perspective, and an investment perspective, this is an exciting time to lead a company that can be fully focused on the fleet management business: “Lots of great things are happening,” he says, “and fleet management is going to be a great growth vehicle for a long time.”