If you’ve ever wondered what happens to a car after an accident or natural disaster, you’ll be interested in Manheim, a global vehicle remarketing company.
TRUSTED INSURANCE PARTNER
A subsidiary of Atlanta-based Cox Enterprises, Manheim facilitates the end-to-end process of remarketing and vehicle solutions including valuing, transport, storage, processing, cleaning, selling, buyer services and dispatch.
Charles Cumming, CEO, Remarketing and Vehicle Solutions division, says the company has been a trusted partner to the insurance industry since the 1960s.
‘In the event of an accident, insurance companies need to assess the vehicle, and determine whether it can be repaired and safely returned to the customer,’ he explains. ‘If not, then an end-to-end solution is required.’
As well as helping insurers take care of all the necessary vehicle logistics, the solution includes managing the customer’s experience.
‘For example, how can we get that phone out of the car and safely returned to a customer who has suffered the distress of a catastrophe or accident? That’s one incredibly important step, among many, that form an integral part of what we do behind the scenes?’
Cumming describes Manheim’s business as ‘smart insurance support’ as it offers data analytics insights to enable insurance customers to make faster, more informed decisions.
‘We support the insurance partners to handle an asset safely from the scene of an accident to our closest metro or regional storage location in Australia or New Zealand, then dispatch it to a new auction buyer in the most efficient way.
‘As a result, claims can be settled faster and the customer sees a return in a timelier manner, which ultimately brings cashflow back into the insurer’s business.’
EXCITED BY TECHNOLOGY
The youngest of four siblings, Cumming developed an interest in technology at an early age.
He was especially excited by the rapid transition from dial-up modem to broadband, which unlocked the ability to facilitate the first to market live simulcast auctions he observed occurring overseas.
Born in the Victorian regional town of Geelong, about an hour’s drive from Melbourne, he studied locally at Deakin University where he majored in commerce, information management systems and electronic commerce.
Within two years of leaving university, Cumming got his chance to explore and lead the technology revolution as an e-commerce graduate with Fowles, a family-owned automotive auction business in Australia and New Zealand, which had recently been acquired by Manheim.
For Cumming this was a perfect opportunity to learn in a corporate environment and make a significant step forward in his career.
‘It got me into a market leading physical auction business that had a future technology direction through new global ownership,’ he says.
TEAM SPORT ETHOS
Cumming says his desire to be a leader evolved naturally out of the ethos of playing team sports.
He was also inspired by his father, who encouraged the best out of him, sharing in the highs and lows of life growing up. Empowering and trusting him to make his own decisions ‘through thick and thin’.
‘I think that's also the way I've developed as a person,’ he says. ‘I loved the idea of a career around teams and setting our sights on a target as a group. What do we want to achieve? Who's doing what? Let's apply ourselves collectively to achieve the success.’
Over a 10-year stint in general management and operations in Queensland, Cumming sought further people leader roles that culminated in his current position within the company’s executive team.
AT THE CUTTING EDGE
He has vivid memories of the exhilaration he felt in earlier roles at the cutting-edge of interaction via the internet, albeit with the limitations of dial up modem.
While most companies had computers in their businesses at the time Cumming started in 2001, these were focused on finance reporting and profitability, rather than a new way of conducting business.
‘We had the opportunity to be the first in the country to bring live video and audio streaming auctions to the automotive auction market off the success experienced by our parent company in North America,’ he recalls.
‘It meant thousands of existing and new vehicle buyers and sellers no longer needed to take time out of their day to physically attend auctions.’
Cumming adds that people now entering the market just laugh when told that 20 years ago, the business was ‘playing around on dial-up modems’.
‘They just can’t believe we didn't have the luxury of real-time bidding, audio and video streaming that we take for granted today,’ he says.
GAINING MARKET TRUST
But gaining the trust of the local market it didn’t happen overnight. Cumming says that his team was lucky to have the benefit of Manheim’s existing credibility including a reputation for strong processes and customer relationships.
‘We transitioned customers through trials and demonstrated the systems and structures we had in place,’ he says. ‘We also had testimonies from customers overseas about what we could deliver.’
Strategies for creating buyer take up, usage and participation needed to be learned along the way.
‘We didn't go in blind, but we also didn't give guarantees that the technology would work straight off in those early stages, because things didn’t always go perfectly to plan. There was lots of means testing. It was an exciting time.’
Opportunity and the rise of cyber threat
A few years later, with the roll out of broadband infrastructure, Manheim was able to determine each new local market by postcode and get ahead by connecting the participants to its e-commerce platforms.
Today, in Australia and New Zealand, vehicle buyers and sellers doing business online through different channels undertake thousands of transactions daily.
‘Buyers are fully informed as though they are walking around the car, looking into it themselves,’ Cumming says. ‘You can rotate the vehicle, zoom into it, and you've also got a description of all its faults at your fingertips. You can make an informed decision about your bidding activity.’
GUIDE FOR THE MARKET
Cumming says combining knowledge about overseas markets with insights into local trends is an important aspect of his vision.
‘As an organisation, our clear strategy is to really listen and deliver solutions that demonstrate true value to our customers,’ he says.
‘We have a growth mindset and we’re in the business of long-term partnerships. Our digital transformation positions us to remain at the forefront into the future years.
‘Within those three parts, our vision is always about making sure that we're leaders in the industry and that we understand the direction of the market— to act as a guide for our customers.’
Within that context, cyber security is a key threat.
‘For us, that goes to how well our backyard is in order,’ Cumming says. ‘How well is our decision-making around future infrastructure focused on the security of data and systems? Thankfully, we're under the global framework of our parent company, and so we've got world class systems in place.
‘But there’s significant risk posed there. You see businesses affected by cyber threat in everyday life now, which wasn't the case three, four, five years ago. Cyber threat is now very front of mind.’
IMPARTING STRONG VALUES
Cumming says Manheim chose to be a gold sponsor of ANZIIF’s Australian and New Zealand Insurance industry awards, due to a strong affinity with the values of its categories, notably, innovation, diversity and inclusion and recognising young professionals.
‘Those three are dear to my heart,’ he says. ‘They resonate with my own values and I empower my leadership team and our wider team members to hold true to them as well.’
The message Cumming has for potential entrants is to always do the right thing and success will follow.
‘Whoever you are as an individual, there’s no doubt that success will come if you do the right thing when making decisions and in the way you carry and apply yourself both in and outside the workplace.’
ADDENDUM – WHO BUYS WRITTEN-OFF VEHICLES?
Manheim’s buyers are diverse.
‘Vehicles are commonly sold to part dismantlers, recyclers and exporters in the local Australian and New Zealand repair industry as well the wider international repair industry, says Charles Cumming. 'In addition, hobby enthusiasts often buy them.’
Initially, insurance assessors determine which vehicles are written off and which can be safely repaired and returned to customers.
Cumming says making a detailed search function along with clean vehicle descriptions, high-definition imagery and connected buyer payments and delivery services accessible on any device provides for a seamless experience.
‘It’s important that bidders feel completely comfortable with the process and don’t withhold their activity for fear of unknowns,’ he says.
‘We continue to learn through our net promotor score (NPS) of new ways to refine our digital processes.’