Founder and Chief Executive, 2012-Present
Sam Ellis is doing his part to revolutionize auto finance with DriverUp, a lending platform and online marketplace. It’s similar to ventures like Lending Club and Prosper – but it’s the first of its kind for investing in auto loans specifically. Powered by Sierra Auto Finance, the digital platform offers accredited investors the opportunity to invest in auto loans posted by dealers.
“We really wanted to bring technology to front and center of what we were doing,” Ellis told AFN. “We still wanted to deliver auto finance as a product, but we wanted to make it clear that we would be a next-gen company.”
Ellis found his way into auto finance after finishing graduate school with a master’s degree in Applied Economics. “I ultimately found out that it was a good career. I like cars. I like driving them, I like working on them, and I like financing them.”
Wells Fargo Dealer Services
Executive Vice President & Head, 2011 – Present
Dawn Martin Harp heads Wells Fargo Dealer Services, which was expanded last year to include commercial auto lending and other responsibilities on top of the indirect auto lending business she led since 2011. On her watch, Wells Fargo started a preferred-lender relationship with General Motors, and she also helped redirect Wells Fargo to add a greater share of new-vehicle loans on top of its traditional dominance in used-vehicle loans. The San Francisco-based bank is the perennial No. 1 U.S. lender in used vehicles.
For all that, Harp is a self-described “data person” with a shy streak. She admits she initially had a hard time in front of an audience. Prior to leading Dealer Services, she served as the group’s chief operating officer. She was also chief information officer and the director of network computing with WFS Financial. Wachovia acquired WFS Financial in 2006 and then merged with Wells Fargo in 2008.
GM Financial Co.
Chief Operating Officer, 2013 – Present
As GM Financial has evolved into a full-fledged captive, Kyle Birch has worked to bring together all the pieces of the puzzle. Most recently he helped combine separate operating systems for the company’s leases and loans.
Birch told AFN a commercial vehicle loan program to be launched around Oct. 1 would be the last key component in becoming a full-service captive.
As a business student years ago, Birch said he had “no idea” he would end up working in auto finance, but he is proud of his longevity. He was executive vice president, dealer services, for GM Financial and its predecessor company, AmeriCredit Corp., from 2003 to 2013. He joined the company in 1997.
“I think the friendships, the partnerships, the development of people – probably looking back at where my career is today – that’s probably what I’m most proud of,” he said.