Unless you work there or do business with KAR Auction Services, Inc. (NYSE: KAR), you may not have known much about one of the largest tech-enabled employers headquartered in Central Indiana because of its largely business-to-business nature. Of course, that began to change in a big way last year when the company announced it was building an $80 million global headquarters and campus in Carmel along the Meridian Street corridor.

With more than 17,500 employees working at more than 20 brands and nearly 1,600 at locations in Indianapolis, Plainfield, Fort Wayne and South Bend, the automotive remarketing innovator is continuing to grow and hire. KAR currently has 1,200 job openings in North America including approximately 140 tech jobs, about half of which will be based in Indiana.

Tom Fisher
Executive Vice President & CIO, KAR
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“The ‘why,’ as our Chairman and CEO Jim Hallett would put it, is because the flywheels are turning on our innovation framework and we’re leading the digital transformation of an industry that’s a large part of the global economy — automotive,” said Fisher.

KAR’s core business is “moving metal” as it’s often referred to in car parlance. The company did $3.15 billion in revenue last year relating to nearly every aspect of remarketing or selling vehicles wholesale. This includes the physical possession of cars and conducting auctions, but has increasingly been handled in the digital realm through billions of data points that drive the company’s platforms, products and services.

The new headquarters isn’t slated to open until the summer of 2019, but the company isn’t letting that slow its advancement and influence on the $100 billion car auctions and remarketing industry. “We’re bringing innovative new products and technologies to the market continuously,” said Fisher. In fact, he attributes a big part of the need for the new headquarters to growth spurred by the company’s tech products and other innovations.

Having successfully transitioned to an Agile development methodology with chief technology officers strategically placed to lead development teams across the enterprise, Fisher pointed out that the digital transformation is broader than the infrastructure now in place and more of an ongoing cultural shift within the company.

“We have been very diligent in our investments over the years, which has resulted in KAR holding a leadership position in every remarketing space where we do business,” Fisher said. “The scope and scale that we bring on the technical side means that the experimentation we’re doing with everything from IoT, drone technologies and 5G access to AI, machine vision and RPA (robotic process automation) will make its way into new offerings that help to solve real problems for our customers.”

KAR has focused on driving innovation into the company culture, or the DNA of the organization itself. Innovation has come from strategic acquisitions and incorporating their best practices into other areas of the enterprise, and by equipping all employees with the tools, technologies and flexibility to speak up and question the status quo.

“The physical environment is another big contributor to fostering a culture of innovation and we’ve taken great care in designing the new headquarters with that in mind,” Fisher said. “We have a maker lab in Westfield where we see this working every day and we’re building it into the open-environment design of the new headquarters where these ‘innovation collisions’ will happen across teams in unique ways.”

The employee experience is another piece of the holistic innovation culture KAR is planning for with the new campus. Plans for bike share options, workout facilities and even an onsite clinic are underway, and its proximity to nearby restaurants will allow employees to get more done in a day when they don’t have to travel long distances for such amenities. Perhaps more importantly, the physical spaces are being designed around the way KAR teams work rather than shoehorning the teams to work around the physical space.

“The mentality we’ve taken with the new headquarters is to really make it a centerpiece for Central Indiana and especially the tech community,” Fisher said. “It will be a good guiding point in terms of what is possible to build here, taking advantage of the latest technologies, tools and collaboration approaches that all lead to a culture of innovation.”