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Industry Leader Interview: Mick Jennings, Managing Director, Nationwide Vehicle Recovery Assistance

Nationwide Vehicle Recovery Assistance is a prime illustration of the saying ‘great oaks from little acorns grow’ and is testament to one man’s recognition of a void within the industry and a strong determination to fix it. Here we speak with Mick Jennings, one of the unsung heroes of the motor claims repair industry and founder of the UK’s, and one of Europe’s, largest vehicle transportation networks.

The idea for Nationwide Vehicle Recovery Assistance (NVRA) was formulated by founder and managing director, Mick Jennings in 2010 whilst he was training to become an OEM insurance franchise operator. With some 25 years’ experience from within the automotive space already under his belt – the vast majority being within the vehicle recovery sector but also having spent time within repairer and claims circles – Mick was only too aware of many of the industry’s inter-connected, yet often disjointed, processes and it was this that led him to his ‘eureka’ moment.

‘When I started looking more in depth at the overall claims process and, more specifically, how a vehicle was managed right from the point of incident it became obvious there was tremendous leakage within the system,’ explained Mick. ‘I immediately set about creating a solution to the problem and here we are today.’

Working in partnership

And that ‘today’ sees NVRA providing its services to 32 vehicle manufacturers, seven insurance companies, three truck manufacturers, eight accident aftercare organisations, a number of large bodyshop groups and several salvage operators. The business directly employs more than 200 staff and has some 1,000 PAS43 accredited recovery agents across the UK with access to 40,000 recovery vehicles under its umbrella. Contributing to part of that impressive set-up is Mick’s own recovery outfit – LJ Transportation – which operates 250 recovery vehicles alone and this year (2019) celebrates its 10-year anniversary.

In a typical day across the NVRA network in the UK between 400-500 recoveries are made. And it doesn’t stop there because NVRA also provides vehicle repatriation coverage across several regions within Europe and has a European headquarters in Holland.

Start-up

In his typical understated style, Mick makes the start-up of NVRA sound a doddle – ‘I started with a little transit recovery van and we went from there’. However, Mick’s simple explanation is a far cry from the reality which entailed years of hard work, tireless education of the supply chain and a willingness to disrupt the roadside recovery, vehicle storage and general vehicle movement sectors. At the same time, Mick also put his money where his mouth is and invested significant sums into ownership of recovery units; creation of a robust and trustworthy network of operators; and developing an IT infrastructure, including some highly intelligent technology, to support it all.

‘Our very first client was Scania who utilised our services for fuel transfer,’ explained Mick, who puts that jump-start purely down to his past reputation within the industry. ‘The real breakthrough started to come when we got talking with vehicle manufacturers and explaining how they were losing work at first notification of loss (FNOL) stage.’

Volumes of repair

Mick said, ‘One of the first vehicle manufacturers to talk to us had a great body and paint programme in place but simply couldn’t understand why they were not managing greater volumes of repair through their own approved network despite the fact they were handling a good proportion of FNOL.

‘On investigation, it turned out that this particular vehicle manufacturer sub-let their recovery to national solutions provider who, in turn, sub-contracted the work to regional recovery fleets. The result was huge leakage from the system as many of these local providers had their own commercial relationships in place with repairers, storage and salvage operators. When we explained this to vehicle manufacturer in question and illustrated just how we could help resolve the issue it was as if someone had switched a lightbulb on.

‘It was a classic case of you don’t know what you don’t know.’

 Quadrupled volume

On adoption of Mick’s recovery management solution, the vehicle manufacturer in question quadrupled the volume of repairs going through its own network within three months. It’s been a similar story for many subsequent vehicle manufacturers opting to use NVRA’s services since. ‘We’re now at a place where we can guarantee zero leakage from any network, as long as we receive FNOL,’ said Mick. And the same NVRA provisions are now very much a part of insurance companies’ armoury alike.

A key to the success has been NVRA’s ‘holistic’ approach to vehicle recovery and its consideration to the supply chain, both upstream and downstream, that it serves. ‘Leakage within any process or system creates cost,’ explained Mick, ‘and the vehicle claims process is most certainly no exception to this rule, in fact arguably more prone to it than many other sectors.’

With this in mind, one of Mick’s very first tasks when he started NVRA was to establish a call centre – something which remains core to the business today in managing communications on behalf of clients. The business provides round the clock coverage, ensuring it recovers vehicles and provides temporary storage ready for next day process activation by those parties involved in the claims process ie claims handler and repairer or salvage agent. It’s a vital piece of the jigsaw to ensure the business achieves any given clients service level agreement.

Specialist teams

In a bid to continue to support its customers, over the years Mick has built a specialist team around him to ensure that all aspects of the surrounding supply chain are catered for including vehicle manufacturers, insurance, claims, commercial vehicles, salvage, repair and now even electric vehicle specialists. The latter has seen the creation of a dedicated EV recovery network.

‘Each party wants to achieve the same overarching goal of catering for the customers’ needs in the most timely, efficient and cost-effective way but each entity wants something slightly different out of that equation,’ explained Mick. ‘Our job is to help initiate the claims process and pave the way for the rest of the supply chain to deliver on their specific function.’

According to Mick, NVRA’s role is simple: enable insurers to mitigate costs through the elimination of unnecessary vehicle movements and full management of vehicle storage; allow vehicle manufacturers to retain the direct relationship with their customers and own brand vehicles; and ensure bodyshops only get work directed onsite which is repairable – anything else goes straight to most of the major salvage companies.

Way beyond

But NVRA’s service provision goes way beyond ‘simple’ recovery and distribution of vehicles. With agile, intelligent and secure IT supporting operations, NVRA’s business partners have API capabilities to allow real time data transfer and intelligence to be shared.

Moreover, and this is where the most important element of any claim lies, NVRA’s technology means it can connect direct to a driver in the event of an accident. This it does via text message to provide reassurance, pinpoint exact location, make the driver aware of the process currently taking place, and explain exactly who is on their way and what will happen. It’s a real jewel in the crown and another fine illustration of how the business takes a holistic approach to its operations and understands the ‘stress’ points relevant to all parties.

This understanding nature of the business is also part of the reason NVRA provides implant service operators to specific clients and offers bodyshops a direct dial inward service for out of hours calls – it’s all designed to provide a seamless solution and create a ‘pain-free’ customer experience.

‘Quite simply, our role is to reduce unnecessary friction, remove layers of cost and speed claims settlements for all parties,’ said Mick. ‘I’m very proud of what the team has created here but one thing is for sure we do not stand still – we might be big, but we are agile enough to move at speed in order to adapt and evolve with the market. And in the ever-evolving automotive space, you need to be just that.’