Merchants Fleet: How This Company Offers Flexible Funding And Services For Utilizing Vehicles To Run Operations

By Amit Chowdhry • Sep 28, 2023

Merchants Fleet is a rapidly growing fleet management company that provides flexible funding and service options for organizations that utilize vehicles to run their operations. Merchants Fleet offers comprehensive and customizable fleet solutions, serving as a single source for all vehicle needs. Pulse 2.0 interviewed Merchants Fleet Chairman, CEO, and President Brendan P. Keegan to learn more.

Brendan P. Keegan’s Background

Keegan is an advocate for growth, a champion for business transformation, and a trailblazer in fleet. Keegan said:

“I firmly believe that by eliminating fear, uncertainty, and doubt, we can achieve anything we set our minds to, as shown through the bFEARLESS movement, which empowers individuals to embrace courage and overcome obstacles on their personal pathway to success.”

“As the Chairman, President, and CEO of the fast-growing fleet management company in North America, I am proud to lead some of the brightest minds in fleet as we shape the future of our nation’s commercial transportation industry.”

“My passion for great leadership extends beyond my role at Merchants as well. I also serve as a co-owner and board member of several esteemed organizations, including United Autosports, Sky Meadow Country Club, Revolution Armor, and ExpressIT Delivery.”

“I currently reside in Southern New Hampshire with my incredible wife, Dana, and our two children, Kaylie and Patrick. Our family is committed to giving back to our community through the Keegan Courage & Faith Foundation, which we established with an ambitious goal of contributing $10 million to organizations that support the development of the next generation of fearless leaders.”

Responsibilities At Merchants Fleet

What are Keegan’s primary responsibilities at Merchants Fleet? Keegan shared:

“As the Chairman, CEO, and President, my primary objective is to provide visionary leadership that extends across all aspects of our business. Achieving alignment throughout the organization is crucial to our success, and it all starts with establishing unity among the board and executive team members.”

“The fleet industry has long been described as ‘slow to innovate’, and Merchants is proud to be changing that narrative. Our award-winning culture of innovation applies to every Merchants Fleet employee, regardless of their role within the company. As a leader, I invite and encourage every employee to bring their ideas to the table. This fosters a culture of collaboration and creativity and keeps Merchants on the cutting edge of the fleet.”

Favorite Memory

What has been Keegan’s favorite memory working for Merchants Fleet so far? Keegan reflected:

“There have been many great memories for me here at Merchants, and one that really stands out is our amazing capital raise during COVID-19.”

“Many of Merchants’ clients were among the millions of US essential businesses hit hard by the pandemic.They were suddenly challenged to navigate vehicle and financing shortages while trying to meet surging demands for delivery services nationwide. We knew we needed  to raise capital to help our clients secure the resources they needed to keep America moving. 

“However, due to the uncertainty in the financial markets at that time, financing opportunities were all but drying up and we were advised that raising capital was not likely to be successful. Despite the grim forecast by many in the industry, our team forged ahead and launched an ambitious capital raise, and on Friday, March 13th, 2020, we defied what many deemed impossible during a harrowing global economy by negotiating a successful investment agreement for $50 million of growth financing with Bain Capital Credit. These funds allowed Merchants to create a portfolio of innovative services designed to provide flexibility, cash flow, and the means to quickly get vehicles into the hands of companies who urgently needed them. It was a monumental team effort, and a true testament to the amazing resourcefulness and resilience of our team.”

Challenges Faced

Has the current macroeconomic climate affected the company? Keegan acknowledged:

“The current macroeconomic climate has presented its fair share of challenges for everyone in the fleet industry. What sets Merchants apart, however, is our fearless approach to thinking differently.”

“The primary challenges are:

1.) The shifting landscape of original equipment manufacturers (OEMs)

2.) Constraints within the supply chain

Having been in this business over 60 years, we understand that the landscape as we know it today will likely look very different even in the next couple of years. We see this shifting landscape as an exciting opportunity to build upon our vast network of OEMs, by exploring partnerships with industry newcomers.

While navigating the complexities of the supply chain proves to be more demanding than ever before, our team is dedicated to finding new ways to help mitigate challenges for our clients. This includes leveraging our industry relationships, as well as collaborating with smaller entities and dealerships for support—an approach that our competitors are typically unwilling to pursue.

This outside-the-box thinking has also resulted in new solutions like Merchants ReadyFleet—an innovative new service that significantly enhances vehicle availability and provides an industry-first level of flexibility. These initiatives demonstrate our commitment to innovate, adapt, and evolve to remain at the forefront of the industry.”

Core Products

What are Merchants Fleet’s core products and features? Keegan explained:

“Merchants Fleet’s vision is to enable the movement of people, goods & services freely and responsibly. From flexible funding, fleet acquisition, and fleet management to vehicle remarketing, fleet consulting, fleet electrification, and the power of our cloud-based fleet management platform TotalView, Merchants is a single source for all fleet and mobility needs for businesses of all sizes throughout North America.”

“With over 185,000 managed vehicles nationwide, our expert teams have experience working with nearly every industry, from corporate fleets to last mile delivery, to governments. We offer the most high-touch service and innovative experience across the industry, with specialized teams and an innovative FleetTech model that merges fleet with technology to ensure our clients get the best performance out of their fleets.”

Evolution Of Merchants Fleet’s Technology

How has Merchants Fleet’s technology evolved since launching? Keegan noted:

“Our Tech team has established a robust analytics foundation and infrastructure, which positions the company for success amidst the industry’s unprecedented changes of electrification and driverless networks. While electric vehicles (EVs) currently possess some aspects of “incremental autonomy” to enhance driver safety and reduce accidents, the development of infrastructure and insights for managing a fully autonomous driverless network is still underway.”

“Because we manage some of the world’s largest EV fleets, we are in a great position to define the Tech operations required to move to the next phase of the market when full driverless networks begin to come online in the next five to ten years. In anticipation of that, Merchants already has a team of data scientists in Chicago specifically dedicated to building those key operational capabilities.”

Significant Milestones

What have been some of Merchants Fleet’s most significant milestones? Keegan cited:

“With over 60 years in the fleet business, Merchants has experienced numerous milestones as the industry has evolved. During the past 6 years alone, our company has experienced remarkable growth, expanding from $500 million to $3 billion. However, one of the most significant milestones occurred in 2022 when we made the strategic decision to pursue professional ownership. This choice was driven by our commitment to keeping pace with our future goals and ensuring alignment with our strategic direction.”

“The process was both exciting and challenging as we explored many options in our pursuit of the best fit for our clients and employees. In the end, rather than merge with a competitor and risk disruption to our clients, we chose to be acquired by partners who share in the strategic vision of our company.”

“By joining forces with Bain Capital Credit and The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA), Merchants has been transformed from our humble beginnings as a family-owned business to a professionally owned organization with backing from two of the world’s largest investment firms—allowing us to continue growing and offering our clients the best fleet management services in the industry.”

“The extensive collaboration with our new ownership group has infused a new and profound energy into our organization. This new partnership has helped us accelerate our strategy, infiltrate new markets, and offer more innovative services for clients through an advanced partner base. This was an especially exciting milestone for Merchants, as we embarked on a more ‘comprehensive’ approach to our offerings.”

Disruption In The Fleet Industry

How is Merchants creating disruption in the fleet industry? Keegan pointed out:

“At Merchants Fleet, we embody endurance at our core. Our company is built with a steadfast commitment to resilience and the ability to weather the challenges of the evolving fleet industry. Just as endurance is ingrained in our DNA, we also empower our fleet clients to enhance their endurance through our innovative approach.”

“We have created real innovation in the fleet industry with unique products and services and a level of flexibility clients simply cannot get anywhere else. Merchants stands out for its breadth of services, which include short- and long-term fleet leasing, fleet management and optimization, technology, strategic consulting, and remarketing services. These solutions are saving clients’ money, driving efficiency, and helping them to minimize their environmental impact. We are not only keeping our clients on the cutting-edge of fleet, but we are also helping them to look at their fleet operations in a whole new way.”

Differentiation From The Competition

What differentiates Merchants Fleet from its competition? Keegan affirmed:

“Merchants Fleet distinguishes itself from competitors in the fleet industry through a unique combination of qualities. As the only fleet company to offer a comprehensive range of solutions, including rentals, short and long-term leasing, we provide unmatched flexibility to our clients.”

“In an industry where innovation can sometimes be sluggish, Merchants stands out as a true pioneer. We combine stability, a strong financial foundation, and an unwavering dedication to innovation that sets us apart from the competition. Because of this, our clients know they can rely on Merchants to pave the way for their long-term success because they have chosen a partner who is truly committed to their enduring growth.”

Future Company Goals

What are some of Merchants Fleet’s future company goals? Keegan concluded:

“Continuous innovation is a core focus for us at Merchants. We strive to stay ahead of emerging technologies and industry trends, enabling us to introduce cutting-edge solutions that address the evolving needs of our clients and drive industry advancements.”

“Client satisfaction and building strong partnerships are also integral to our long-term goals. We are committed to understanding our clients’ unique needs and providing exceptional service that exceeds their expectations. By delivering customized, value-added solutions and maintaining high client satisfaction rates, we aim to foster long-term relationships with our clients.”

“Sustainability and environmental responsibility are also important pillars for us. Our goal is to support our clients in transitioning to more sustainable fleet operations by promoting the adoption of electric vehicles and other sustainable practices. Merchants have made a string of bold commitments toward sustainability by driving fleet electrification in North America with reservations of over 40,000 electric vehicles and $2.5B committed toward electrification.”